In the aftermath of a high school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead and wounded 15 others, President Donald Trump told a group of conservative gathered at the annual Conservative Political Action Committee that arming school officials would make the schools “a much harder target for attackers” for attackers, an idea that is totally opposed by education groups and law enforcements.
“Why do we protect our airports, and our banks, our government buildings, but not our schools?” Trump said to conservative attendees Friday morning at CPAC. “It is time to make our schools a much harder target for attackers. We don’t want them in our schools.”
Trump added, “When we declare our schools to be gun-free zones, it just puts our students in far more danger. Well-trained, gun-adept teachers and coaches and people that work in those buildings; people that were in the Marines for 20 years and retired; people in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Coast Guard; people that are adept with weaponry and with guns. I don’t want to have 100 guards standing with rifles all over the school. You do a concealed carry permit.”
“A teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened. They love their students. They love those students, folks. Remember that. They love their students.”
“These teachers love their students. And these teachers are talented with weaponry and with guns. And they feel safe. And I’d rather have somebody that loves their students and wants to protect their students than somebody standing outside that doesn’t know anybody and doesn’t know the students, and, frankly, for whatever reason, decided not to go in even though he heard lots of shots being fired inside.”
Law enforcement and teachers’ groups have criticized Trump’s plan to arm teachers, pointing out how arming teachers will do nothing to prevent keeping “guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators.”
Questioning the inaction of an armed Broward County Deputy who failed to stop the gunman as he hid during the shooting, Trump vented his anger, calling Florida Deputy Scot Peterson a coward and non-credit to law enforcement. On Thursday, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said the armed deputy on duty had declined to enter the building during the time of school shooting.
“Look, you had one guard. He didn’t turn out to be too good,” Trump said. “He was not a credit to law enforcement, that I can tell you. “The deputy who didn’t go into the school because he didn’t want to go into the school. Okay? He was tested under fire, and that wasn’t a good result.
On background checks, Trump emphasized his support for the National Rifle Association (NRA) but pointed out the need to “strengthen up” background checks for gun owners.
“There’s nobody that respects the NRA, they are friends of mine,” Trump said. “They are great people. They are patriots. They are great people. But we really do have to strengthen up, really strengthen our background checks. We have to do that. For the mentally ill, we don’t want people that are mentally ill to be having any form of weaponry.”
Despite his remarks on guns and a response to Parkland, the majority of Trump’s 75 minute speech went off-script as he reiterated many topics used during the 2016 campaign, as well as his campaign promises and accomplishment to mobilize the base up to support Republican candidates in the midterm elections. He warned the crowd if Democrats win the House and Senate, they will repeal the tax cuts, appoint liberal judges and take away Second Amendment rights.
“I know that whoever wins the presidency has a disadvantage for whatever reason in the midterms,” Trump told the crowd. “Historically, if you win the presidency, you don’t do well two years later. And we can’t let that happen. We get clobbered in ’18 and we can’t let that happen. Only because we’re so happy. We’ve passed so many things.”
“We have to get out there, and we have to fight in ’18 like never before,” Trump added. “They want to do things that you wouldn’t even believe, including taking your Second Amendment rights away. If they get in, they will repeal your tax cuts. They will put judges in that you wouldn’t believe. They will take away your Second Amendment, which we will never allow to happen.”
Reporters had been warned in advance that Trump would announce that he has imposed even tougher sanctions on North Korea, after that country’s reprenstatives at the Olympics pulled out of secret talks with Vice President Mike Pence at the last minute, but the president mentioned the development towards the end in passing.
“I do want to say, because people have asked — North Korea — we imposed today the heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before,” Trump said, wrapping up his remarks. “But that just was announced, and I wanted to let you know. We have imposed the heaviest sanctions ever imposed.”
The three-day convention this year is heavily represented from speakers of the Trump administration: Vice President Mike Pence appeared Thursday. On Friday, a number of Cabinet officials also made appearances, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and U.S. Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon.