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White House: Cracking Down on Gangs, Crime Will Help Stop School Shootings

President Donald Trump thinks rolling back the recent rise in violent crime will help prevent school shootings, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during a press briefing Wednesday. 

In response to questions from NBC News reporter Peter Alexander, Sanders—not for the first time—didn't lay out strategies the president is considering or supporting to address school shootings in particular, one day after a Kentucky high school student shot and killed two of his classmates and wounded 17 others. On Monday, a student at a high school in Italy, Texas shot and wounded a fellow student. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the attack in Kentucky was the first fatal school shooting incident of 2018. 

Last month, five years to the day that 20 students and six students were shot and killed by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Sanders responded to a question about dealing with school gun violence by pivoting to illegal immigration as a top priority for the president. 

Alexander began his questioning by noting that there were 11 school shootings in the U.S. in the first 23 days of 2018. He then asked what Trump had done to try to address gun violence since a gunman killed 58 people in Las Vegas last October. (Immediately after the Las Vegas shootings, Alexander noted, the White House said it was not the time to talk about gun control.) Sanders responded by saying gun violence in schools "is something that should never happen."

"The president believes that all Americans deserve to be safe in their schools and in their communities," Sanders said, saying that there was an increase in violent crime in the two years before Trump took office. "We've tried to crack down on crime across the country." 

Violent crime in the U.S. did rise in 2015 and 2016, although it remains near historic lows. Sanders also said the arrest of violent gang members and drug traffickers would create safer better communities and safer schools. Neither student arrested for the Kentucky and Texas shootings this week has been identified as a gang member. 

When Alexander pressed her again for specific solutions, Sander reiterated that the overall rise in violent crime and school shootings were linked.

"I don't think you can completely separate the two. I think they're part of domestic violence," Sanders told Alexander.

Sanders then accused Alexander of trying to make Trump complicit in the murders, which she called "outrageous." Alexander denied doing so.

From virtual-shooter programs to active-shooter drills at schools, there are a variety of approaches to improve school safety, although they often come with controversy. Click here for more news and resources about safety in schools.

Since 2013, there have been at least 283 shootings at schools, according to the anti-gun violence group Everytown for Gun Safety. 

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