President Donald Trump sought to clarify his idea of arming educators in the classroom to deter school shootings, saying he wants to look at the possibility of giving “concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience.”
A day after an emotional exchange at the White House with victimized students and parents of school shootings, Trump, in a pair of tweets, said “only the best 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions.”
At the White House listening session Wednesday, Trump said “If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly.” He added that “This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them.”
Also spreading former military service members throughout schools “could very well solve your problem,” Trump said in the White House State Dining room. “We’re going to be looking at it very closely.”
At one point, Trump asked: “Does everybody like that idea?”
A few people raised their hands. The president then asked who opposed it and more hands went up from the approximately 40 people in the room, mainly students, family members and educators directly affected by school shootings.
Later at a CNN town hall event in Florida that included survivors of last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where a 19-year-old former student has been charged in the killing of 17 people, Senator Marco Rubio told the audience he does not support arming teachers.
Under questioning by students, parents and teachers, Rubio also said tighter gun laws alone will not prevent future shootings, while he does support a minimum age for buying rifles and a ban on an accessory called a bump stock that can allow the weapons to shoot more bullets more quickly.
Scott Israel, the sheriff in the county that includes Parkland, said trained deputies would carry rifles on school grounds, but rejected the idea of giving guns to teachers.
Trump is set to hold another meeting on school safety Thursday at the White House, this time with state and local officials.
During Wednesday’s event, the president also called for an end to gun-free zones near schools, declared his administration “is going to be very strong on background checks” and that it will also examine raising the minimum age for purchase of guns (28 states have no such restrictions).
“If he’s not old enough to go buy a beer. He should not be able to buy a gun. It’s just common sense,” said Stoneman Douglas student Samuel Zeif.
“It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it and I’m pissed. Because my daughter, I’m not going to see again,” said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was shot nine times and died. “King David Cemetery, that is where I go to see my kid now.”
Pollack questioned, “How many children have to get shot?”
Some students from the school declined invitations to attend Wednesday’s White House event and instead rallied at Florida’s state Capitol in Tallahassee to call for gun control reforms.
The president also referred to shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz as a “sick guy…who should have been nabbed.” Cruz is being held without bond on 17 counts of premeditated murder at the Broward County jail.
Trump put more emphasis on the mental health issue than gun control in his remarks, saying “there’s no mental institution, there’s no place to bring them” in many communities.
Since 1990, there have been 22 shootings at elementary and secondary schools in the United States, in which two or more people were killed (not counting gunmen who committed suicide).
The president on Tuesday ordered the Justice Department to look at outlawing bump stocks, which were used in the shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, last October that killed 58 people and wounded 851 others.
The Trump administration and lawmakers are facing a backlash — including from some of the student survivors of the latest school mass shooting — that they are too focused on the mental health of gunmen rather than the weapons they carry.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week said 86 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Democrats said stricter gun control laws could have prevented the Florida shooting, while 67 percent who identified as Republicans said stricter laws could not have prevented the massacre.