In response to the massacre at a Florida high school last week, President Trump told reporters Friday he wants legislation that emphasizes background checks, dealing with the mentally ill, banning “bump stocks” and arming teachers.
Speaking at a joint news conference at the White House with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Trump said it’s “very, very important that we have offensive capabilities as well as defensive” to protect students.
“When you have a gun-free zone, you are really inviting people to come in, [do what they want] and get out,” he said.
Trump suggested teachers with a military background could be armed with concealed weapons, or armed veterans “could be in the building in a different capacity.”
He pointed out that shootings such as the one in Parkland, Florida, last week that killed 17 people last an average of three minutes, but it typically takes about six to 10 minutes for police to arrive.
“We have to have offensive capability to take people out rapidly before they can do this kind of damage,” he said.
“If the bad guy thinks that somebody is in this room with a weapon that’s going to be pointed at him with live bullets, he’s not even going into the school,” Trump said.
“You’re not going to solve it with gun-free spaces, because they’ll get in there, and they’ll be the only one with a gun. So we need offensive capability, and we’re going to be doing something about it.”
Trump said he spoke Friday morning with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, noting that on Capitol Hill “there’s a movement on to get something done.”
“The problem that’s been happening over the last 20 years … it’s all talk and no action,” he said.
“We take it very seriously and we want to put an end to it.”
Trump pointed to the success of putting armed U.S. marshals on airplanes and also arming pilots.
He repeated his criticism of the armed guard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland who didn’t respond to the attack.
“That was not his finest moment. That I can tell you. He waited, and he didn’t want to go into the school,” Trump said.
“We need people that can take care of our children. We’re not going to let this happen again. And the way it’s not going to happen again,” Trump said.
He said the people with weapons in schools should be “people who love the children.”
“This man standing outside of the school the other day doesn’t love the children, probably doesn’t know the children,” he said. “The teachers love the children, they love their pupils.”
He explained he’s talking about “a small percentage” of the teachers being armed.
“People with great ability with weapons, with guns, those are the only people I’m talking about,” he said.
Florida guv: ‘Let teachers focus on teaching’
Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, laying out his school-safety proposal, told reporters Friday in Tallahassee that he disagreed with Trump’s proposal to arm teachers.
“My focus is on bringing in law enforcement,” the governor said. “Let law enforcement do the keeping us safe, and let teachers focus on teaching.”
Scott called for barring “violent or mentally ill” people and people under the age of 21 from buying or owning guns. Like Trump, he also wants to outlaw “bump stocks” that make it possible for semi-automatic weapons to fire faster.
The governor, however, does not want to ban the semi-automatic AR-15 type rifle that Nikolas Cruz allegedly used to killed 17 people on Valentine’s Day in his state.
Students who survived the Florida shooting have made banning such weapons one of their top demands.
“Banning specific weapons is not going to fix this,” said Scott.
In Texas, more than 100 school districts already allow teachers to be armed, noted Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in an interview Friday with the Fox News Channel’s Neil Cavuto.
Abbott said, however, that the policy “is just one of multiple tools in the tool box that needs to be used to try to address this issue.”
“So many people are looking for, maybe, shortcut solutions, when in reality, if we’re going to really reform this issue and fully address it, we need to tackle the big problems, and that includes the mental health problems that cause people to be this way in the first place,” the Texas governor said.
Colton Haab, the Junior ROTC member who helped shield classmates in the Florida shooting and who claims CNN wanted to censor his views at a town hall, told Fox News he believes that with proper training, teachers should be armed.
And he believes lives could have been saved on Valentine’s Day.
“If Coach Feis had had his firearm in school that day, I believe that he could have most likely stopped the threat,” Haab said.
He was referring to Aaron Feis, 37, an assistant football coach who was among the first to respond to the gunfire. Feis, unarmed, sped to the scene in his security golf cart then sprinted after the gunman on foot. Survivors told the Miami Herald that Feis shielded students from the bullets and pushed at least one girl out of the shooter’s line of sight.
Australian PM: Not my place to advise on guns
The Australian prime minister, Turnbull, was asked at the Friday news conference if he had anything to say to Trump regarding gun control, noting his country’s strict regulations, including the banning of semi-automatic and automatic weapons.
“Our history with gun control and regulation is obviously very different to the United States,” he said.
The U.S., Turnbull continued, has “a completely different context and history, legally and so forth.”
Following a 1996 massacre in Tasmania, Australia implemented a mandatory gun-buyback program in which the government collected some 650,000 privately held weapons.
“We are very satisfied with our laws … but certainly don’t presume to provide policy or political advice on that matter here. You have an amendment to your Constitution, which deals with gun ownership, and you have a very, very different history,” said the prime minister.
“We’ll focus on our own political arguments and debates, and wish you wise deliberation in your own.”