U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed arming nearly a quarter of teachers in U.S. schools with firearms to bolster student safety following a mass shooting in Florida. The president’s suggestion was met with fierce pushback from critics, who he subsequently accused of twisting his words.
On Feb. 14, a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The mass shooting reopened the national debate over gun laws and prompted discussions over school safety,
On Feb. 21, the White House hosted a listening session with some Parkland residents and families impacted by gun violence. During the meeting, Trump floated the idea of arming teachers to deter school shooters, The Guardian reports.
“It only works when you have people very adept at using firearms, of which you have many,” Trump said. “It would be teachers and coaches.”
The president asserted that schools would be less vulnerable to attacks if faculty were allowed to conceal-carry firearms.
“They’d go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone. … If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.”
Trump also suggested that arming a fifth of teachers in the U.S. with a gun with sufficiently boost safety.
“So let’s say you had 20 percent of your teaching force, because that’s pretty much the number,” the president said, according to Newsweek.
The proposal was met with a mixed reception from the listening session attendees. Trump concluded “We can understand both sides and certainly it’s controversial.”
The policy proposal of arming teachers was swiftly met with pushback by Democratic lawmakers and advocates for stricter gun laws.
“Eliminating gun free school zones and arming teachers is literally insane and based on the NRA business model that the solution to gun violence is to sell more guns,” tweeted out Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii.
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin expressed incredulity that Trump would even suggest the idea.
“When you hear the president of the United States say the answer is to give every teacher in America a gun, that is insane. … Do you think we should give all of them guns?” Toobin said. “I mean, do you think they want guns? What kind of country do we live in when we’re talking about giving every teacher in America a gun?”
On Feb. 22, Trump fired off a series of tweets clarifying his proposal and blasting his critics, The Washington Post reports.
“I never said ‘give teachers guns’ like was stated on Fake News [CNN] & [NBC],” Trump tweeted out. “What I said was to look at the possibility of giving ‘concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience – only the best.”
The president reiterated his belief that arming 20 percent of teachers would deter potential mass shooters.
“If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school,” Trump continued. “Cowards won’t go there…problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work!”
Trump added that he would support raising the minimum age for assault rifle purchases from 18 to 21 and a ban on “bump stocks.”
A spokesperson for the National Rifle Association (NRA) stated that the organization did not support raising the national age limit.
National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia released a statement rejecting Trump’s proposal to arm some teachers.
“Educators need to be focused on teaching our students,” Garcia said, according to NBC News. “We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators. Arming teachers does nothing to prevent that.”
On Feb. 20, a Quinnipiac University Poll queried registered voters on what measures they believed would best address gun violence in schools. 40 percent of respondents said stricter gun laws would help the most, 34 percent favored metal detectors and 20 percent said arming teachers would be the best solution.
Sources: Brian Schatz/Twitter, CNN/YouTube, The Guardian, NBC News, Quinnipiac University, The Washington Post / Featured Image: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr / Embedded Images: Gage Skidmore/Flickr (2)