Pres. Trump suggests arming teachers as a solution to increase school safety

WEST VALLEY CITY, UT - DECEMBER 27: A Utah teacher is shown how to handle a handgun by instructor Clint Simon (R), at a concealed-weapons training class to 200 Utah teachers on December 27, 2012 in West Valley City, Utah. The Utah Shooting Sports Council said it would waive its $50 fee for concealed-weapons training for Utah teachers. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump, after listening to a series of emotional stories and pleas to enhance school safety at the White House Wednesday, floated the idea of arming teachers and school staff, an idea that was met with support from many of the attendees.

“If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly,” he said, stating that schools could arm up to 20% of their teachers to stop “maniacs” who may try and attack them.

“This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, 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,” President Trump said. “Gun-free zone to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is ‘let’s go in and let’s attack because bullets aren’t coming back at us.’ ”

The comment came during a White House listening session marked by poignant testimony from students and parents affected by school shootings. President Trump offered some solutions, calling for more mental institutions and hospitals in addition to the idea of arming teachers.

“I’m not here to debate, but I lost my sister. And like Mr. President said, if you could find 20%b of maybe retired law enforcement officers, or a teacher who could go through discreet training to carry a firearm around his waist, it could’ve been a very different situation,” Hunter Pollack, one of Meadow Pollack’s brothers, said. “We need more security, we need more firearms on campus, we need better background checks, and we need to study more on mental health.”

Fred Abt, father of Parkland shooting survivor Carson Abt, said he had discussed with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over lunch that rather than waiting for first responders to arrive, it would be more efficient to have firearms locked on school campuses.

“One possible solution, which may not be very popular, would be to have people in the school, teachers, administrators who have volunteered to have a firearm safely locked in the classroom who are given training throughout the year,” he said. “There are plenty of teachers who are already licensed to carry firearms, have them raise their hands to volunteer for the training, and when something like this starts, the first responders are already on campus.”

But not all agreed with that approach.

Nicole Hockley, whose six-year-old son was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, took the microphone and told President Trump she would rather arm teachers with ways to prevent shootings in the first place rather than with a firearm.

“Let’s talk about prevention,” Hockley said. “There is so much we can do to help this person before we reach this point.”

But many others embraced the president’s idea.

Andrew Pollack, a father of one of the 17 victims who died in last week’s Florida shooting, said he was speaking Wednesday because his daughter couldn’t.

“We as a country failed our children,” he said. “This shouldn’t happen.”

He asked how it was that America could protect its airports, its concerts, its embassies and even the elevators at the Department of Education, but not its schools.

“How many schools, how many children have to get shot? It stops here with this administration and me. I’m not going to sleep until it is fixed. And Mr. President, we’ll fix it. Because I’m going to fix it. I’m not going to rest,” he said.

Standing feet from the president, Pollack raised his voice at one point: “I’m pissed. It was my daughter I am not going to see again. She is not here. She is not here. She is in North Lauderdale at whatever it is, King David Cemetery, that is where I go to see my kid now.”

“My beautiful daughter, I’m never going to see her again. It’s simple. Let’s fix it,” he said.

Justin Gruber, 15, who was affected by the Parkland shooting, said he was born after Columbine, which marked a new era in school safety.

“I was born into a world where I never got to experience safety and peace. There needs to be a significant change in this country. This has to never happen again,” he said. “People should be able to feel like when they go to school it can be safe. There needs to be a change. People need to feel safe. Parents shouldn’t have to go through the idea of losing their child.”

President Trump responded to the series of emotional stories from the survivors and parents of victims from the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by pledging to get to work on school shootings “two minutes” after the listening session.

“We don’t want others to go through the kind of pain you have gone through,” President Trump said. “It wouldn’t be right.”

President Trump, flanked by the students, went around the room and shook hands before opening the event.

The event, hosted in the White House’s State Dining Room, brought President Trump face-to-face with students and parents who have demanded action on gun violence. The president — who was elected with the support of the National Rifle Association — has so far expressed support for regulating bump-fire stocks, which make it easier to fire rounds more quickly, and strengthening background checks for gun purchases.