As students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School prepare to return to lessons this week after an attack that left 17 pupils and teachers dead, the President told a meeting of the nation’s governors: “You don’t know until you test it, but I really believe I’d have run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.”
He added: “And I think most of the people in this room would have done that too, because I know most of you. But the way [the first armed police] performed was a disgrace.”
In the aftermath of the shooting two weeks at the school in Parkland, there has been a fierce debate on how to reduce or end the number of incidents, which so frequently bring tragedy to US communities.
Inspired by the students from the school that was attacked, campaigners have been calling on Mr Trump and Republicans to act swiftly to regulate and control access to guns. The students from the high school have led a powerful and impassioned campaign to demand that they be the last pupils in America to suffer a mass shooting.
The National Rifle Assocation (NRA), the powerful gun rights lobbying group which spent $30m helping get Mr Trump elected in 2016, has said there should be no new legislation that bans weapons, not even assault rifles or the bump stock devices that can turn allow someone to fire a semi-automatic weapon as if it is fully automatic.
Mr Trump has said he is willing to push for more effective background checks and to raise the age requirement to buy a rifle to 21. He has said he believes that arming some teachers with concealed weapons would help reduce shootings.
“If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly,” the President said, after meeting with students, teachers and elected officials at the White House last week.
“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.”
He added: “[A] 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’.”
While Mr Trump’s suggestion has received some support, many teachers, teaching union and senior police officials have said the idea was impractical and could backfire.
Yet, the President has not backed away from his suggestion, or from his criticism of a school protection officer, Scot Peterson, who has resigned after it was revealed he waited outside the school buildings with his handgun as Nikolas Cruz set about killing his former classmates and injuring many others. Broward County Sheriff’s office has launched an investigation after it was claimed three of its officers who arrived at the school also waited outside until back-up arrived.
Mr Trump told the governors he was determined to turn the nation’s “grief into action” following the atrocity. Mr Trump said that while “our nation is heartbroken”, the US needs “to have action” on measures related to school safety and gun violence.
He also said he had lunch with senior officials of the NRA and said that the organisation “want to do something” to address the issue.
“There is no bigger fan of the Second Amendment than me but there’s a need to boost background checks and ensure that a sicko is unable to get a gun,” he said.
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