Donald Trump stuns lawmakers with seeming embrace of gun control measures

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US President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged a diverse group of lawmakers - some who want more gun restrictions, others averse to gun control - to come up with comprehensive legislation to prevent school shootings following the nation's most recent
Trump attending a meeting on school safety at the White House in Washington, Feb 22, 2018. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES, REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump on Wednesday (Feb 28) repeatedly embraced a series of gun control measures, telling a group of lawmakers at the White House to pursue bills that have been opposed for years by most congressional Republicans and the National Rifle Association.

In a remarkable televised meeting in the Cabinet Room, the president appeared to stun giddy Democrats and stone-faced Republicans by calling for comprehensive gun control that would expand background checks, keep guns from the mentally ill, secure schools and restrict gun sales from some young adults.

To the surprise of many in the room, Mr Trump urged lawmakers to start with a bipartisan bill put forward in 2013 by Sens. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., and Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa. That bill failed months after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, amid intense Republican opposition.

Mr Trump repeatedly suggested that the dynamics had changed, in part because of his leadership in the White House - a sentiment that the Democrats in the room readily agreed with as they saw the president supporting their ideas.

"It would be so beautiful to have one bill that everyone could support," Mr Trump said as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sat smiling to his left. "It's time that a president stepped up."

Mr Trump has been considering changes for gun laws, pressured by a wave of student activism after 17 people were shot to death at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Feb 14.

The Republican president, endorsed by the powerful gun lobby National Rifle Association in his 2016 campaign, has been wary of angering voters who oppose any curbs on gun ownership, particularly ahead of the November elections in which his party's control of Congress will be at stake.

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But on Wednesday, at the start of the fourth free-flowing gun policy discussion he has had in a week, Mr Trump pushed Congress to come up with solutions.

"We're going to come up with some ideas," he said."Hopefully, we can put those ideas in a very bipartisan Bill. It would be so beautiful to have one Bill that everybody can support, as opposed to - you know - 15 Bills, everybody's got their own Bill."

Seventeen senators and representatives were invited to Wednesday's session, a mix of Republicans and Democrats espousing a wide spectrum of views on how to stop school shootings.

Previous discussions - all open to television cameras - included students and parents, law enforcement officials, and state governors. Trump also met privately with top officials from the NRA and has suggested training and arming some teachers.

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