While meeting with survivors of last week’s school shooting, President Donald Trump on Wednesday endorsed the idea of preventing school shootings by having more guns on campus.
One week after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the president sat for a roundtable discussion with some survivors and their families, teachers, and parents of Sandy Hook and Columbine victims, and listened to their harrowing stories, impassioned pleas, and thoughts on how to prevent future massacres.
When Trump spoke about proposed solutions, he suggested that arming teachers in their classrooms could act as a deterrent when a gunman enters a school.
“If you had a teacher with, who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly,” the president said. “And the good thing about a suggestion like that, and we’re going to be looking at it very strongly, I think a lot of people are going to be opposed to it, I think a lot of people are going to like it. But the good thing is you’ll have a lot of people with that.”
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said that there actually was an armed guard on the high school campus, but that the guard never encountered alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz.
The president, appearing to reference how football coach Aaron Feis died shielding students, suggested: “If the coach had a firearm in his locker… he wouldn’t have had to run, he would have shot [Cruz], and that would have been the end of it.”
He continued: “This would only obviously be for people who are very adept at handling a gun. It’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a 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.”
The president also mentioned a hypothetical scenario in which there would be armed military veterans in every school protecting students.
“You’d have a lot of people that would be armed, that would be ready,” Trump said. “They’re professionals, they may be Marines that left the Marines, that left the Army, left the Air Force... They’d be spread evenly throughout the school.”
If would-be school shooters knew that trained vets and armed teachers populated campuses, “they wouldn’t go into the school to start off with,” the president said.
“I think it could very well solve your problem.”
He went on to say that “a lot of people don’t understand that airline pilots, a lot of them, carry guns. I have to say that things have changed a lot.”
Trump then proceeded to poll the room of students and their families on whether they liked his idea.
Later Wednesday, the Broward County superintendent, Robert Runcie, pushed back against Trump’s suggestions, saying before a CNN town hall: “We don’t need to put guns in the hands of teachers. You know what we need? We need to arm our teachers with more money in their pocket.”
The president also spoke about mental health issues, suggesting that it should be made easier to confine an individual who hasn’t yet committed a crime. “Years ago, we had mental hospitals, institutions, we had a lot of them and a lot of them have closed. Some people thought it was a stigma,” Trump said. “Today, if you catch somebody, they don’t know what to do with him. He hasn’t committed the crime, but he may very well and there’s no mental institution.”
He also assured his audience that he supports strong background checks for gun purchases, an idea that has gained some traction in the White House.
“We’re going to be very strong on background checks,” Trump declared. “We’ll be doing very strong background checks. Very strong emphasis on the mental health of somebody. And we are going to do plenty of other things.”