Gun violence in the US

Gun-free schools are ‘magnets’ for criminals: Donald Trump suggests arming teachers after Florida school shooting

He took to Twitter after meeting with parents of victims, survivors and friends of last week’s high-school massacre in Florida

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 February, 2018, 6:11am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 3:28am

A “gun free” school is nothing but a “magnet” for criminals, President Donald Trump said on Thursday, a day after proposing to train and arm some teachers to keep US schools safe.

“Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!” Trump tweeted.

At a White House meeting late on Wednesday with survivors of a shooting rampage at a Florida high school that killed 17 people, Trump suggested arming a select group of teachers to deter mass shootings.

“I never said ‘give teachers guns’ like was stated on Fake News @CNN &@NBC,” Trump tweeted.

“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. 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to

… immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions.

“Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A ‘gun free’ school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!”

At the Wednesday meeting, in which he heard first-hand accounts from bereaved parents, friends and schoolchildren who narrowly escaped the shooting with their own lives, Trump also promised “very strong” background checks on gun owners.

“A gun-free zone, to a maniac – because they are all cowards – a gun-free zone is ‘Let’s go in and let’s attack,” Trump said at the meeting.

Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow was among the Stoneman Douglas victims, told Trump at the White House gathering he was there “because my daughter has no voice. She was murdered last week”.

“We protect airports. We protect concerts, stadiums, embassies,” Pollack said, his voice seething with rage. “I can’t get on a plane with a bottle of water. But we leave some animal to walk into a school.”

The televised meeting came as students staged street protests across the country to demand stricter gun laws following the murder of 14 teens and three teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

‘We’re not backing down’: Florida shooting teens tackle politicians

Holding signs reading “Never Again” and “Be The Adults, Do Something”, teenaged survivors of last Wednesday’s shooting rallied outside the Florida state Capitol in Tallahassee.

“No longer can I walk the halls I walked millions of times before without fear and sadness,” Stoneman Douglas student Florence Yared told a crowd that included thousands of supporters.

Students are planning to march on Washington again on Saturday, with even more sister rallies planned across the country.

Also late on Wednesday, students and teachers who survived the shooting challenged politicians over their positions on gun control at a town hall meeting in Florida.

One student pressed Republican Senator Marco Rubio to reject future campaign funding from the National Rifle Association, a staunch opponent of gun control measures.

Rubio demurred on the funding, but did say he would reconsider his position on large-capacity magazine restrictions, as “it may save lives in an attack”.

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, who repeatedly came under fire at the forum, was asked if it should be harder to obtain semi-automatic weapons, but sought to shift the conversation from firearms to mental health issues.

“I don’t believe that this insane monster should have ever been able to obtain a firearm,” she said of the gunman.

Trump – who received strong backing from the NRA during his White House run – has shown a new-found willingness to take at least some steps on gun control following the Parkland shooting.

But his suggestion of arming teachers drew scorn at the town hall meeting.

America needs to say: no gun control, no votes

Scott Israel, the local sheriff, announced that “deputies who are qualified and trained will be carrying rifles on school grounds”, but pushed back against arming teachers.

“I don’t believe teachers should be armed – I believe teachers should teach,” Israel said.

“Am I supposed to get extra training now to serve and protect on top of educate these children,” asked Ashley Kurth, a teacher who sheltered students during the shooting.

“Am I supposed to have a Kevlar vest, am I supposed to strap it to my leg or put it in my desk? How am I supposed to go on that way?”

Meanwhile, in a rare breaking with diplomatic niceties, the prime minister of Denmark publicly urged Trump to respond to the outcry over gun control.

On Twitter, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who leads Denmark’s center-right minority coalition, said Trump needs to listen to the students demonstrating in support of tighter gun control.

He said he does “not intend to interfere” in American politics, “but allow me to give a Danish perspective: @realDonaldTrump, please, respond to the request of your youngsters who demand gun control”.

“Don’t accept the world record in school shootings,” Rasmussen said.

More than 33,000 people die in incidents involving firearms every year in the US and Americans own more guns than anyone else in the world. Denmark, on the other hand, has a restrictive licensing law and episodes of gun-related violence are rare. According to a study by the Justice Ministry, just 1.4 per cent of violent crimes reported in 2015 involved a firearm.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg