President Donald tripled down Friday on his proposal to arm well-trained school staff to intervene in the event of a mass school shooting, repeating that call to roaring applause in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington.
Armed teachers with training and experience who “love their students” might be better able to protect them than armed police officers, Trump said. He noted that Scot Peterson, a Florida deputy,stood outside the building as 17 people were shot to death Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
“These teachers love their students, and these teachers are talented with weaponry and with guns,” Trump said. “I’d rather have somebody that loves their students and wants to protect their students than somebody standing outside who doesn’t know the students. The teachers and the coaches and other people in the building. They love their people, they want to protect their kids.”
“A teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened,” Trump added, referring to Nikolas Cruz, the alleged killer in the Stoneman Douglas slayings.
The CPAC speech marks the third time in a week that Trump has floated the possibility of allowing school staff to carry concealed weapons so that they could intervene in a school shooting. He made similar comments Wednesday at a White House listening session with survivors of several shootings, including the recent massacre at Stoneman Douglas.
And at a White House school safety meeting on Thursday, he suggested making federal funding available for firearms training for educators and other school staff. Trump also said Thursday that the nation should consider offering bonuses to school staffers who are willing to carry concealed weapons and protect students from an active shooter.
The idea of allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons and training them on how to use them has the backing of the National Rifle Association. But it has been widely criticized by teachers’ unions, advocates for school resource officers, and even Republicans in Congress, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Stoneman Douglas teachers also oppose the idea.
The rhetoric at Trump’s CPAC speech Friday closely mirrored that of Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice-president of the NRA, at the same event a day earlier. Both noted that banks and airports are protected by armed guards, but schools aren’t. Both suggested that schools should be “harder” targets for potential shooters. And both decried gun-free school zones as an invitation to deranged criminals.
Trump also suggested Friday that the nation needs to address both school safety and mental health, without offering any policy specifics beyond arming teachers. Trump’s budget, released just two days before the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, seeks to eliminate the Student Support and Enhanced Academic Grant program, one of the few source of federal K-12 funding that districts can use for counseling and school safety programs.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who spoke at CPAC on Thursday, did not talk about guns or school safety beyond asking for a moment of silence for the Stoneman Douglas victims and community.
But Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for DeVos, said that the secretary believes any proposal to make schools safer is worthy of discussion.
“The secretary fully supports the president in his commitment to improve school safety for our nation’s students,” Hill said. “While the administration continues to hold listening sessions on this issue, the secretary believes all policy proposals that have the potential to keep our nation’s students safe should continue to be part of the comprehensive discussion.”
President Donald Trump waves after delivering remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 23, in Oxon Hill, Md.--Evan Vucci/AP