White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders choked back tears Wednesday when a child used an unexpected appearance in the press briefing room to ask what the Trump administration is doing to keep children safe from school shootings.
“At my school, we recently had a lockdown drill,” the boy began when she called on him during the regular daily back and forth with White House reporters.
“One thing that affects my and other students’ mental health is the worry about the fact that we or our friends could get shot at school,” the boy said. “Specifically, can you tell me what the administration has done and will do to prevent these senseless tragedies?”
The young student who addressed Sanders had come to the White House on assignment for Time for Kids magazine and attended an event celebrating youth sports and fitness. The San Francisco Chronicle and other media outlets identified him as Benje Choucroun, 13, of Marin County, Calif.
Sanders, a mother of three young children, looked momentarily taken aback at his question, but answered swiftly.
“I think that, as a kid and certainly as a parent, there is nothing that could be more terrifying — for a kid to go to school and not feel safe,” she said, her voice breaking slightly. “So I’m sorry that you feel that way.”
To murmurs from the reporters, Sanders continued.
“This administration takes it seriously, and the School Safety Commission that the president convened is meeting this week, ” she said.
The panel would “discuss the best ways forward and how we can do every single thing within our power to protect kids in our schools and to make them feel safe and make their parents feel good about dropping them off,” Sanders said.
Sanders’s answer did not include specifics about gun safety measures or measures Trump has said he supports, including arming teachers or other school employees and making it easier to remove guns from the hands of mentally disturbed people.
Neither the White House nor Congress has done much to address those ideas or other actions such as a proposed revisiting of the federal assault weapons ban, despite a spate of deadly school shootings this spring.
Sanders said Wednesday that during a trip to Houston on Thursday the president “will meet with families of the victims from the tragic school shooting at Santa Fe High School to personally offer his condolences and support.”
Trump held a White House meeting on guns in February where he stunned gun rights backers with criticism of the National Rifle Association, but he gave full support to the organization when addressing its annual convention this month.
Speaking to the meeting in Dallas, Trump repeated his endorsement of training teachers to carry concealed weapons and allowing more armed security guards in schools. Signs declaring a school a gun-free zone, Trump argued, are essentially invitations to attackers to “come in and take us.”
“They love their students and they’re not going to let anybody hurt their students. But you have to give them a chance,” Trump said. “In America, we’ve always trusted the people to keep and bear arms.”