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Trump backs bill on school safety: White House

WASHINGTON: U.S. President Donald Trump would sign a bill aimed at preventing school violence like the mass shooting that killed 17 people in Florida last month, which the U.S. House of Representatives is poised to pass later on Wednesday.

As student protesters gathered outside the Capitol on Wednesday to mark a month since the Florida shooting, the White House released a statement saying the bill would protect children through Justice Department grants for identifying and preventing school-targeted violence.

The grants, totaling $50 million a year, would fund training, anonymous reporting systems, threat assessments, intervention teams and school and police coordination.

If the bill passes both the House and Senate, Trump would sign it into law, the statement said.

The measure, however, would not allow any of the funding to be used for arming teachers or other school personnel. The White House said the legislation would be improved by lifting the restriction.

House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters the chamber would pass the bill later on Wednesday. But with the Senate considering other legislation this week and next, it was not clear when that chamber might consider the school safety bill.

The legislation does not address many of the gun control initiatives backed by students, teachers and families of shooting victims at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

In emotional testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Katherine Posada, a teacher at the school, recounted the horror she experienced the day of the shooting and urged Congress to ban assault-style weapons like the AR-15 rifle used by Nikolas Cruz, who has been charged in the murders.

“Some of the victims were shot through doors, or even through walls – a knife can’t do that,” Posada said. “How many innocent lives could have been saved if these weapons of war weren’t so readily available?”

Since the Florida shooting, the Republican-led Congress and Trump’s administration have considered a variety of measures to curb gun violence while trying to avoid upsetting the powerful National Rifle Association lobby group or threatening the right to bear arms enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Protesters with signs targeting the NRA and advocating an assault rifle ban filled the hearing room in the Senate on Wednesday, and occasionally applauded as some Democrats on the panel spoke about enacting stricter gun laws.

Meanwhile, the No. 2 official at the FBI told lawmakers in testimony Wednesday that his agency dropped the ball by mishandling several tips about Cruz before the shooting, and said reforms are underway.

“The FBI could have and should have done more to investigate the information it was provided prior to the shooting,” Acting Deputy Director David Bowdich said.

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