The note card President Trump carried into a meeting with the survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., reminded him just a week after the massacre to tell the students, “I hear you.”
Yet the young people gathered at a Newark high school for a town hall on gun violence Monday said it appeared Trump was listening more to the National Rifle Association than teens as he walked back support for increased gun-control regulations, including raising the age to purchase guns from 18 to 21.
Nearly a month after a gunman shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, dozens of Newark and South Bay students met with Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Fremont, and Warriors head coach Steve Kerr to express the fear they feel when they get to school and to push for legislation and resources to address gun violence.
“We’re scared,” said Newark Memorial High School junior Neda Ansari. “This can happen to us as well.”
The forum also included Parkland resident Matt Deitsch, a 20-year-old organizer with the Never Again movement whose sister survived the attack.
“If it happened in Parkland, it can happen anywhere,” he said. “Every day is a looming threat.”
Khanna said he hoped the forum would elevate the voices of the young people, who have put significant pressure on politicians since the Parkland shooting. Florida elected officials passed a law last week to raise the age limit to purchase guns.
Despite Trump’s backpedaling on gun reform Monday, there is movement, Khanna said.
“These kids aren’t letting us forget,” Khanna said. “They’re not going to rest until there’s change.”
The congressman faced no opposition at the forum. Those in attendance were overwhelmingly supportive of increased gun control and opposed to arming teachers, which Trump included in his gun and school safety policy proposals outlined Monday.
The students primarily directed their questions at Kerr, whose father, president of the American University of Beirut, was shot and killed by terrorists in 1984 when Kerr was 18 years old. They asked him his thoughts on arming teachers, on mental health support and how young people can make a difference.
He encouraged the young people to vote — which “scares politicians to death,” and to participate in the National School Walkout Wednesday, organized by the Parkland students.
“Make this the No. 1 issue for the people we vote for,” he said. “People in power work for us.”
The congressman said he asked Kerr to join him for the town hall because the coach “could reach folks like no politician can.”
The forum followed Trump’s announcement earlier in the day of the creation of a special commission — headed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — to study the idea and oversee the school safety inquiry and ways to protect schools from violence and mass shootings.
Trump said the issue of age restrictions would be part of the commission’s work.
Less than two weeks ago, Trump met with legislators and called for comprehensive background checks, an increase in the age to buy guns and raised the idea of a renewed ban on assault weapons, among other gun-control initiatives. The president also chastised GOP legislators at the meeting for being too afraid to challenge the NRA.
That rhetoric was removed from his NRA-supported policy proposals Monday.
Those at the Newark forum said they didn’t understand how legislators could ban chocolate eggs that include small toys because of a possible choking hazard, but not restrict the age to purchase an AR-15 assault rifle.
The NRA has staunchly resisted any attempts to increase the age required to purchase guns.
“Age restrictions are an affront to the Second Amendment,” the organization tweeted Monday. “It destroys the right of law-abiding adults between the ages of 18 and 21 to keep and bear arms.”
Instead, Trump voiced strong support for “rigorous training” and arming of teachers and other school staff as well as efforts to recruit former military and law enforcement officers into the teaching profession — something the NRA has long supported.
In California and across the country, the idea of arming teachers has been opposed by education officials and organizations — and it was overwhelmingly panned at the high school forum.
“Can you imagine being a teacher with a handgun in your drawer and someone walks in with an AR-15?” Kerr said.
Deitsch added that studies show even police officers miss their target more than they hit it — which does not bode well for gun-toting teachers and their students, regardless of training, he said.
Kerr said he wanted to attend the event — even though critics have recently denounced sports figures for speaking out on social issues or politics. He said he’d like to get his team more involved in the issue as well.
“It shows he’s a citizen first,” Khanna said. “He’s a patriot first.”
Jill Tucker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @jilltucker