It reportedly won’t recommend new curbs on firearms purchases

The school safety commission established by President Trump after the deadly shooting in Parkland, Fla., will not recommend new age restrictions for the purchase of firearms, according to people familiar with the draft report.

The commission concluded there is no evidence that age restrictions reduce the likelihood of school shootings and instead will recommend that states increase safety training for gun owners.

The findings are expected to be included in a report to be released before the end of the year by the Federal Commission on School Safety, according to two people who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly.

The commission is headed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, though the section about gun restrictions was handled by the Justice Department.

Trump created the commission in the wake of the February massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people died. The shooting spurred nationwide protests and a huge rally on the Mall in Washington demanding that Congress pass tougher gun-control laws.


The Federal Commission on School Safety meets with regional leaders during a roundtable discussion in the Alabama State Capitol in August. (Mickey Welsh /The Montgomery Advertiser)

The commission was the White House’s effort to show it was responding to the national outrage. At one point, Trump himself suggested he would take on the National Rifle Association and might back new age limits. But he quickly reversed course and, six months later, his commission is echoing the mainstream Republican view that no new laws are needed.

The Trump panel was controversial from the start because it excluded most proposals for expanded gun restrictions. Rather, the commission’s mandate centered on areas such as mental health, youth consumption of violent entertainment and media coverage of mass shootings. It also looked at arming school personnel to bolster security.

The White House directed the commission to consider just one possible gun restriction: whether age limits should be raised for firearm purchases. The panel does not have the power to enact such a policy; it would require congressional action.

Under federal law, a licensed dealer cannot sell a handgun to anyone under age 21, and cannot sell a long gun, such as a rifle or shotgun, to anyone under 18. For unlicensed dealers, which could include a friend or a private seller at a gun show, handgun sales are restricted to those 18 and older, and no age restriction exists on the sale of long guns.

Some states have more restrictive rules, and in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, Florida raised the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21.

The school safety commission did not conduct its own study of the impact of age-related restrictions but reviewed existing evidence to conclude that raising the age for purchasers would not reduce the likelihood of shootings, one person familiar with the report said.

Instead, the report will recommend that states consider training for gun owners to be sure their firearms are safely stored.

In February, Trump suggested he was open to new age restrictions on gun sales.

“I’m going to give it a lot of consideration,” Trump said during a meeting with lawmakers. “You can’t buy a handgun at 18, 19 or 20. You have to wait until you’re 21. You could buy the weapon used in this horrible shooting at 18. You are going to decide — the people in this room pretty much — are going to decide. I would give very serious thought to it.”

But in March, he backtracked, saying on Twitter: “On 18 to 21 Age Limits, watching court cases and rulings before acting. States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly).”

The commission also will give tacit support to the idea of providing firearms for school personnel by laying out best practices for “hardening” schools, people familiar with the planning said.

A spokeswoman for the Education Department had no comment.

On a related subject, DeVos has said she will not answer questions about whether states can use money from a federal grant program to buy firearms. Experts say that by taking this stance, she has cleared the way for states that want to use their funding in this manner. As a result, congressional Democrats are pushing to adopt a ban on using the grant program for firearm purchases.

The school safety commission had its first organizational meeting in March and since then has hosted four meetings with experts, four field visits and four public listening sessions.

Invited guests included more than 30 Republican officeholders and GOP appointees but only a handful of Democrats. Those testifying rarely expressed support for new gun restrictions, though many spoke in favor of arming school personnel for protection.