President Donald Trump has said he is considering proposals to promote concealed carrying of weapons by trained school employees to respond to campus shootings.
Meeting with students and parents affected by school shootings, Mr Trump is responding to a call to arm teachers and other school employees so they can react before law enforcement arrives.
The President said he believes the proposal could “solve the problem” of school shootings, by making potential attackers think twice and noted that some airline pilots have carried concealed weapons since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
“An attack has lasted on average about three minutes, it takes five to eight minutes for responders, the police, to come in, so the attack is over,” Mr Trump said.
“If you had a teacher that was adept at fire arms they could very well end the attack quickly.”
Mr Trump recognised that the proposal is a contentious one, and asked for a show of hands in the East Room of those for and against giving teachers and military veterans concealed weapons permits. Some in the room indicated support, while others said they were against the idea.
“Certainly it’s controversial, but we’ll study that, along with many other ideas,” the President told his guests.
Mr Trump was joined by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Vice President Mike Pence during the listening event. The three heard from survivors of the Parkland shooting, as well as parents from past school shootings, including some parents who lost their children during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Questioned last week on whether she supported the arming of teachers, Ms DeVos said it was “an important issue for all states to grapple with”. After she was pressed for her personal view, she said decisions had to be made “at the local level and at the state level. Communities need to share best practices and results from the steps that they take to ensure that kids have a safe environment in which to learn.”
“This is not a difficult issue. You’re absolutely right. There are solutions and this administration has the ability to put them in place,” Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son Dylan was killed in the Newtown shooting, said. Ms Hockley continued to say that she does not think that arming teachers is the solution to address America’s gun violence epidemic, and instead said that she would like to see teachers armed with the knowledge to prevent future attacks.
Mr Trump also indicated that he is interested in exploring how mental health treatment or awareness could help to stop future mass shootings. The idea is not a new one for the President, who said during a speech Thursday that Americans need to keep an eye out for people who they believe could act dangerously, and who may be suffering from mental illness and likely to turn to violence. At one point he floated the idea of ending gun free school zones as well.
Julia Corsover, the student body president at Stoneman, said that, no matter what politicians decide in the end, something must be done.
Another student, Sam Zeif, said that, shared the story of his experience during last week’s shooting. He said that he was worried about his brother, who was also in the building that was shot up, and that he later learned one of his best friends was among those killed.
“I lost a best friend,” Mr Zeif said. He said that he doesn’t think that assault-style weapons should be up for sale. He “was practically a brother. And I’m here to use my voice because I know he can’t. And I know he’s with me, cheering me on to be strong, but it’s hard. And to feel like this, it doesn’t even feel like a week. Time has stood still.”
In the aftermath of the shooting that left 17 dead and at least a dozen more injured, many of the students have spoken up in favour of gun control. That has included an organising effort for a mass march in Washington next month, which has grown to include several other march locations across the country.
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