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Trump, lawmakers seek common ground on gun control

Students returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday for their first classes since a Valentine's Day shooting, with many saying they would keep fighting for stricter gun control laws. Meanwhile, President Trump met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to talk about legislation, backing better background checks and arming teachers or other school workers. John Yang reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's been two weeks since a gunman shot 17 people to death at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

    Today, the school reopened, as talk continued in Washington on what to do about guns.

    John Yang has our report.

  • John Yang:

    Students returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School classrooms this morning amid reminders of the Valentine's Day killings.

  • Madison Geller:

    We're never going to be back to normal, but it's going to get us in the right direction again.

  • John Yang:

    Makeshift memorials were piled high with flowers. Some brought signs of encouragement. There was a heavy police presence.

  • Casey Sherman:

    Oh, wow, there are a lot of police. Oh, my goodness, yes, that is a lot.

  • John Yang:

    The nearly 3,300 students began the day with fourth period, the classes that were under way when the shooting started two weeks ago today.

  • Macy Geller:

    We start the day in the class where the event took place, so that's like going to be a little sad and like weird. But I'm just glad to see everybody that I spent the hard time with and see that they're all OK.

  • John Yang:

    Fourteen-year-old Jaime Guttenberg was killed in the shooting. Today, her father watched as classmates went back to school without her.

  • Fred Guttenberg:

    It's the safest school in America right now. So, as long as it stays that way, I guess I'm OK. And I think it'll stay that way for the rest of this year with all this significant presence and efforts to strengthen and fortify it. It's still the scene of where my daughter, unfortunately, was murdered.

  • John Yang:

    A teacher posted a picture of a therapy dog in her classroom. Many students said they would keep fighting for stricter gun control laws.

  • Angelys Perez:

    We're still around. We're still kicking it. We're still trying to send a message. We're like don't forget about us, because we can't forget those who we lost.

  • John Yang:

    The school reopened as a major gun retailer, Dick's Sporting Goods, announced it's not waiting for new legislation. CEO Edward Stack said the company will stop selling assault-style rifles and will not sell any gun to anyone under 21.

  • Edward Stack:

    We were so disturbed and saddened by what happened, we felt we really need to do something. We did everything that the law required, and still he was able to buy a gun. He was still able to buy a gun.

  • John Yang:

    The 19-year-old shooting suspect, Nikolas Cruz, legally purchased a gun from Dick's last fall, but not the AR-15 he allegedly used in the shooting.

    At the White House, President Trump met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to talk about gun control legislation.

  • President Donald Trump:

    So, as we continue to mourn the loss of so many precious young lives in Parkland, Florida, we're determined to turn our grief into action.

  • John Yang:

    Mr. Trump backed better background checks for gun purchases, including private sales, like those at gun shows, and arming teachers and other school workers.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I really believe it is going to prevent it from ever happening, because they are cowards, and they're not going in when they know they're going to come out dead.

  • John Yang:

    In some of the worst school shootings, though, like Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook, the shooters killed themselves.

    And the president underscored his differences with the powerful National Rifle Association, calling for raising the age for buying assault-style weapons, saying authorities should have preemptively taken away Cruz's guns, and saying legislation to allow concealed carry permits to apply across state lines shouldn't be a priority.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I'm a big fan of the NRA. These are great patriots. They love our country. But that doesn't mean we have to agree on everything.

  • John Yang:

    Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut told Mr. Trump that passing legislation required presidential leadership.

  • Sen. Chris Murphy:

    Mr. President, it's going to have to be you that brings the Republicans to the table on this, because right now the gun lobby would stop it in its tracks.

  • John Yang:

    As the president and lawmakers are seeking common ground hoping to prevent future tragedies.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm John Yang.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In a related development, police in Dalton, Georgia, arrested a high school teacher after he barricaded himself in an empty classroom, and fired a handgun once. No one was hit, but one student sprained an ankle running. There's no word on the teacher's motive.

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