Morning News Report

Feb 27, 2018
Originally published on February 27, 2018 7:13 am
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As Congress is trying to figure out what, if anything, to do about gun violence, they are looking to President Trump for some guidance. And he hasn't exactly settled on a clear agenda here.


He is throwing out ideas, as he did yesterday at a meeting with a few dozen state governors. First, the president talked about banning bump stocks, and then the president brought up the police response to the Parkland shooting. Some sheriff's deputies, as you may know, did not go into the school to confront the shooter as 17 people were killed. And the president speculated that he would've done more.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon. And I think most of the people in this room would've done that, too.

INSKEEP: The president also reaffirmed an idea that he's discussed to arm teachers. And he suggested that the shooting might never have happened in the, quote, "old days" when he says people like Nikolas Cruz might have been locked up in an institution. So how clear is the president's legislative agenda?

MARTIN: Let's ask Scott Horsley. He covers the White House for NPR.

Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: So we've heard a lot of talk from the president about things he would like to see happen after the Parkland shooting. Before we get to the aspirations, has anything concrete happened at this point?

HORSLEY: The one step that the White House has taken so far is to address bump stocks. That's an accessory that makes a semi-automatic weapon perform more like a machine gun. It was not used in the Parkland, Fla., shooting, but it was used in the shooting in Las Vegas last October. And the White House has directed the department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to crack down on that.

MARTIN: But he can't do this by himself, right? And this - changing gun laws is anathema to a whole lot of Republicans. So does President Trump have the kind of clout, frankly, that he needs with enough Republicans to make a change like this?

HORSLEY: There's some changes that do seem to have some consensus behind them. The president has talked about improving background checks, by which he means making sure the information that should disqualify a would-be gun buyer makes it into the federal database against which background checks are run. He's not talking about, for example, closing the gun show loophole. But there does seem to be some momentum in Congress for that on background checks. The other idea that he's talked a lot about that you mentioned is to arm teachers. And yesterday, we heard the governor of Texas, where that's already in place, defend it as a well-thought-out program. It's an idea that the state of Florida is now considering. But the president also heard some strong pushback from Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, who says he's talked to teachers who don't want to be packing heat in a classroom full of first graders.

MARTIN: What about the issue of raising the minimum age for purchasing certain weapons, assault-style rifles in particular? The president has talked about this - raising the age up to 21. But the NRA said they didn't much like that idea. So where is this right now?

HORSLEY: The president seemed to be supportive of this idea after he met with students and parents from Parkland last week. But he made no mention of raising the minimum age when he spoke at CPAC last Friday or yesterday when he was meeting with the governors. As you mention, it's an idea the NRA opposes, and the president met with NRA leaders on Sunday. His spokeswoman says the president still likes this idea in concept, but he's not talking a lot about it.

INSKEEP: So there is one thing that is not really being put on the table here. We've got all these different proposals dealing with bump stocks, working around the edges. What is not going to change, regardless of this debate, are a couple of figures that we heard on NPR's All Things Considered last night - 350 million guns in civilian hands in the United States, 25 or 30 million more guns being sold each year.

MARTIN: Right. And so how do you go about trying to get those guns back, if at all?

INSKEEP: Or just, how - if that's not going to be possible, how do you make the country safer?

MARTIN: Right. All right, NPR's Scott Horsley for us this morning. Hey, Scott, thanks so much.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you.

MARTIN: All right, let's look at how the gun debate is taking shape at the state level, particularly in Florida after the Parkland shooting massacre. Lawmakers in Florida at the state Legislature are considering some changes today. NPR's Joel role is - Joel Rose - there we go - is covering this story.

Hey, Joel.


MARTIN: All right, so...

ROSE: Right. Republicans - sorry. Go ahead.

MARTIN: Yeah, just give us the lay of the land. What are they considering today?

ROSE: Right. So Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee, the state capital, are - unveiled their package of gun bills yesterday. It includes a three-day waiting period for all firearms purchases. They want to raise the age limit for rifles to 21. That would be the same as it is for handguns. The package would allow law enforcement to temporarily confiscate weapons from someone they deem a threat to themselves or others. And it would create this so-called school marshal program - that's what they're calling it - that would pave the way for teachers to carry guns in schools after they've undergone a lot of voluntary training. As you guys were discussing, that's an idea that has gotten some support from President Trump. But it's going too far for the Florida governor, Rick Scott, who's also a Republican, who says he does not like - he does not think it's a good idea to arm teachers - and neither, do that matter, for a lot of Democrats in the state or the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, who've have been lobbying their lawmakers since the shooting.

MARTIN: So then how likely is that to pass, this - the idea of arming certain teachers?

ROSE: You know, that's - it's not really clear. I mean, I think the state lawmakers are in a slightly different place than the governor. So it will be - you know, I think we should see that shake out before the legislative session ends next week.

MARTIN: Right. There is some urgency here because they don't have that many days before the session ends. So Democrats, Joel, yesterday tried to push through a ban on high-powered semi-automatic rifles. That failed. So did they really have a shot at that?

ROSE: Not in Florida. I mean, this is one thing where the Republicans in the state really are on the same page. They think that that kind of ban would be unconstitutional. The students at Stoneman Douglas, for example, have been pushing for it. Democrats in the state are definitely sympathetic, but they simply don't have a lot of power in Tallahassee. Republicans have control of the state government here - both the governor's office and the Legislature. And the NRA holds a lot of sway. The state has been very friendly to gun rights over the years. So what's pretty remarkable in Florida is that these new gun laws are under discussion at all, despite opposition from the NRA.

MARTIN: I have to ask you about the police response. There's been a lot of criticism of the sheriff in Broward County, Scott Israel, because on his watch, it was some of these sheriff deputies who did not go into the building when they heard the shooting. He's under a lot of pressure - many calling on the governor to replace him. What's that looking like?

ROSE: Right. So at least 70 GOP lawmakers signed a letter calling on the governor to suspend the Broward County sheriff, Scott Israel. But Israel is defending the work that his office has done. But, as you say, he's going to continue to face a lot of questions about what happened before the shooting, when his office had dozens of interactions with the alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz, and his family, and also on the day of the shooting itself, when some of the deputies, you know, reportedly did not go in.

MARTIN: All right, NPR's Joel Rose for us this morning. Thanks, Joel.

ROSE: You're welcome.


MARTIN: All right, you remember the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag from a few years ago.

INSKEEP: Oh, yeah.

MARTIN: It was a major wake-up call to Hollywood about its diversity problem.

INSKEEP: And today, we learn whether that problem is improving. A new report on diversity in Hollywood is out this morning. UCLA sociologist Darnell Hunt authored it, as he has in some past years. He says his latest study and the box office success of "Black Panther" both show that diversity is good for business.

DARNELL HUNT: America's about 40 percent people of color now, and it's becoming a half a percent more diverse every year. And that tracks onto what's happening around the globe. So if Hollywood positioned itself to take advantage of those demographic realities, box office numbers are going to increase, and the industry as a whole is going to flourish.

INSKEEP: If Hollywood positioned itself, he says. So is it?

MARTIN: Is it positioning itself? NPR's Mandalit del Barco is here to answer that.

Hey, Mandalit.


MARTIN: So we should explain this report studied film and TV through 2016, and it looked at both race and gender. So let's start with the racial component first. What's the report say there?

DEL BARCO: Well, you know, this is the fifth year that Dr. Hunt and his team have crunched the numbers in Hollywood. And their takeaway is that for every step or two that diversity moved forward, it also moved one step back. So the report looked at films and TV shows made in 2015, '16, and it takes this long to gather and analyze all that data from the box office numbers and from social media, from tweets, from Nielsen ratings and other metrics. And it turns out - no surprise, Rachel - that people of color remain underrepresented in front of and behind the camera. In fact, their report is subtitled "Five Years Of Progress And Missed Opportunities." And, you know, it shows that African-Americans actually did a little bit better than Asian-Americans. And despite the fact that Latinos are the largest minority and are growing, they're on par with Native Americans - nearly invisible on the big and small screen. You know, also, the - you know, the report also found that people of color brought - bought the majority of movie tickets for the top...

MARTIN: Ah, interesting.

DEL BARCO: ...Ten films in 2016.

MARTIN: Well, then, let me ask you, though, Mandalit, because I can hear someone listening to our conversation thinking, wait, we've got "Black Panther," the success of "Wonder Woman," which was directed by Patty Jenkins, a woman, and the Me Too movement has obviously raised so much awareness about inequity. Aren't things getting better? And you're basically saying, they're not, or they are a little bit, but not enough.

DEL BARCO: Well, you know, and for women, who account for half - nearly half the population, you know, the numbers are even more - even worse. Like, women film directors are outnumbered by men 7-1. And even though there's some bright spots, like TV shows like "Empire" and "The Walking Dead" - and in children's television, there's a lot of diversity. But, you know, it's still...

MARTIN: Still, those major jobs like film director, best director category...

DEL BARCO: Correct.

MARTIN: ...This year was all men, as actress Natalie Portman pointed out kind of painfully at awards ceremonies. NPR's Mandalit del Barco. Mandalit, thanks so much.

DEL BARCO: You're welcome. Thanks, Rachel.

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