President Trump floats reforms to prevent mass shootings

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," February 26, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We will turn our grief into action. We have to have action. This includes along well trained and certified school personnel to carry concealed firearm. Bump stocks, we're writing that out. I am writing that out myself. I don't care if Congress does it or not. I'm writing it out myself.

Don't worry about the NRA. They are on our side. Half of you are so afraid of the NRA. There is nothing to be afraid of.

We must pursue common sense measures that protect the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans while keeping guns out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others.

We are going to have to start talking about mental institutions because a lot of the folks in this room closed their mental institutions.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Trump talking with about 35 governors at the White House today, a big give and take that lasted sometime in front of the cameras, as you can hear, about school safety and guns. This as a new poll is out from USA Today and Suffolk, most recent saying should schools be required to have metal detectors at point of entry, there you see 62-27. Armed police officer on site, and there you see that, 58 percent.

When it comes to curbing mass shootings, which is more important? You see the breakdown -- restricting access to guns, improving mental health care, both. A lot of talking about different possible solutions on school safety.

Let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, editor in chief for The Weekly Standard; Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, and Dan Balz, national political correspondent at The Washington Post.

Dan, let me start with you. Congress is saying they are going to put some kind of legislative packaging. When you hear the president talking about, of all things, the NRA and you shouldn't be worried about it, do you think that there is a chance that something might come together?

DAN BALZ, WASHINGTON POST: I think it's still going to be difficult. I think they are still miles apart on some of the issues. I think it will be partly determined by how much people try to do. If they can go leaner and simpler, maybe they can do something on background checks, but beyond that I don't know what they are going to be able to do. These standoffs have existed for a long time. The NRA has been very successful in blocking efforts in the past after other shootings. I think a lot of it will have to do with what role the president chooses to plan and how effective he is.

BAIER: Apparently he had lunch at the White House with some NRA leadership, including Wayne LaPierre and others. Mollie?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: I think it's interesting that we are even talking about gun control as a response to something where the more we learn about it we are just learning about a series of epic, catastrophic government failures at every level. We've heard about the FBI being notified about this person. The school failed. The school resource officer failed. The sheriff's department failed dozens of times being told about this person and doing nothing. In one case the shooter himself notified authorities that he was a threat and nothing was done. And the idea that we would respond to this story of epic government failure by restricting law-abiding America's right to keep and bear arms protected in the Second Amendment is very confusing to a lot of people and particularly with the details of this particular case.

BAIER: You heard Governor Scott and the president talking about this sheriff's deputy, a couple outside the school, and also about the warnings that were missed as Mollie mentioned. Take a listen.


GOV. RICK SCOTT, R-FLA.: The local sheriff's department, they've got to become completely transparent. We have to do a thorough investigation. And whoever didn't do their job has to be held accountable.

TRUMP: I got to watch some deputy sheriffs performing this weekend. They weren't exactly medal of honor winners.

SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: I can only take responsibility for what I knew about. I exercised my due diligence. I've given amazing leadership to this agency. And of course I won't resign.


BAIER: There are calls now, including the Florida House speaker, for the Broward County sheriff to resign. What about this, Steve?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: He has not in fact given "amazing leadership." I would say he's been pretty much the opposite of what you would expect of a leader in a time of crisis, responding to some of the things that Mollie raised. There were failures again and again, not just in the last few minutes, not just in the heat of the moment, but going back months there were failures, and I think his department is responsible for them.

One of the reasons that we are talking about gun control in the aftermath of this is because President Trump is talking about gun control in the aftermath of this, and I think Dan is exactly right. A lot of what happens from this point forward will depend on how much President Trump wants to expend political capital to make something happen.

Now, he said he is working on bump stocks. He doesn't care if they do it legislatively. He's happy to do it administratively. There are two other places where he talked about making changes. Background checks is the first one and the age to purchase on long guns is the second. The White House seemed to in Sarah Sanders press briefing today take a small step back from that, saying the president, while he may have said this, this is still being discussed. It's part of a broader discussion on this. Does that mean the White House is actually stepping back from these proposals that the president offered or are they actually making a tactical play to include it in a broader set of negotiations?

BAIER: A number of governors stepped up, said, a couple of them said they didn't feel comfortable with the teachers being armed, including Washington's governor.


GOV. JAY INSLEE, D-WASH.: I know you have suggested arming our teachers.

TRUMP: No, no, no. Not your teachers. Arming a small portion that are very gun adept the truly know how to handle. So it would be a very small group of people that are very gun adept.

INSLEE: I have listened to first grade teachers that don't want to be pistols packing first grade teachers. I've listened to law enforcement who have said they don't want to have to train teachers as a law enforcement agencies which takes about six months. So I just suggest we need a little less tweeting here and a little more listing.


BAIER: Dan, what about this? Is it gaining traction or taking away?

BALZ: Bret, I think it's going be a state-by-state thing. There are a number of governors. I've been covering the governors all weekend, and in talking to them, there are a number of governors in both parties who are uncomfortable with this idea.

BAIER: We should point out some of them are already doing it.

BALZ: And we talked with Governor Abbott in Texas about what they have done, and I think they said almost a fifth of the schools have people who are armed. This is something that in part will have to do with the culture of each of those states, the culture of the use of guns and how comfortable people are with it. But there are a number of governors who say, including Republican governors, adding guns to this environment is not what they want to see in schools. But we will see how this debate goes forward state by state.

BAIER: Speaking of culture, I want to play one more sound bite. This is from Kentucky's governor.


GOV. MATT BEVIN, R-KY.: We have to talk about the culture in this society. When we mock and ridicule the very foundational principles this nation was built upon where you treat people the way you would want to be treated, where you respect human life, where you respect the dignity of women and of children and of people who we have increasingly degraded in our society, this culture of death is becoming pervasive.


BAIER: Hard to legislate something like that, but he was talking about using the bully pulpit's in all of these states.

HEMINGWAY: It's hard to legislate but it's so important. It is something all Americans can do is think about how they are handling their own families, what they are doing to look out for their own family members, helping out people in their community who have greater needs whether they be mental health or otherwise. It's not an easy fix, it's not going to get headlines, but it's actually what this country needs.

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