By EILEEN SULLIVAN
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Thursday morning to clarify his views on arming teachers to fight deadly school shootings, saying that he wants to give “concealed guns” to teachers who have “military or special training experience.” He also restated his policy agenda for school safety before a meeting with state and local officials later in the day.
“A ‘gun free’ school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END,” Trump wrote.
In a series of Twitter posts, Trump said he was clarifying news reports that said he wanted to arm teachers, a proposal that has been met with skepticism and rejection. The president also said he wants to improve background checks for firearms purchases, raise the age of people who are permitted to buy assault rifles to 21 from 18 and ban equipment that can turn a semi-automatic rifle into an automatic one.
“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. Cowards won’t go there...problem solved,” Trump said.
The president’s comments came a week after a gunman opened fire with an AR-15 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where he killed 17 people. The shooting revived the gun control debate, and high school students joined the lobbying efforts for new gun restrictions.
Trump, who campaigned with the support of the National Rifle Association and has been an advocate of gun rights, is facing resistance from the powerful lobbying group on raising the minimum age to purchase assault rifles.
But he defended the NRA in a tweet Thursday: “What many people don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, is that Wayne, Chris and the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
The head of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, spoke publicly Thursday for the first time since the Parkland shooting, and criticized Democrats calling for more gun control laws.
“Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms,” LaPierre said, speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference to an audience that typically bristles at the notion of restricting Second Amendment rights.
The president met Wednesday with survivors of school shootings and family members of victims, and faced emotional pleas to do something to stop the violence.
During the White House event Wednesday, Trump offered his ideas, including arming teachers and other school employees.
“It only works where you have people very adept at using firearms, of which you have many, and it would be teachers and coaches,” he said.
“The coach had a firearm in his locker when he ran at this guy – that coach was very brave. Saved a lot of lives, I suspect,” Trump said, apparently referring to Aaron Feis, a coach at Stoneman Douglas who survivors say died while shielding students from gunfire. “But if he had a firearm, he wouldn’t have had to run, he would have shot and that would have been the end of it.”
Arming teachers is not a new concept. The NRA advocated for this in the wake of the 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children dead.
The president also expressed confidence that Congress would agree on and pass gun safety legislation, although it has been an impossible feat in recent years.