WH briefing gets heated over school shooting

The White House press briefing got contentious when ABC News reporter Peter Alexander pressed White House press secretary Sarah Sanders about President Donald Trump's gun policies in the wake of 2017's Las Vegas mass shooting and a day after a school shooting in Kentucky killed two people.

Posted: Jan 26, 2018 9:26 AM
Updated: Jan 26, 2018 9:28 AM

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders struggled Wednesday to point to specific steps President Donald Trump has taken to address mass shootings, pointing instead to the administration's broad efforts to crack down on violent crime.

Asked for a response to the shooting at a western Kentucky high school that killed two students and wounded 18 others, Sanders said: "Students fearing for their lives while attempting to get an education is unacceptable."

"The President believes that all Americans deserve to be safe in their schools and in their communities," Sanders said. "We've tried to crack down on crime throughout the country."

The Kentucky shooting and Sanders' response came more than three months after Sanders and the President promised the White House would eventually engage in a "policy discussion" and discuss "gun laws" in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting.

"We'll be talking about gun laws as time goes on," Trump said then.

Sanders attempted to link the mass shootings with a two-year increase in violent crime in the two years before Trump became President, saying the Justice Department has "charged more defendants with violent crime offenses than any year in decades" and tallied "the most federal firearm prosecutions in a decade."

The White House did not immediately provide the exact statistics.

Sanders said school shootings "certainly would be part of a crime wave that we are focused on addressing."

Sanders also pointed to an ongoing review by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review the National Instant Background Check System to address issues in federal agencies' reporting of information in the wake of the Texas church mass shooting in November.

While Sanders and other administration officials have rebuffed a policy discussion on stemming mass shootings in their immediate wake, Trump and the White House have been quick to talk substantive policy provisions within hours of terrorist attacks.

Trump offered his first thoughts on the Kentucky school shooting more than 24 hours later on Wednesday, tweeting that he spoke with the state's governor and extending his "thoughts and prayers" to victims and their families.

"We are with you!" Trump tweeted.

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