News Brief: Florida Gun Bill Progresses, View From China On Tariffs

Mar 8, 2018
Originally published on March 8, 2018 7:21 am
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We're going to start this morning with this historic change in Florida, where the state legislature has passed new gun restrictions for the first time in 20 years.


Yeah. Student survivors from the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland have been pushing for tighter gun control for weeks.

MARTIN: And now Governor Rick Scott decides if he's going to sign the legislation which, among other things, would raise the minimum age for some gun purchases.

INSKEEP: But it does include measures that the governor opposes, including a widely opposed move to arm school staff.

MARTIN: We're going to talk with NPR's Brakkton Booker about this. He is in Parkland, Fla.

Hey, Brakkton.

BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: Hey. How's it going?

MARTIN: It goes well. What can you tell us about this bill? What's in it?

BOOKER: So as you said, the bill has new restrictions like imposing a three-day waiting period to buy guns. It bans bump stocks. It raises the age requirements from 18 to 21 on purchases of any firearm. Like you said, allows some teachers and school faculty to carry guns on campus. Now, Rachel, I cannot underestimate this. But by Tallahassee standards, this absolutely flew through the legislature. You know, families of those who were killed, student survivors, teachers unions were all applying pressure.

And on the other side, gun lobbies and gun rights supporters were also pushing to make sure that the changes didn't go too far. Now in the end, not everyone got what they wanted...


BOOKER: ...Including lawmakers. Many Democrats, especially black lawmakers, really tried to nix arming school personnel. They cited studies where they said that children of color receive stiffer discipline than their white peers. And they said that, you know, arming teachers would just make things much worse for children of color.

MARTIN: Right. But it still found its way in there.

So I want to ask about a couple of high-profile visits that students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School got yesterday. Right? Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was there and NBA star Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat - very different people, very different receptions.

BOOKER: Yes. Very, very much so.

Now, the first visit was Secretary Betsy DeVos. She was given a tour, and she described her visit as sobering and inspiring. Now, this tour was not open to press, so we didn't get very many details about her time on campus. But after her visit, though, students and teachers I spoke with expressed some resentment. They said that Secretary DeVos didn't really engage or have meaningful dialogue with the survivors at the school. And following her visit, when DeVos did meet with the press, she defended the idea to allow some teachers to carry concealed weapons in the classroom. But she said it's not for every community.


BOOKER: Here's what she said.


BETSY DEVOS: I think the concept is, for those schools and those communities that opt to do this, to have people who are expert in being able to defend and having lots and lots of training in order to do so.

MARTIN: Meanwhile, clearly Dwyane Wade getting a different reception, taking selfies with students.

BOOKER: Oh, my gosh - yes.

MARTIN: They were psyched.

BOOKER: Absolutely. Yes, yes. There's no competition.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Right.

BOOKER: No competition in this.

MARTIN: In - just real quick, Brakkton, court proceedings against Nikolas Cruz are moving forward. Yesterday, he was indicted on 17 counts of premeditated murder. What happens now?

BOOKER: So yes, 34 counts in all. And under Florida law because of the 17 first-degree murder charges, he could face the death penalty if convicted. Broward prosecutors have signaled that they will not - that they - they have not signaled whether or not they will pursue capital punishment. And Broward County officials expect to arraign crews in the coming weeks.

MARTIN: OK. NPR's Brakkton Booker for us in Parkland, Fla.

Thanks, Brakkton.

BOOKER: Thank you.


MARTIN: President Trump has talked about the connection that he sees between gun violence and cultural influences like video games. And today he's going to hold a big meeting about this at the White House.

INSKEEP: You know, we've seen the president engage in several of these public conversations, which provide forums where he can make surprising pronouncements. He made last week's abrupt announcement on tariffs during a roundtable meeting with business executives. Before that, the president seemed to confuse members of his own party in a televised talk about gun laws. Today's event on video games and violence raises a question - how effective are these meetings at shaping national policy?

MARTIN: All right. With us now, Domenico Montanaro, lead politics editor at NPR.

Hey, Domenico.


MARTIN: All right. Before we get to whether or not these meetings do anything when it comes to the policy of these issues, what do you know about who's going to be there today for this video games conference?

MONTANARO: Well, the president invited executives from the video game industry, including the makers of games like "Grand Theft Auto" and "Fallout." These are two popular games with some violent themes. "Fallout" has to do with the post-apocalyptic, you know, scene after nuclear fallout, for example.

But, you know, in addition to the video game industry, he's also got some of the industry's harshest critics that are supposed to be there from Congress and outside. The president himself has alluded to the video game industry as, quote, "shaping young people's thoughts" and said, we have to do something about what kids are seeing and how they're seeing it. So he's setting up a fight, and I think we know which side he's on.

MARTIN: I mean, we've just heard him in recent days say he likes conflict. He likes to watch people hash it out. And he's done so recently, as Steve mentioned, on tariffs, guns, immigration. What have you made of these things?

MONTANARO: He loves these reality show-style conflict scenes. You know, it's something he talked about, like you said, the other day - that he likes it among even his staff. He said that he likes conflict and drama. He likes watching it. And he said it's the way to go. It's a big change from the no-drama Obama White House, for example.

MARTIN: Right. He says it's the way to go. But is it the way to make policy? Have we seen anything that happens in these boardroom meetings become policy?

MONTANARO: Right. And he very well may be setting up some of that drama today. But again, more tangible, actual results and policy have been short in some of these things. You know, there hasn't been much that came out. And I think about his meeting on immigration and on guns. They both sowed more confusion than anything else. And frankly, you know, we all need an editor. He might need a producer...


MONTANARO: ...Because, you know, it does not look like a lot of what...


MONTANARO: ...He talks about are things that wind up coming out in ways that...


MONTANARO: ...They want.

INSKEEP: There is a process for making regulations or making laws. It involves getting hundreds or even thousands or hundreds of thousands of people in line in the federal bureaucracy or in Congress and elsewhere. And that process for making real change is actually a good deal more boring than a TV show.

MARTIN: Right. Good point.

INSKEEP: Just mentioning...

MARTIN: NPR's Domenico Montanaro with us this morning.

Thanks, Domenico.

MONTANARO: Hey, you're welcome.


MARTIN: So we are expecting, potentially, some big news today. The president could sign these controversial steel and aluminum tariffs today.

INSKEEP: Well, how does this presidential move look from China? After all, complaints about China dumping low-priced steel are part of what led to the tariffs. Now, the president's initial announcement dismayed U.S. allies like Germany, which could be affected, too. They're the ones who spoke out. But the president has continued to focus his rhetoric at least on China.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The biggest problem is China. We lost $500 billion. How previous presidents allowed that to happen is disgraceful.

INSKEEP: Well, today we're hearing the view on this from China. Foreign Minister Wang Yi offered a word of warning.


WANG YI: (Through interpreter) In the event of trade a war, China will make a justified and necessary response.

INSKEEP: OK. So what could that mean for American jobs?

MARTIN: NPR's Anthony Kuhn is with us now from Beijing.

Anthony, China is widely accused of dumping steel on international markets, forcing prices down. Do they acknowledge that they do this?

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: They don't tackle that accusation head-on. What they say is that the proposed U.S. tariffs violate international trade rules and that if you want to settle this dispute, you do it through negotiations, not through a trade war. And if there is a trade war, nobody's going to win it, especially not the U.S.

MARTIN: So if these tariffs happen, now the White House is suggesting exemptions could be made for China (ph) and Mexico. But the exemption would not happen for China. So what would happen? Would they hurt China?

KUHN: No, they might actually help it. Here's the deal. You know, China is the world's largest steel producer. It produces more than anyone else can use. There's a glut of Chinese steel. At the same time, it uses up - it consumes most of that steel itself. And it's cutting its steel production a lot. So basically, you know, the U.S. tariffs on Chinese steel have already done the damage they're going to do.

In 2016, for example, President Obama imposed tariffs of over 500 percent on some Chinese steel products, basically shutting them out. So tariffs like that have reduced Chinese steel exports to the U.S. by 75 percent over the past decade or so. China is no longer among the top producers.

MARTIN: So - China is talking about retaliating. What would that look like?

KUHN: Well, China has suggested that it could take action with other countries affected by the tariffs by, for example, filing a joint complaint with the World Trade Organization. At the same time, it has a lot it can do bilaterally. For example, it could take action against some of the big U.S. exports to China, such as farm products, things like soybeans, wheat and sorghum.

MARTIN: Right.

KUHN: It could target other exports, such as aircraft, high-tech products. China has already launched an investigation into possible U.S. dumping of sorghum. Remember, now, that these products come from big agricultural states that voted for President Trump in the past election. And they could hurt him just as midterm elections are coming up.

INSKEEP: You know, Anthony's mention of President Obama gives us good context here because previous American presidents have also tried to fight back against cheap Chinese steel. President Bush did. President Obama did. And the common theme is that whatever Americans have tried to lower their trade deficit with China, it hasn't really worked because Americans just buy a lot of stuff.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Anthony Kuhn for us this morning on this.

Hey, Anthony, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

KUHN: You're sure welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMBROSE AKINMUSIRE'S "VARTHA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.