President Donald Trump waves after speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), at National Harbor, Md., Feb. 23, 2018.
President Donald Trump waves after speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), at National Harbor, Md., Feb. 23, 2018.

President Donald Trump made a fresh appeal Friday for support to arm some teachers to help stem mass shootings targeting schools.

Trump's pitch came during a speech before a friendly conservative crowd at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting near Washington.

Trump spent much of the past week dealing with the aftermath of the tragic high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Although a new experience for Trump, it is a situation many of his predecessors are all too familiar with.

Echoes of past tragedies

FILE - Cheryl Girardi, of Middletown, Conn., kneel
FILE - Cheryl Girardi, of Middletown, Conn., kneels beside 26 teddy bears, each representing a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, at a sidewalk memorial, Dec. 16, 2012, in Newtown, Conn.

Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all faced similar tragedies while in office. They also dealt with political pressures in the aftermath demanding action.

Trump is also beginning to see why presidents are often frustrated when they try to bridge what pollsters and political pundits often refer to as the great divide over guns in the United States.

In the aftermath of the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, President Clinton sought to calm the nation. "We must do more to reach out to our children and teach them to express their anger and to resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons," he said.

In 2007, it was left to President Bush to lead the grieving at Virginia Tech after a gunman killed 32 people before committing suicide. "May God bless and keep the souls of the lost, and may his love touch all of those who suffer in grief," he said at an on campus memorial service.

And in 2012, an emotional President Obama wiped away a tear as he addressed the nation in the wake of the massacre of grade-school students in Newtown, Connecticut. "We've endured too many of these tragedies in the last few years. The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of five and 10 years old," he said.

Searching for solutions

President Donald Trump holds notes during a listen
President Donald Trump holds notes during a listening session with students and teachers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in the White House, Feb. 21, 2018.

Trump has expressed sympathy for the victims and families in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. But he has also been forceful in pushing for solutions, including the controversial idea of arming some teachers.

"I want to stop it and I know it is a little controversial to say, but since I started this two days ago, a lot of people who were totally opposed to it are now agreeing. They love their students and don't want their students to be killed or to be hurt," Trump told the CPAC attendees.

Earlier this week at the White House, Trump heard from some of the students and parents, including surviving student Samuel Zeif.

"I lost a best friend who was practically a brother, and I'm here to use my voice because I know he can't," he said at a White House "listening session" with people with ties to several mass school shootings.

Polling on guns

Recent polling shows a jump in support for additional gun restrictions, which is common following mass shootings.

A new Marist poll found that 71 percent of those surveyed favor stricter laws governing the sale of firearms.

A new Quinnipiac poll found that 66 percent support stricter laws, the highest level of support ever measured in that survey.

"You know, if you think Americans are not paying attention or moved by these shootings, you are wrong," Quinnipiac assistant director Tim Malloy said via Skype. "In the last two years, we have seen a 20 percent jump in calls for stricter gun control."

Trump has signaled support for tougher background checks for gun buyers and for raising the minimum age to buy an assault weapon from 18 to 21 years of age.

It remains unclear if Trump can win over the National Rifle Association, or NRA, on those issues. The NRA is one of the country's most powerful lobbying groups and claims 5 million members.

NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre received a rousing reception Thursday when he spoke to CPAC. "There is no greater personal individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms, the right to protect yourself and the right to survive," he said.

Mobilizing voters

A cap and shirt are displayed at the booth for the
A cap and shirt are displayed at the booth for the National Rifle Association (NRA) at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., Feb. 23, 2018.

Despite the support for tough gun measures in the polls, analysts caution that it does not always translate into action at the polls.

"NRA members are very reliable voters, so just because public opinion polls say people want background checks, that doesn't necessarily translate to people showing up at the polls," former Ohio state Senator Capri Cafaro, now with American University in Washington, said via Skype.

But given the media attention to the students taking to the streets around the country, the demands for action in the wake of the Parkland shooting could last a bit, Malloy, of the Quinnipiac poll, said.

"These young voices have jumped out in the last four or five days and appear to be at the tip of the spear of a movement," he said. "So the sense is, a movement that had started has now gained momentum and is accelerating and we may see some change out of this."

The first opportunity to demonstrate change will come in this November's midterm congressional elections.