Trump: Schools need 'offensive capability,' federal funds to train armed teachers

By Sara Shayanian and Danielle Haynes  |  Updated Feb. 22, 2018 at 4:36 PM
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Feb. 22 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Thursday reiterated the idea of arming teachers to prevent mass shootings, suggesting a pay increase for trained and armed educators during a school safety meeting at the White House.

One day after meeting with survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., -- and victims of other mass shootings -- the president met with local and state officials on the topic.

Trump brought up a suggestion one father made at Wednesday's meeting, that volunteer teachers could receive training and keep firearms "safely locked in the classroom." The president said this idea is one that legislators should consider.

"I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected," he said. "If you harden the sites you're not going to have this problem ... When you say this school is gun free ... That's what they want to hear."

Trump suggested offering "a little bit of a bonus" for trained teachers who are armed and providing federal funds to train them. He said it would take too many security guards to protect a school campus.

"But you could have concealed [guns] on the teachers," he said.

Trump blasted active shooter drills on school campuses, saying that they're "very hard on children."

"We need offensive as well as defensive," he said. "Unless you're going to have offensive capability you're wasting your time."

Trump took to Twitter Thursday morning to reiterate that he doesn't think all teachers should be armed, only those who are trained.

"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 percent of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions,'" he tweeted.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the union had a call with 55,000 of its members Wednesday night and none of them were advocating arming teachers in schools.

"We had teachers who are gun owners and ex-military officers saying this was the wrong idea and we needed to get guns out of schools," she said.

"Anyone who advocates for arming teachers doesn't understand teachers and doesn't understand schools," Weingarten tweeted Thursday. "The first instinct of teachers is to protect kids, not engage in a shootout putting more children in danger."

The president said he wanted to ensure authorities "act quickly" when they see warning signs of a potential shooting.

"There's a tremendous feeling that we want to get something done ... including at the [National Rifle Association]," Trump said, adding that lawmakers are interested in "doing background checks that maybe they wouldn't be thinking about" a few weeks ago.

Trump tweeted Thursday morning he would be "strongly pushing" for comprehensive background checks with an emphasis on mental health.

"Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue - I hope!" he tweeted.

The president also warned about children's exposure to violence in video games, movies and the Internet.

"We have to do something about maybe what they're seeing and how they're seeing it," Trump said.

Members of Trump's Cabinet -- including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Chief of Staff John Kelly, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and adviser Kellyanne Conway -- were present at the meeting.

On Wednesday, Trump held a listening session with student survivors and parents affected by last week's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people.

At a separate event Wednesday in South Florida, CNN's Jake Tapper moderated a town hall for students, parents and teachers to speak to Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla.

"I'm saying that the problems we are facing here today cannot be solved by gun laws alone," Rubio said, adding he supported legislation to raise the minimum age to purchase a gun, ban bump stocks and change the background check system.

Nelson also called for "common-sense solutions," including outlawing certain firearms.

"I support banning weapons that fire off 150 rounds in 7 or 8 minutes, weapons that are weapons of war, that serve no purpose other than killing the maximum number of people they can, you bet I am," Deutch said.

One point all three legislators agreed on was that arming teachers in schools was not the best idea.

"The notion that my kids are going to school with teachers that are armed with a weapon is not something I'm comfortable with," Rubio said.

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