Gunman shouting anti-Trump slogans arrested at Miami resort

By Zachary Fagenson

DORAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A gunman railing against U.S. President Donald Trump opened fire in one of the Republican’s Florida golf resorts early on Friday, exchanging gunshots with Miami police who wounded and arrested him, officials said.

Neither Trump nor any of his immediate family members were at the Trump National Doral Miami at the time, according to the Secret Service. The golf club is about 70 miles (113 km) south of the Palm Beach resort that Trump has visited regularly during his term.

The man “was trying to lure our officers … into this gunfight. He did succeed, and he did lose. That’s the bottom line,” Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said at a news briefing, adding it was not clear what motivated his actions.

The man lowered a flag that was flying outside the Miami-area club, went into the lobby at about 1:30 a.m. EDT (0530 GMT) and draped it over the counter. He pointed a gun at people in the lobby, fired at the ceiling and a chandelier and waited to attack responding officers, Perez said.

The gunman, identified as Jonathan Oddi, 42, of Doral, was shouting anti-Trump remarks during the incident, Perez said. He said he did not know specifically what Oddi had said.

Police shot Oddi in the legs and took him into custody, and he was in hospital in stable condition.

Social media pages that appeared to be created by Oddi said that he owned a gemstone company, was a real estate investor and had been a volunteer Santa Claus at a Miami hospital in 2013.

Guests at the golf resort said they were awakened by the sound of gunshots and emergency vehicles. They were not apprised of any details of the incident by the hotel and only learned of it through news reports, they said.

“We’re staying near the lobby and my husband said he thought he heard shots,” said Ana Marta Fernandez, 49, who was visiting from Uruguay.

She said the hotel had said little more than that the golf courses were closed for the day.

“So far they’ve offered us nothing as compensation,” Fernandez said.

A resort representative was not immediately available to comment.

The U.S. Secret Service, which guards the president and his family, said in a statement that no one under its protection was in the Miami area at the time. The agency does not protect the club, but is working with police who are investigating the shooting, it said.

A Doral police officer suffered a broken arm that was not related to gunfire. Police have not said what kind of weapon the suspect had.

Authorities are trying to find out how Oddi gained entry to the 800-acre (323-hectare) Doral golf club.

Trump National Doral Golf Club is home to four championship golf courses. Trump bought the property for $150 million in 2012.

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Miami, additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)

FAA to order inspections of jet engines after Southwest blast

U.S. NTSB investigators are on scene examining damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane in this image released from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 17, 2018. NTSB/Handout via REUTERS

By Alwyn Scott and Alana Wise

(Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said it will order inspection of about 220 aircraft engines as investigators have found that a broken fan blade touched off an engine explosion this week on a Southwest flight, killing a passenger.

The regulator said late on Wednesday it plans to finalize the air-worthiness directive within the next two weeks. The order, which it initially proposed in August following an incident in 2016, will require ultrasonic inspection within the next six months of the fan blades on all CFM56-7B engines that have accrued a certain number of takeoffs.

Airlines said that because fan blades may have been repaired and moved to other engines, the order would affect far more than 220 of the CFM56-7Bs, which are made by a partnership of France’s Safran <SAF.PA> and General Electric <GE.N>.

The CFM56 engine on Southwest <LUV.N> flight 1380 blew apart over Pennsylvania on Tuesday, about 20 minutes after the Dallas-bound flight left New York’s LaGuardia Airport with 149 people on board. The explosion sent shrapnel ripping into the fuselage of the Boeing 737-700 plane and shattered a window.

Bank executive Jennifer Riordan, 43, was killed when she was partially pulled through a gaping hole next to her seat as the cabin suffered rapid decompression. Fellow passengers were able to pull her back inside but she died of her injuries.

On Wednesday, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said the incident began when one of the engine’s 24 fan blades snapped off from its hub. Investigators found that the blade had suffered metal fatigue at the point of the break.

Sumwalt said he could not yet say if the incident, the first deadly airline accident in the United States since 2009, pointed to a fleet-wide problem in the Boeing 737-700.

Southwest crews were inspecting similar engines the airline had in service, focusing on the 400 to 600 oldest of the CFM56 engines, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. It was the second time this kind of engine had failed on a Southwest jet in the past two years, prompting airlines around the world to step up inspections.

A NTSB inspection crew was also combing over the Boeing <BA.N> 737-700 for signs of what caused the engine to explode.

Sumwalt said the fan blade, after suffering metal fatigue where it attached to the engine hub, has a second fracture about halfway along its length. Pieces of the plane were found in rural Pennsylvania by investigators who tracked them on radar. The metal fatigue would not have been observable by looking at the engine from the outside, Sumwalt said.

Passengers described scenes of panic as a piece of shrapnel from the engine shattered a plane window, almost sucking Riordan out.

Riordan was a Wells Fargo <WFC.N> banking executive and well-known community volunteer from Albuquerque, New Mexico, the company said.

Videos posted on social media showed passengers grabbing for oxygen masks and screaming as the plane, piloted by Tammie Jo Shults, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot, prepared for the descent into Philadelphia.

The airline expected to wrap up its inspection of the engines it was targeting in about 30 days.

The GE-Safran partnership that built the engine said it was sending about 40 technicians to help with Southwest’s inspections.

Pieces of the engine including its cowling – which covers its inner workings – were found about 60 miles (100 km) from Philadelphia airport, Sumwalt said. The investigation could take 12 to 15 months to complete.

In August 2016, a Southwest flight made a safe emergency landing in Pensacola, Florida, after a fan blade separated from the same type of engine and debris ripped a hole above the left wing. That incident prompted the FAA to propose last year that similar fan blades undergo ultrasonic inspections and be replaced if they failed.

(editing by David Stamp)

Miami among cities at risk from yellow fever spread : study

FILE PHOTO: The downtown skyline of Miami, Florida is seen on Nov 5, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo

GENEVA (Reuters) – Miami is at risk of a deadly yellow fever outbreak because the disease could thrive there but the city has no checks on travelers arriving from endemic zones, a study to be published by the World Health Organization showed.

Yellow fever is spread by the same mosquito that causes Zika virus, which spread through the Americas after being detected in Brazil in 2015 and has been reported in southern Florida and southern Texas.

The U.S. Centres for Disease Control advises that yellow fever is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America, and is a very rare cause of illness in U.S. travelers.

But the study, “International travel and the urban spread of yellow fever”, showed that almost 2.8 million people flew to the United States from endemic yellow fever areas in 2016.

Unlike some countries, the United States does not require travelers from such places to show proof of yellow fever vaccination.

“At a time when global yellow fever vaccine supplies are diminished, an epidemic in a densely populated city could have substantial health and economic consequences,” the researchers based in Canada, the United States and Britain wrote in the study.

Around 9.5 million people live in U.S. urban areas such as Miami that are ecologically suitable for an outbreak, they wrote in the study, issued online ahead of its publication in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

They said climate change, mobility, urbanization and a vaccine shortage had increased the risk of yellow fever globally and they called for a review of vaccination policies.

The study found 472 cities suitable for an outbreak in 54 countries, but many, such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Karachi, Manila and Guangzhou, required vaccination certificates on arrival from endemic countries.

WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said the need for vaccination certificates was at each country’s discretion.

The researchers said a substantial proportion of the world’s yellow fever vaccine stocks had been used up by recent epidemics in Africa and Brazil, and further depleted by manufacturing difficulties. Preventive campaigns could cause shortages.

“Should another urban epidemic occur in the near future, vaccine demand could easily exceed the available supply,” they said.

Yellow fever, which can be hard to diagnose, causes symptoms including muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, and about 15 percent of cases lead to a more toxic phase within 24 hours, potentially experiencing jaundice, abdominal pain, deteriorating kidney function and bleeding from the mouth, nose, eyes or stomach.

Half of severe sufferers die within a week or two, but the rest recover without significant organ damage, according to WHO.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

After Parkland shooting, U.S. states shift education funds to school safety despite critics

Adin Chistian (16), student of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, embraces his mother Denyse, next to the crosses and Stars of David placed in front of the fence of the school to commemorate the victims of a shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

By Hilary Russ and Laila Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Before the ink could dry on Florida Governor Rick Scott’s signature last month, critics cried foul over the bill he signed into law to spend $400 million boosting security at schools across the state following February’s Parkland mass shooting.

School officials, local sheriffs and Democrats opposed different provisions, including one to provide $67 million to arm teachers. Educators, in particular, voiced concerns that the state will strip money from core education funding to pay for the new school resource officers and beefed up buildings.

“We are a very lean state,” said Florida state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democrat who voted against the bill. “If we’re spending money somewhere, we’re taking it from somewhere else.”

In the wake of the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people, at least 10 U.S. states have introduced measures to increase funding for hardening of school buildings and campuses, add resource officers and increase mental health services, according to Reuters’ tally.

Many of the proposals outlined the need for bulletproof windows, panic buttons and armored shelters to be installed in classrooms. Some legislation called for state police or sheriff’s departments to provide officers to patrol public schools.

Altogether, more than 100 legislative bills to address school safety, not all of which have funding components, have been introduced in 27 states since the Feb. 14 shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to data provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

But states do not usually have extra money on hand or room to raise taxes. So to pay for the measures, states are mostly shifting money away from other projects, dipping into reserves or contemplating borrowing.

“I would characterize these proposals and the bills that were passed, for example Florida and Wisconsin, as primarily shifting funding from other priorities,” said Kathryn White, senior policy analyst at the National Association of State Budget Officers.

Calls for more gun control and more safety measures have come during peak budget season for nearly all states, whose legislatures spend the spring in debates that shape the coming year’s budget starting July 1.

STATE BY STATE

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker called a special legislative session last month, when lawmakers agreed to create a $100 million school safety grant program.

The money will come out of the state’s general fund. But the spending, coupled with tax cuts and other pending legislation, will leave that fund with reserves of roughly $185 million – enough to run state government for less than four days in the event of a fiscal emergency, according to Jon Peacock, director of the think tank Wisconsin Budget Project.

“That is far less of a cushion than a fiscally responsible state should set aside,” Peacock said.

Funding the safety measures also means that some economic development programs for rural counties did not get funded and a one-time sales tax holiday was scaled back, he said.

In Maine, lawmakers are considering borrowing $20 million by issuing 10-year general obligation bonds to fund loans to school districts for security enhancements.

New Jersey lawmakers are also looking to borrow. On March 26, state senators tacked an extra $250 million for school security onto an existing bill for $500 million of bonds to expand county vocational colleges. The legislature has not yet voted on the measure.

Maryland, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Indiana are also increasing – or trying to increase – funding for school security measures since Parkland.

In Florida, the legislature passed safety spending while approving an increase of only $0.47 per pupil in funding used to cover teacher pay raises, school bus fuel and other operational expenses for education.

“We see $400-plus million in school safety, which we absolutely applaud, but you can’t do that at the expense of your core education program,” Broward County schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said shortly before Scott signed the budget.

Stoneman Douglas is among the schools Runcie, who also heads the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, oversees.

To be sure, some state and local governments have been adding money for school safety measures for years, particularly after 20 children and six adults were killed in a shooting in Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Some critics, particularly Democrats, say measures that only beef up infrastructure or do not create recurring funds fall short of the mark.

Dan Rossmiller, government relations director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, said in a memo to lawmakers in March that individual districts also need money for prevention and intervention, including education services for expelled students and anti-bullying programs, and other purposes.

“Funding for only ‘hardening’ school facilities, while welcome, is likely not going to be sufficient to address the full range of locally identified needs,” he said.

(Reporting by Hilary Russ and Laila Kearney; Editing by Daniel Bases and Chizu Nomiyama)

Florida school plans moment of silence for bridge collapse victims

FILE PHOTO: Aerial view shows a pedestrian bridge collapsed at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, U.S., March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo

MIAMI (Reuters) – Florida International University (FIU) students return to classes on Monday from spring break with a moment of silence planned campus-wide for the six victims of a newly installed pedestrian bridge at the school that collapsed last week.

Since last week, federal investigators have been looking over the wreckage of the 950-ton bridge that crushed vehicles stopped at a traffic light on the eight-lane road below when it fell on Thursday in a rain of metal, concrete and debris.

All six victim have been identified, with the final one being named on Sunday. Those killed were Rolando Fraga, 60, Oswald Gonzalez, 57, Alberto Arias, 53, Alexa Duran, 18, Navaro Brown, 37, and Brandon Brownfield, whose age has not been released.

Firefighters spray water on debris from a collapsed pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, U.S., March 16, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Firefighters spray water on debris from a collapsed pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, U.S., March 16, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

The moment of silence will be a 1:47 p.m., when the bridge collapsed, the school said, adding it has designated spots for those who want to leave flowers and other tokens of remembrance for those killed.

“Our hearts break for the victims of the bridge collapse. Lives have been lost. Futures and families shattered,” FIU President Mark Rosenberg said in a statement over the weekend.

Engineers and state and university officials met hours before the pedestrian bridge collapsed, but concluded a crack in the structure was not a safety concern, Florida International University said on Saturday.

The meeting on Thursday involved FIGG, which is the private contractor for the overall bridge design, the school, Florida Department of Transportation officials and Munilla Construction Management, which installed the $14.2 million bridge.

A FIGG engineer “concluded there were no safety concerns and the crack did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge,” the university said in a statement.

About three hours after the meeting ended, the bridge collapsed.

The bridge over one of the busiest road in South Florida was designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, the most dangerous measure by the National Hurricane Center, and built to last 100 years, the university said.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Cars, bodies remain trapped out of reach after Florida bridge collapse

First responders are shown as rescue efforts continue after a pedestrian bridge collapsed at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, U.S., March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) – Rescue workers combed through the rubble of a pedestrian bridge that collapsed onto several lanes of traffic at Florida International University in Miami, but hopes of finding more survivors were fading early on Friday, police said.

Six people were confirmed dead after the newly built 950-ton bridge crushed vehicles on one of the busiest roads in South Florida on Thursday. With at least eight vehicles buried and out of reach beneath the rubble, the death toll could rise, Juan Perez, the Miami-Dade Police Department director, said on Friday.

“There must be some others in the vehicles,” Perez told Miami’s NewsRadio 610 WIOD. “We know there’s bodies down there and we can’t get to them. It’s terrible.”

Emergency personnel with sniffer dogs searched for signs of life overnight.

At least 10 people were taken to hospitals and two remained in critical condition, officials and local media reported.

Witnesses told local media the vehicles were stopped at a traffic light when the bridge collapsed on top of them at around 1:30 p.m. ET (1730 GMT).

At one point, police urged television helicopters to leave the area so that rescuers could hear any cries for help from those trapped beneath the collapsed structure, CBS Miami television said.

Uncertainty over the stability of remaining sections of the bridge hampered rescue efforts, officials said.

Aerial view shows a pedestrian bridge collapsed at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, U.S., March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Aerial view shows a pedestrian bridge collapsed at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, U.S., March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

INSTALLED ON SATURDAY

The 174-feet (53-meter) long bridge connects the university with the city of Sweetwater and was installed on Saturday in six hours over the eight-lane highway, according to a report posted on the university’s website.

“If anybody has done anything wrong, we will hold them accountable,” Florida Governor Rick Scott said at a news briefing late Thursday.

His office earlier issued a statement saying a company contracted to inspect the bridge was not pre-qualified by the state.

The bridge was intended to provide a walkway over the busy street where an 18-year-old female FIU student from San Diego was killed as she attempted to cross it in August, according to local media reports.

Students at FIU are currently on their spring break vacation, which runs from March 12 to March 17.

To keep the inevitable disruption of traffic associated with bridge construction to a minimum, the 174-foot portion of the bridge was built adjacent to Southwest 8th Street, using a method called Accelerated Bridge Construction. It was driven into its perpendicular position across the road by a rig in only six hours on Saturday, according to a statement released by the university.

The $14.2 million bridge was designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, the most dangerous measure by the National Hurricane Center, and built to last 100 years, the university said. (http://bit.ly/2tQ2ARg)

Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board were on the scene early on Friday to investigate why it collapsed.

(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus, Joseph Ax, Daniel Wallis, Jonathan Allen and Andrew Hay in New York, Scott Malone in Boston, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, James Oliphant in Washington, Keith Coffman in Colorado and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Bernadette Baum)

U.S. House passes bill to help schools combat gun violence

People supporting gun control attend a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing about legislative proposals to improve school safety in the wake of the mass shooting at the high school in Parkland, Florida, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 14, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Lisa Lambert and Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation to help schools and local law enforcement prevent gun violence, one month after the mass shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people.

The House passed the bill by a vote of 407-10, sending it to the Senate for consideration.

Earlier on Wednesday, the White House announced President Donald Trump’s support of the bill, which is far short of the broader gun control legislation he talked about shortly after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Since that massacre, student protesters have successfully lobbied for tighter gun controls in Florida. Hundreds of them gathered outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to take their argument to a Congress that has long resisted placing new limits on firearms and gun sales.

The House-passed bill would authorize federal grants, totaling $50 million a year, to fund training, anonymous reporting systems, threat assessments, intervention teams and school and police coordination.

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 that restriction.

“The best way to keep our students and teachers safe is to give them the tools and the training to recognize the warning signs to prevent violence from ever entering our school grounds, and this bill aims to do just that,” said Republican Representative John Rutherford of Florida, a former sheriff who sponsored the school safety bill.

It was not yet clear when the Senate would take up the House-passed bill.

Already awaiting action in the Senate is a bill to strengthen existing background checks of gun purchasers. It enjoys broad bipartisan support but has not been scheduled for debate.

Congressional aides said there were ongoing discussions about possibly folding the school safety and background check bills into a massive government funding bill that Congress aims to pass by March 23.

Eleven organizations, including some gun control and law enforcement groups, on Wednesday sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer urging passage this month of the background checks bill.

Neither the House nor Senate bills address many of the gun control initiatives backed by students, teachers and families of shooting victims at the Florida school.

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’s Second Amendment.

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 Federal Bureau of Investigation told lawmakers in testimony Wednesday that his agency dropped the ball by mishandling several tips about Cruz before the shooting, and said reforms were 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.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Lisa Lambert, David Alexander and Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Tom Brown and Jonathan Oatis)

Trump would sign bill on schools, guns about to pass House: statement

FILE PHOTO: President Donald Trump waves as he arrives to speak in support of Rick Saccone during a Make America Great Again rally in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, March 10, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump is ready to sign legislation intended to curb school violence that was inspired by last month’s mass shooting at a Florida high school, and which the House of Representatives is poised to pass later on Wednesday.

In a statement released on Wednesday the White House said the legislation would help protect children and reiterated its support for arming teachers or other school personnel. It said the bill “would be improved by eliminating the restriction on the use of funds to provide firearms training for those in a position to provide students with appropriate, armed defense.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, a fellow Republican, told reporters that the chamber would pass the legislation, which would authorize $50 million a year to help schools and law enforcement agencies prevent violent attacks, on Wednesday. But with the Senate considering other legislation this week and next, any gun legislation may not reach Trump’s desk before April.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Richard Cowan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Students launch walkout against gun violence in United States

A small group of anti-gun protesters hold a vigil outside the Vermont State

By Gina Cherelus

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Students walked out of classrooms across the United States on Wednesday, waving signs and chanting their demands for tighter gun safety laws, joining a movement spearheaded by survivors of the deadly shooting spree at a Florida high school last month.

The #ENOUGH National School Walkout began at 10 a.m. EDT with 17-minute walkouts planned at 10 a.m. local time in western time zones, commemorating the 17 students and staff killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.

Students arrive for class at Columbine High School before participating in a National School Walkout to honor the 17 students and staff members killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in Littleton, Colorado, U.S., March 14, 2018. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Some students got in an early start. At Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in New York City, crowds of students poured into the streets of Manhattan, many dressed in orange, the color of the gun-control movement.

“Thoughts and prayers are not enough,” read one sign, needling the rote response many lawmakers make after mass shootings.

In Parkland, students slowly filed onto the Stoneman Douglas school football field as law enforcement officers looked on.

The walkouts are part of a burgeoning, grass-roots movement that grew out of the Parkland attack. Some of the survivors have lobbied state and federal lawmakers, and even met with President Donald Trump, to call for new restrictions on gun ownership, a right protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“If our elected officials don’t take responsibility for their inaction on both sides of the aisle, then we are going to kick them out of office,” David Hogg, a Stoneman Douglas student, said in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday.

The students’ efforts helped bring about a tightening of Florida’s gun laws last week, when the minimum age for buying any kind of gun was raised to 21 years from 18, although lawmakers there rejected a ban on the sort of semiautomatic rifle used in the Parkland attack.

In Washington, however, plans to strengthen the background-check system for gun sales, among other measures, appear to be languishing.

A large crowd of students gathered and chanted slogans outside the gates of the White House. Trump, however, was out of town on a trip to California.

Students from more than 2,800 schools and groups are joining the walkouts, many with the backing of their school districts, according to the event’s organizers, who also coordinated the Women’s March protests staged nationwide over the past two years.

Support has also come from the American Civil Liberties Union and Viacom Inc <VIAB.O>, which said all seven of its networks, including MTV, would suspend programming at 10 a.m. in each U.S. time zone during the 17-minute walkout.

The protests took place a day after Florida prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty for Nikolas Cruz, who has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Parkland attack.

The New York City Department of Education allowed students to participate if they submitted a signed permission slip from their parents.

But a few school districts around the country had warned against protests during school hours.

Administrators in Sayreville, New Jersey, told students that anyone who walked out of class would face suspension or other punishment, according to myCentralJersey.com.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Alice Popovici in New York, Joe Skipper in Parkland, Florida, and Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Frank McGurty and Jonathan Oatis)

Florida lawmakers to vote on gun laws, arming teachers

FILE PHOTO: Messages, posted on a fence, hang, as students and parents attend a voluntary campus orientation at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, for the coming Wednesday's reopening, following last week's mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 25, 2018. REUTERS/Angel Valentin/File photo

(Reuters) – Florida’s Senate will vote on Monday on some gun-related measures in response to last month’s deadly school shooting, including a proposal to train and arm teachers, but lawmakers have rejected a call by some students to ban assault weapons in the state.

The proposed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act is named after the high school in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and staff were shot dead on Feb. 14.

Student survivors of the Parkland shooting have become prominent advocates for stricter gun laws, with some calling for a ban on semiautomatic assault-style rifles of the sort used in that attack and other recent U.S. mass shootings, as well as high-capacity magazines.

The state Senate rejected such a ban in a vote held over the weekend.

The Senate bill echoes many proposals made by Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, since the shooting, including new powers for police to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed to be dangerous by a court.

The bill would raise the minimum age for buying any kind of gun to 21, from a current minimum of 18 for all weapons but handguns. It would also ban bump stocks, which allow semiautomatic rifles to fire like fully automatic machine guns, and mandate a three-day waiting period for the purchase of all guns, not just handguns.

The Senate’s Republican majority is expected to vote to pass the bill, Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Senate President Joe Negron, said. The measure will then move to the legislature’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives for a vote.

The bill would require the governor’s signature to take effect. Scott has said he opposes one of the bill’s more scrutinized measures: allowing county sheriffs to set up voluntary training programs to arm teachers to prevent future massacres, similar to an idea also proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Sheriffs who choose to set up a so-called “school marshal” program would have to ensure that any teacher or other school staff member who opts to become one has a valid license and has completed 132 hours of shooting and safety training.

The bill says that “a school marshal has no authority to act in any law enforcement capacity except to the extent necessary to prevent or abate an active assailant incident on a school premises.”

Some families of the victims from Douglas High School said they would hold a news conference on Monday afternoon about the legislature’s efforts, which would increase funding for school safety and mental health measures.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)