WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday intensified his calls for arming highly trained teachers as part of an effort to fortify schools against shooting massacres such as the one that occurred in Parkland, Florida, last week, even as he denounced active shooter drills that try to prepare students to survive a rampage.
“I want certain highly adept people, people who understand weaponry, guns” to have a permit to carry concealed firearms in schools, Trump said during his second White House meeting in two days to discuss how to respond to the shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Teachers who were qualified to handle a weapon — Trump estimated between 10 percent and 40 percent — would receive “a little bit of a bonus,” he said, adding, that he would devote federal money to training them.
“I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected,” the president said.
Trump, who is under intense pressure to embrace stiffer gun restrictions in the wake of the Parkland tragedy, appears to have seized instead upon the idea of giving educators weapons, a proposal backed by the National Rifle Association, which has pressed to expand the right to carry a concealed firearm nationwide.
The president also said he believed the powerful gun lobby would support a move to raise the age threshold for purchasing certain firearms to 21 from 18, as well as enhanced background checks for people seeking to buy guns.
The president made his comments as he convened law enforcement, state and local officials at the White House to discuss a range of proposals that could prevent future school shooting massacres. They came a day after he held an emotional session at the White House with parents, students and teachers affected by the Parkland rampage as well as other school shootings, who begged him to take action, and as a wave of student-led activism continued to spread in favor of changing gun laws.
“There’s a tremendous feeling that we want to get something done,” Trump said in the Roosevelt Room on Thursday, adding that the NRA — which has strongly backed him — shares the sentiment. “We’re going to take action,” he said.
The president’s apparent confidence that Congress would be able to agree on and pass gun safety legislation flew in the face of decades of experience, in which the outrage and calls to action that follow a horrific shooting have dissipated quickly amid powerful resistance from the pro-gun lobby, and changes in the law have ultimately proven impossible.
Trump said he was not in favor of one measure that schools around the nation have increasingly taken to defend themselves and their students against school shooters: holding drills to practice what to do.
“Active shooter drills is a very negative thing,” Trump said after Pam Stewart, the Florida Department of Education commissioner, mentioned such preparations. “I don’t like it. I’d much rather have a hardened school.”
“We have to harden our schools, not soften them,” Trump said, according to a pool report.
Trump added that active shooter drills were “crazy,” and “very hard on children.”
The president’s comments came after he spent the morning trying to clarify his view on arming teachers, a proposal he floated at Wednesday’s session with survivors, and which has met with stiff opposition. In a series of Twitter messages, he said he would arm teachers who have “military or special training experience.”
“A ‘gun free’ school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END,” Trump said.
“If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there…problem solved,” Trump said.
Trump, who campaigned with the support of the NRA and has been an ardent advocate of gun rights, is facing resistance from the powerful lobbying group on raising the minimum age to purchase assault rifles. But he defended the gun lobby Thursday, and predicted that they would side with him on the issue.
“I don’t think I’ll be going up against them,” Trump said. “They’re good people.” In a tweet earlier Thursday, Trump said the NRA “will do the right thing.”
The head of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, spoke publicly Thursday for the first time since the Parkland shooting, and criticized Democrats calling for more gun control laws.
“Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms,” LaPierre said, speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference to an audience that typically bristles at the notion of restricting Second Amendment rights.
Arming teachers is not a new concept. The NRA advocated for it in the wake of the 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children dead.