"I'm never gonna see my kid again": Parents, victims urge Trump for changes after shootings

Last Updated Feb 21, 2018 9:08 PM EST

WASHINGTON -- One week after the deadly school shooting in Florida, President Trump invited Americans touched by gun violence to the White House on Wednesday for a "listening session." What the president heard was emotional pleas and anguished voices from parents who lost children and children who lost classmates -- with some calling for gun control measures he and Congress (mostly on the Republican side) have long resisted. There was a common thread: students and parents are at a breaking point.

Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday night that he "will always remember the time I spent today with courageous students, teachers and families."

In Washington and other places Wednesday, students held protests to demand tougher gun laws.

Andrew Pollack, father of Meadow, one of the 17 killed a week ago on Valentine's Day.

"I'm never gonna see my kid again. Never ever will I see my kid. I want it to sink in. It's eternity," Pollack said. "It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it. And I'm pissed. Because it's my daughter I'm not going to see again. She's not here. She's not here. She's at North Lauderdal at whatever it is, King David Cemetery. That's where I go to see my kid."

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Pollack said the country has failed its children.

"9/11 happened once and they fixed everything," he added. "How many schools -- how many children have to get shot? It's stops here with this administration and me."

Sam Zeif, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, also was in attendance at the White House.

"I lost a best friend who was practically a brother," Zeif said choking back tears. "And I'm here to use my voice because I know he can't. I know he's with me cheering me on. But it's hard."

Zeif spoke of the semi-automatic AR-15 used at the high school massacre.

"I want to feel safe at school," Parkland student says in Trump's listening session

"I turned 18 the day after. Woke up to the news that my best friend was gone and I don't understand why I could still go in a store and buy a weapon of war -- an AR -- how is that easy to buy this type of weapon?" he asked. "How have we not stopped this after Columbine, after Sandy Hook. I'm sitting with a mother who lost her son. It's still happening."

The mother next to Zeif -- Nicole Hockley -- whose son Dylan was murdered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

"These deaths are preventable," Hockley said. "This is not difficult. And I implore you, consider your own children. You don't want to be me. No parent does."

trump listening session -- shooting survivors
President Trump (3rd L) listens as Vice President Mike Pence (5th R), speaks during a listening session on gun violence with teachers and students in the State Dining Room of the White House on Wed., Feb. 21, 2018. Getty

Mr. Trump said he would strengthen background checks and look to increase mental health services. The president said he was open to all ideas on improving school safety but spoke about only one at length allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons.

"If he had a firearm, he wouldn't have had to run, he would have been shot and that would have been the end of it," Mr. Trump said. "It's called concealed carry where a teacher would have concealed gun on them. They'd go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun free zone."

As presidents sometimes do, Mr. Trump brought talking points to the listening session captured in this photograph by The Associated Press:

white house listening session -- talking points
President Trump holds notes during a listening session with high school students and teachers in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, on Wed., Feb. 21, 2018. Mr. Trump heard the stories of students and parents affected by school shootings, following last week's deadly shooting in Florida. AP

You can see the first talking point reads: "What would you most want me to know about your experience?"

And the fifth: "I hear you."

Last year, the president promised the National Rifle Association he would "never ever infringe on the right of people to keep and bear arms" -- that includes assault rifles. That promise will now confront the new politics emerging after last week's mass shooting.

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