‘Arming teachers’ could help prevent massacres, Trump says
WASHINGTON - Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Feb. 21 that arming teachers could help prevent massacres like last week’s mass shooting at a Florida high school, voicing support for an idea backed by the National Rifle Association gun rights group.
Trump made the comment during an emotional hour-long White House meeting with students who survived the Florida shooting and a parent whose child did not. Hundreds of students joined scattered protests across the country on Feb. 21, including in Washington, Chicago and Pittsburgh.
The Republican president, who has championed gun rights and was endorsed by the NRA during the 2016 campaign, said he would move quickly to tighten background checks for gun buyers and would consider raising the age for buying certain types of guns.
He spoke at length about how armed teachers and security guards could frighten off potential school shooters and prevent student deaths.
“If you had a teacher ... who was adept at firearms, it could very well end the attack very quickly,” said Trump.
The attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and educators were slain on Feb. 14 by a gunman with an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle in the second-deadliest shooting at a U.S. public school, has revived the long-running U.S. debate over gun rights.
The U.S. Constitution protects the right of Americans to bear arms, a right fiercely defended by Republicans. But Trump has been under pressure to act.
Some of the participants at the meeting indicated support for Trump’s idea of arming teachers. Others were opposed.
Mark Barden, whose son was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, said his wife, Jackie, a teacher, “will tell you that school teachers have more than enough responsibilities right now than to have to have the awesome responsibility of lethal force to take a life.
“Nobody wants to see a shootout in a school,” Barden said.
After the Sandy Hook shooting, a task force backed by the NRA recommended more armed guards and teachers in schools. Trump listened intently to ideas from about 40 people, including those from six students who survived the Florida shooting.
“I don’t understand why I can still go in a store and buy a weapon of war, an AR,” said Sam Zeif, 18, sobbing after he described texting his family members during the attack.
“Let’s never let this happen again, please, please,” Zeif said.
Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow Pollack, 18, was killed, shouted: “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.”
Trump sat in the middle of a semi-circle in the White House State Dining Room. Photographers captured images of his handwritten note card with questions like “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” and “I hear you.”
Before Trump’s meeting, students across the United States walked out of classes in sympathy protests, including hundreds of teens from the Washington suburbs who gathered at the White House.