President Donald Trump said Thursday he’d like to see bonuses for teachers willing to carry firearms to protect their students from an active school shooter. And he said he wants to make federal money available to provide school staff “additional training” to use firearms properly.
“I think a concealed permit for teachers and letting people know there are people in the building with a gun, you won’t have, in my opinion you won’t have these shootings,” the president said at a White House meeting on school safety, attended by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Florida state chief Pam Stewart, other cabinet officials, and senior White House staff. “What I’d recommend doing is the people that do carry, we give them a bonus, we give them a little bit of a bonus, because frankly they’d feel more comfortable having the gun anyway, you give them a little bit of a bonus, so practically for free you’ve now made the school into a hardened target.”
Trump floated a similar proposal at aWhite House listening session a day earlier with survivors and families of school shooting victims, including some connected to the recent slayings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla.
At Thursday’s school safety meeting, Trump suggested that as many as 40 percent of school staff could become qualified to fire a weapon. And he called for “rigorous training” for school staff on these firearms. “Frankly, you have teachers that are Marines for 20 years, they retire and become a teacher. They’re Army, Navy, Air Force, they’re Coast Guard, they’re people who have won shooting contests for whatever, this is what they do. They know guns, they understand guns,” Trump said. "
Almost at exactly the same moment Trump made these remarks, Mo Canady, the executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers fired off a statement condemning the idea of arming educators.
“NASRO strongly recommends that no firearms be on a school campus except those carried by carefully selected, specially trained school resource officers (SROs), who are career law enforcement officers with sworn authority, deployed by employing police departments or agencies in community-oriented policing assignments to work in collaboration with schools,” Canady said.
Canady argued that, in the event of a shooting, an armed educator may be mistaken for an assailant. Teachers are unlikely to be mentally prepared to take the life of a shooter, especially a student, he added. Educators, too, may not be properly trained to ensure that no one else is hurt accidentally, as they try to take down a potential shooter, Canady said in his statement.
It would be better to use federal resources to place at least one well-trained school resource officer in every school in the country, Canady said.
But Trump said that increasing school police isn’t practical.
“You can’t hire enough security guards,” Trump said. “You need 100, 150 security guards [at a school]... But you could have [weapons] concealed on the teachers. I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected.”
That language echoes a speech that Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, gave at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier Thursday. At the meeting, Trump called the NRA, “good people.”
During the White House meeting, Stewart , the Florida commissoner, mentioned “active shooter drills,” which some schools in Florida require. Trump sees those as “a very negative thing”.
“I don’t like it,” the president said. “I’d much rather have a hardened school ... I think it’s crazy. I think it’s very hard on children.”
Trump also expressed concern about children’s exposure to violent videogames, movies, and online media.
“We have to look at the internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds and their minds are being formed, and we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it. And also video games. I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts,” Trump said.
And he said he’d like to focus on mental health, which he sees as a “very big issue.”
“We want to ensure that when we see warning signs we act quickly, and when we have somebody that’s mentally unstable, like this guy that was a sicko, and there were a lot of warning signs, a lot of people were calling saying, ‘Hey, he’s going to do something bad,’ people have to act, " Trump said.
Trump’s budget proposal released earlier this month seeks to zero out federal Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, a $400 million program districts can use to bolster their counseling and school safety services.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, center, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, right, look on as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with state and local officials to discuss school safety on Feb. 22 at the White House.--Evan Vucci/AP