United States President Donald Trump, defending his controversial proposal to arm some of America’s teachers, said on Friday that a teacher with a gun would have “shot the hell” out of the teenager who went on a shooting rampage last week at a Florida high school.
Trump, in a speech to a conservative gathering near Washington, also called for stronger background checks for gun buyers and criticised an armed deputy who failed to intervene during the shooting at the Parkland, Florida, school which left 17 people dead.
Florida Governor Rick Scott announced plans meanwhile to station a police officer at every public school in the southern state and that the age for gun buyers would be raised from 18 to 21.
Trump, speaking to a receptive crowd of thousands of fellow Republicans at the Conservative Political Action Conference, said “well-trained” teachers could help stop school shootings.
“Maybe 10 percent or 20 percent of the population of teachers,” he said. “Not all of ’em, but you would have a lot.
“And the beauty is it’s concealed,” Trump said.
Referring to Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who attacked his former classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last Wednesday, Trump said “a teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened.”
Trump also criticized by name the sheriff’s deputy who allegedly failed to take any action against Cruz during the shooting spree.
“You had one guard. He didn’t turn out to be too good,” the president said. “He was not a credit to law enforcement.”
Leaving the White House for the CPAC event, Trump had even harsher words for the deputy, Scot Peterson.
“When it came time to get in there and do something he didn’t have the courage or something happened,” Trump told reporters. “But he certainly did a poor job. There’s no question about that.”
“They didn’t react properly under pressure or they were a coward,” he said.
The Broward County sheriff said Thursday that Peterson had resigned after being suspended without pay.
One police officer for 1,000 students
Speaking at a news conference in the state capital Tallahassee, Florida Governor Scott unveiled a $450 million plan aimed at improving school safety.
“I am proposing at least one law enforcement officer for every 1,000 students,” Scott said of stationing police officers in schools.
“My focus is on providing more law enforcement officers, not on arming the teachers,” he added.
Scott also announced plans to raise the minimum age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21 and ban “bump stocks,” an accessory which turns a semi-automatic weapons into an automatic one.
In his speech to CPAC, Trump praised the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful gun lobby which has long advocated for more armed security at US schools.
“They’re friends of mine, they backed us,” Trump said of the NRA. “They’re great people. They’re patriots.”
“It’s time to make our schools a much harder target for attackers,” he said. “When we declare our schools to be gun-free zones, it just puts our students in far more danger.”
Trump claimed his proposal to arm teachers, which has been strongly criticized by US teachers’ unions, was drawing support.
“I have to say since I started this two days ago a lot of people that were totally opposed to it are now agreeing,” he said. “They don’t want their students to be killed or to be hurt.
“So we have to do something that works,” he said.
Trump proposed measures preventing people who are mentally ill from obtaining weapons and “to strengthen up, really strengthen up background checks” for gun buyers.
“And I really believe that Congress is going to get it through this time,” he said.
The US Congress has been deadlocked on the gun debate, accomplishing nothing despite a spate of mass shootings and polls showing that Americans support stricter gun laws by a two-to-one margin.