The kid reporter whose question about guns and school safety caused the White House press secretary to choke up says he saw the moment as his chance to “hopefully make a difference.”
“I think that in a lot of schools around this country, there's this worry that, you know, our school could be next … it could be added to the list of Columbine, Parkland, Santa Fe,” Benje Choucroun told “GMA.” “There's always that constant worry.”
Benje, 13, a seventh-grade student in Marin, California, stood in the back of a crowded White House briefing room Wednesday and asked a question that caught everyone’s attention.
“We recently had a lockdown drill. One thing that affects me and other students' mental health is the worry about the fact that we or our friends could get shot at school. Specifically can you tell me what the administration has done and will do about these senseless tragedies?" he asked.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who has three young children, started to reply, but choked up during her response.
"I think that as a kid and certainly as a parent, there is nothing that could be more terrifying for a kid to go to school and not feel safe so I'm sorry that you feel that way," Sanders said.
She continued, "This administration takes it seriously and the school safety commission that the president convened is meeting this week again -- an official meeting -- to discuss the best ways forward and how we can do every single thing within our power to protect kids in our schools and to make them feel safe and to make their parents feel good about dropping them off."
Benje said he thought Sanders’ reply was “authentic” and showed “she really was a human being.”
“I really look forward to see what steps the White House will make to resolving this issue,” said Benje, who attended the briefing in his role as kid reporter for Time for Kids.
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Last week, survivors of the Santa Fe High School shooting in Texas -- where eight students and two teachers were killed - held a press conference in which they detailed what they believe needs to be done to ensure safety in schools and other public places.
Their activism comes on the heels of the March for Our Lives gun reform rally in March that drew hundreds of thousands of people to Washington, D.C., and was organized by survivors of the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida, school shooting that killed 17 people.
On June 2, people across the United States will mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
“It's really one of the most pressing issues today,” Benje said of guns and school safety. “I wanted to expand on that and ask my question so that I can know how the White House is working to fix this important problem that we have.”
Benje's inspiration for the question, he said, came from his friends who "really stressed" to him that he should ask about school shootings.
"I'm glad that people in the White House are at least thinking about how to fix this problem," he said. "But the story here is that school shootings need to be stopped, and that's what people need to focus on."
He added, "Whether you're on the Democratic side of the spectrum or the Republican, we both love our kids and we both want them to be safe. Therefore, I think that we can all work together to find a bipartisan solution to this problem."
Benje said it was "intimidating" to ask the question in front of "big names in journalism" but the aspiring journalist is glad his voice was heard.
"I was both nervous and really excited because I really thought that it was my chance to hopefully make a difference," Benje said.