THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release February 22, 2018
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP IN MEETING WITH LOCAL AND STATE OFFICIALS ON SCHOOL SAFETY
11:40 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all for being here. We are doing a lot of things. A lot of things are happening. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Secretary Alex Azar, who's really setting the world on fire now with your lowering of prescription drug prices and a lot of other things you're doing, and we appreciate it very much. A lot of people are seeing it, already, what's happening. And especially the lowering of the price of healthcare -- we see what's going on there. It's going to be a tremendous reduction in healthcare pricing because of what we're all doing together. So, great going, Alex. And Secretary Betsy DeVos for joining us.
Today we're here with state and local leaders, law enforcement officers, and educations officials to discuss how we can make our schools safe and our communities secure. And no better time to discuss it than right now. And I think we're making a lot of progress, and I can tell you there's a tremendous feeling that we want to get something done. And we're leading that feeling, I hope.
But there's a great feeling, including at the NRA, including with Republican senators and, hopefully, Democrat senators and congressmen.
I want to thank Curtis Hill for being here, attorney general. I also want to thank a really tremendous attorney general -- that's Pam Bondi, from Florida -- for being here. Thank you, Pam, very much. Great job you've done there.
Yesterday, I met with survivors of Parkland shooting. The Parkland shooting is just horrible. So bad for so many people and so bad for our country. Families who have lost their children in school shootings and local community members of Washington, D.C. who want to make sure that every child is safe at school. We're having a lot of problems in Washington, D.C.
I listened to their heartbreaking stories. I asked them for their ideas, and pledged to them that we will take action, unlike, for many years, where people sitting in my position did not take action. They didn’t take proper action. They took no action at all. We're going to take action.
Today we want to hear from you on how we can improve physical security in our schools, tackle the issue of mental health, which is a very big issue. This person that was caught after having killed so many people -- 17 -- and badly injuring so many others -- people don’t talk about the injured, and they have to go through life with that horrible, horrible situation that they were put in unnecessarily. People don’t talk about that, the people that are so badly -- I visited them in the hospital, in Broward County. And these are injuries like people wouldn’t believe.
And we want to ensure that, when we see warning signs, we act quickly. When we have somebody that's mentally unstable, like this guy that was a sicko, and there were a lot of warning signs. A lot of people were calling, saying, hey, he's going to do something bad. People have to act.
As I said last week, we must work together to create a culture of our country that cherishes life and forces real human connections. We're also working to reduce violent crime in America and to make our communities places that can be totally safe for our children, for our families.
Under my administration, gun prosecutions have increased very significantly. The Attorney General is very, very much after that. And we're also after the gangs. The gangs have been incredible. MS-13 -- I see where a couple of commentators that are lightweights said, "Oh, MS-13, who talks about that? That's all he talked about on Fox." No, that's not talked about on Fox. That's talked about in communities where they're killing people, not necessarily with guns -- because that's not painful enough. This is what they think. They want to do it more painfully and they want to do it slowly. So they cut them up with knives. They don’t use guns; they use knives, because they want it to be a long, painful death to people that had no idea this was coming.
And we're getting them out by the thousands, putting them in jail and we're getting them out by the thousands. And our people from ICE and our Border Patrol people are much tougher than they are. That's the only thing they understand, by the way, is toughness. They don’t understand niceness. They understand toughness. And our people are much tougher. They go in there, they grab them by the neck. There's no games being played. And I let them know that's what we want. We need tougher people than they are, and our people are a lot tougher than they are.
So we're working on getting violent offenders off the streets and guns out of the hands of the dangerous criminals. There's nothing more important than protecting our children. We had a, really, incredible meeting yesterday with some of the families that have suffered so greatly, in different places, not only in Florida -- as you know, Columbine. And it was a very sad situation.
But I will tell you, background checks -- I called many senators last night, many congressmen, and Jeff and Pam and everybody in this room. I can tell you, Curtis, they're into doing background checks that they wouldn’t be thinking about maybe two weeks ago. We're going to do strong background checks. We're going to work on getting the age up to 21 instead of 18. We're getting rid of the bump stocks. And we're going to be focusing very strongly on mental health, because here's a case of mental health.
Part of the problem is we used to have mental institutions. And I said this yesterday -- where you had a mental institution where you take a sicko, like this guy -- he was a sick guy, so many sides -- and you bring him to a mental health institution. Those institutions are largely closed because communities didn’t want them. Communities didn’t want to spend the money for them. So you don’t have any intermediate ground. You can't put them in jail because he hadn’t done anything yet, but you know he's going to do something.
So we're going to be talking seriously about opening mental health institutions again. In some cases, reopening. I can tell you, in New York, the governors in New York did a very, very bad thing when they closed our mental institutions, so many of them. You have these people living on the streets. And I can say that, in many cases throughout the country, they're very dangerous. They shouldn’t be there. So we're going to be talking about mental institutions. And when you have some person like this, you can bring them into a mental institution and they can see what they can do. But we got to get them out of our communities.
So with that being said, I'd like to ask the very talented people around this table to just introduce themselves quickly and say a few words. And maybe we can start off with Pam Bondi.
Pam, thank you.
MS. BONDI: Thanks, President. I'm Pam Bondi, Attorney General of Florida. And, Mayor, thank you. I know you're going through a lot now. President, she was there that night with me. I think you were there with me until 3:30 in the morning when all these families were being notified, and it was horrific. So I know you've been through a lot, so thank you so much.
THE PRESIDENT: She did a great job.
MS. BONDI: I have a couple issues that I'll wait -- or do you want to talk about them now?
THE PRESIDENT: Talk about them. You can talk.
MS. BONDI: Well, one it addresses some of the things you said in Florida. It's called the Baker Act, but it's our civil commitment act. And it's weak, and it's about 1,000 pages long. And I've had my solicitor general on it for four days, three days now, working on it. We're rewriting it -- along with Governor Scott, who's -- you're going to meet with him and he's going to give you a ton of good information.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
MS. BONDI: We've been rewriting it, and we are going to bring in something called the Gun Violence Restraining Order. So if someone is civilly committed -- and typically, you can hold them for up to 72 hours, but people are getting out within 24 hours, the majority of them. So what we want to do is let law enforcement come in and take the guns.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
MS. BONDI: They are a danger to themselves or others.
THE PRESIDENT: Which you can't do right now.
MS. BONDI: Well, without being adjudicated. So because they're a danger to themselves --
THE PRESIDENT: You want them to take the guns and not go through six months of legal trials and everything else, which is a problem.
MS. BONDI: Exactly.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
MS. BONDI: But we also have to give the mentally ill the due process in which they deserve, President. So what we're doing is they're going to be able to take the guns when they're taken into custody -- or into the hospital. And then, when they're released, within 24 hours or 72 hours later -- typically, it's 24 hours -- but law enforcement will have 72 hours to determine whether they should give those guns back, or they can go to a judge and say, "Your Honor, please keep these guns. We feel this person is still a danger to himself or others," whether they're in or out of custody.
THE PRESIDENT: So this would not have worked the way it's currently constituted. This would not have worked with Cruz as it's currently constituted.
MS. BONDI: As it's currently written.
THE PRESIDENT: So you're going to make changes?
MS. BONDI: We're going to make changes. And one other thing we're doing about the reporting, President, which is -- this is a big issue -- we need a clearinghouse. And that's what we've all been discussing. And we have created, and several of my counterparts have done it around the country, but we're the biggest state doing it -- it's an app. Because kids now are on social media. And there were so many warning signs on Snapchat, on Twitter, on Instagram. And they were posting -- they were sending them to all different sources. And we're going to have -- and we just got it in written in our House and Senate budget; it will cost at least half a million dollars a year to fund this. But what it does -- kids -- and so I met with 10 students, and they loved it. And they said I'm empowering them. Three of them are my graphic designers.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
MS. BONDI: They're going to design the icon. Some are going to name it; they're helping us with it. But it will cost probably about $100,000 maximum to develop. That's all in our budget.
So what kids can do now -- they can automatically send something that says, "I'm going to buy a gun," just like Cruz was doing. "I'm going to do this. I'm going to do this." And one of the girls who I met with -- one of the students -- told me he had been doing this since middle school, he had bullied her. And she reported it.
So it will all -- they can instantly -- and they can do it with anonymity.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
Q Put it in this app. It will go in the app, and it will go through one clearinghouse with state law enforcement in Florida.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you mentioned the Internet. We have to look at the Internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds, and their minds are being formed. And we have to do something about maybe what they're seeing and how they're seeing it. And also video games. I'm hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts. And then you go the further step, and that's the movies. You see these movies, they're so violent. And yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn't involved, but killing is involved, and maybe they have to put a rating system for that.
And, you know, you get into a whole very complicated, very big deal. But the fact is that you are having movies come out that are so violent, with the killing and everything else, that maybe that's another thing we're going to have to discuss. And a lot of people are saying it, you have these movies today where you can go and have a child see the movie, and yet it's so violent and so disgusting. So we may have to talk about that also.
Well, thank you very much, Pam. Thank you very much. Jeff?
ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS: Mr. President, my schoolteacher wife watched your meeting yesterday. She was very moved by it. And I think it has touched people all over the country.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS: And I salute you for that. And I won't talk now; others have got things they'll say. I just will say that we believe we can do better. We believe that some of the things that Attorney General Bondi is talking about can work. We've done a lot of research in this country over the last several years. We need to go back and act on it. It's one thing to research, as you indicated. It's another thing to do something about it.
THE PRESIDENT: We're going to act. That's right.
ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS: And we think we can help you develop the kind of policies that will make America safer.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Thank you. And you're doing a great job with the gangs. The gangs are such a problem. You know, we talk about child safety. The kids walk home and they meet one of these gangs. And these are absolute animals. These aren’t human beings; these are animals. And it's the torture -- the level of torture. In this country, who would ever believe a thing like this could happen? But we're literally getting MS-13 out by the thousands. But they come in -- these are smart. They're smart. They actually have franchises going to Los Angeles.
We're getting no help from the state of California. I mean, frankly, if I wanted to pull our people from California, you would have a crying mess like you've never seen in California. All I'd have to do is say, ICE and Border Patrol, let California alone. You'd be inundated -- you would see crime like nobody has ever seen crime in this country. And yet we get no help from the state of California. They are doing a lousy management job. They have the highest taxes in the nation, and they don’t know what's happening out there. Frankly, it's a disgrace -- the sanctuary city situation, the protection of these horrible criminals -- you know because you're working on it. And the protection of these horrible criminals in California, and other places, but in California. That if we ever pulled our ICE out and we ever said, "Hey, let California alone. Let them figure it out for themselves," in two months they'd be begging for us to come back. They would be begging. And you know what? I'm thinking about doing it.
Yes, sir. Go ahead.
SHERIFF MCDONALD: Yes, sir, Charles McDonald. Mr. President, it's a pleasure to be here. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support, certainly from all the sheriffs in North Carolina, if not, all of law enforcement.
THE PRESIDENT: Congressman Meadows is a big fan of yours, that I can tell you. You know who I'm talking about, right?
SHERIFF MCDONALD: Well, I'm a big fan of his. Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Good man.
SHERIFF MCDONALD: I've been very impressed, Mr. President, with a lot of the ideas I've heard just since -- before you came in, actually. And I do think mental health is a serious issue that's affecting us across the nation. I know it is in North Carolina.
I appreciate your courage, sir, to talk about the fact that I do think there is a place where properly trained people in certain areas as well -- think multi-layered, like an onion. Security has got a lot of facets. And I believe that you've got, certainly, the courage and the leadership to bring all of this together.
I know there's a lot of good ideas out there. I think they all need to be listened to. But it's going to take a lot of courage on the part of leaders, I think, in this nation, to bring the community together, to help them do the things that that they really want to do in their heart, but maybe haven't had the courage to do yet.
Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Sheriff. It's going to take a lot of political courage. You're right.
SHERIFF MCDONALD: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: A lot of political courage. Some of it won't be politically correct. But time for political correctness is over. We have to get this problem solved. So you're right about that.
Thank you, Sheriff. Yes, sir.
MR. SANDERS: Mr. President, Rick Sanders, Commissioner of the Kentucky State Police. And much like Florida, we went through this last month. We had a school shooting at Marshall County High School. And we're going to hear a lot about what we can do in the future to help protect our children. What I'm concerned with is, what are we going to do now to protect our children?
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
MR. SANDERS: And there's going to be a lot of debate, but I applaud you, sir, for having the courage to bring together law enforcement, mental health professionals and educators, all sitting around this table to decide together what we need to do.
I'm real curious to hear what Attorney General Bondi continues to do in Florida. I think the gun violence restraining order is critically important. And I also think that we, in law enforcement, we need to create a database in our fusion centers where can take information that we have on students that may be a threat, and put that into a database so that the FBI can share with local law enforcement and state police, and we all have that information that we can act upon.
And more importantly, I think there should be something coming out of that; that we did something with it. And it didn't just lay there, but we took that information and we actually acted on that. And that's something I'm very interested in pursuing.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Rick. The federal government is really going to be a coordinator between all of the states so that you give information and other states will have that information. Otherwise, there's no way of getting it.
MR. SANDERS: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: So we'll be doing that. And I have to say, the states are starting to act -- Florida, as an example; your state. A lot of states are starting to act on their own. They don't necessarily need 100 percent from the federal government. Federal government is going to help a lot, but a lot of states can do some of the things that I'm talking about on their own. And I really implore them to do it, and to do it as quickly as possible, as you understand. Thank you.
MS. BONDI: And Governor Scott, Mr. President. Wait until you see what Governor Scott is about to release in Florida.
THE PRESIDENT: Governor Scott is a great example.
MS. BONDI: It's great.
THE PRESIDENT: He's going to do a lot of things. And, again, there will be coordination with the federal government, but the states can do a lot of this work on their own and get it done very quickly.
MS. STONE: Yes, I'm Paula Stone and I'm a mental health professional, although I now work for the Department of Human Services in the area of making sure that mental health services are provided to the citizens of Arkansas.
And so I think what you said about early warning signs is very important to note, and access to appropriate services, and training educators. There's a program called Mental Health First Aid, where educators can be trained in how to identify those early warning signs and making sure that those services are easily accessible, because access is a problem. If somebody has to leave the school grounds and go to a clinic, wait for an appointment, then you've lost all that time.
If we can have mental health professionals that are located in schools, co-located with physicians in places where people go into the community so those people are identified with those needs and get those services very quickly before it gets to the point of having some significant needs.
Mental health professionals also, for people that have more significant needs, can wrap around the whole families. Because a lot of times, the families are asking for help but they haven't gotten that support. There may be stigma, there may be access issues. You want to make sure that all of those services are there, readily available, that there's no stigma to those services and that they can have those.
And then, we were talking down at this end of the table a minute ago about then, when it gets to the point where somebody is scared or somebody gets arrested, we are starting crisis stabilization units in our state. And other states have used crisis stabilization units. And our Governor Hutchinson has given some funds for us to start them in our state. They are units which is not just mental health; it's a partnership between the county, the mental health agency in that area, and the law enforcement.
So when law enforcement is trained with crisis intervention training, they can identify people when they arrest them, that they have a mental illness, that they're having a mental health issue, instead of taking them to jail, where they wouldn't receive that treatment, or where it would be very difficult for them to be screened. They can take them to the crisis stabilization units. They can hold them there for 72 hours.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
MS. STONE: They can do screenings, they can begin treatment, and then they can make sure that they get filtered into the right treatment, also working with the judiciary and the law enforcement officials as a partnership, a collaboration with them all.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Paula. Say hello to the governor.
MS. STONE: I will.
THE PRESIDENT: He's a great governor.
MS. STONE: He is.
THE PRESIDENT: He is. Done a great job.
SECRETARY AZAR: Well, Mr. President, as you know, you, last year, had identified serious mental illness as one of the core priorities at HHS already.
THE PRESIDENT: That's right.
SECRETARY AZAR: And that involved funding and also involved creating the interdepartmental coordinating committee around serious mental illness to pull all the resources of federal government together around these issues. And I've enjoyed the discussion so far this morning with these experts around some of the areas of how we're building our future agenda here to really tackle these issues of serious mental illness around the issues of violence.
One of those areas is education. What can we do better to assist educators, and parents, and first responders on dealing with serious mental illness situations?
Second is, what can we do around screening and identification of those at risk for serious mental illness?
The third is treatment. Both preventive treatment for those who are recently diagnosed, but also those who are an imminent risk of danger to themselves or others. And that might involve involuntary issues. As talked about earlier, how can we be of assistance there to get people the care that they need to live fruitful and good lives, but also be safe.
The fourth is community engagement. So often, serious mental illness is part of being disengaged and disconnected, and how can we reconnect people or keep them connected.
And then finally, it's research on the next generations of therapies. What can we in the federal government do to help bring the research and next-generation therapies for mental illness to the table for people?
THE PRESIDENT: Right. That's great, Alex. That's great. Thank you very much.
The Mayor of Parkland, Florida has suffered greatly, seen things that you never thought you would ever be a part of or see. And I just want to say, Christine, on behalf of all of us, you've done a great job.
MAYOR HUNSCHOFSKY: Thank you so much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: You've been given a rough hand, but you have done a great job. Thank you.
MAYOR HUNSCHOFSKY: I would just, first of all, like to say thank you. I don't know if you realize how much it meant to the students to be able to have a voice and to be heard by you and your administration. That's a very empowering thing for the students, and we appreciate it immensely.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MAYOR HUNSCHOFSKY: We spoke yesterday, and this roundtable has been amazing. I am grateful to be able to be here.
This didn't just happen in a vacuum; there was a whole timeline that led to this. And I'm very happy that there's such a commitment to action on all the steps that could have been taken to prevent it: The beginning of the mental health portion of it.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
MAYOR HUNSCHOFSKY: The police portion of it; if there had been better communication, maybe that could have been acted on.
What's very important to our residents right now is the school safety portion of it: that someone like that cannot gain access to these schools, and that our students are safe going to school. And it's very important that we act on that as quickly as possibly, because that is where the parents and the students are afraid right now.
And then, on the end, how did somebody like this person get access to that kind of firearm? And I think what Pam Bondi is working on