Trump says arming teachers could prevent school massacres

‘If you had a teacher ... who was adept at firearms, it could very well end the attack very quickly’

 US president Donald Trump holds his notes while hosting a listening session with student survivors of mass shootings, their parents and teachers in the State Dining Room at the White House on February 21st, 2018 in Washington, DC. Photograph:  Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

US president Donald Trump holds his notes while hosting a listening session with student survivors of mass shootings, their parents and teachers in the State Dining Room at the White House on February 21st, 2018 in Washington, DC. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

 

US president Donald Trump suggested on Wednesday that arming teachers could help prevent massacres such as last week’s mass shooting at a Florida high school.

Mr Trump voiced support for the idea during an emotional White House meeting with students who survived the shooting, and a parent whose child did not. The students appealed for action on school safety and guns.

“If you had a teacher ... who was adept at firearms, it could very well end the attack very quickly,” said Mr Trump, who acknowledged the idea would be controversial.

The US administration is seeking to show resolve against gun violence in the wake of last week’s shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead and has prompted a growing call for stronger gun control.

Mr Trump promised to be “very strong on background checks,” adding that “we’re going to do plenty of other things” as he listened to students, parents and teachers at the White House.

Hundreds of people including teenage survivors of last week’s Florida high school mass shooting poured into state capital Tallahassee on Wednesday demanding that lawmakers limit sales of assault rifles.

Some wore T-shirts and carried signs reading “We call B.S.,” one of the slogans of the movement started by students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and teachers were killed by a gunman with an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle.

The massacre, the latest in a long series of deadly US school shootings, stirred the nation’s long-running debate about gun rights and public safety, prompting officials from state lawmakers to US president Donald Trump to consider new action.

Investigators said the assault was carried out by 19-year-old former Stoneman student Nikolas Cruz, who purchased an AR-15 nearly a year ago. Police charged Cruz, who had been kicked out of the school due to disciplinary problems, with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Laws ‘have failed’

“Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase an assault rifle before he was able to buy a beer,” said Laurenzo Prado, a Stoneman junior, referring to a Florida law that allows people as young as 18 to buy assault weapons. “The laws of the country have failed.”

Florida lawmakers in Tallahassee said they would consider raising the age limit to 21, the same standard for handguns and alcohol, though the state Senate on Wednesday opted not to take up a gun control measure.

Florida Senate president Joe Negron, a Republican, met with students and declined to answer their questions on whether he would support any specific gun control measures. “That’s an issue we’re going to look at as we work to develop legislation,” he said. The legislative session wraps up on March 9th.

Walked out of classes

Students scattered across the United States walked out of classes in sympathy protests. Hundreds of teenagers from the Washington suburbs gathered at the White House, where Mr Trump was scheduled to meet with families of school shooting victims and survivors.

“I came out here because I don’t feel safe in my school,” said Allyson Zadravec (15) of Northwood High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. “I want to make sure that everyone who can do something about it hears that I don’t feel safe in my school.”

Similar walkouts were held or planned in Florida, Phoenix, Arizona; Pittsburgh and Chicago, according to witnesses and local news media accounts.

The superintendent of a Texas school district said any students who took part in a walkout would be suspended for three days, regardless of parental permission.

“We will discipline no matter if it is one, 50, or 500 students involved,” said Curtis Rhodes, who heads the Needville Independent School District, about 30km south of Houston, in a statement on the district’s Facebook page.

Bump stocks ban

The White House meeting came a day after Mr Trump said his administration would take steps to ban bump stocks, an accessory that enables a rifle to shoot hundreds of rounds a minute. A spokeswoman said the administration was open to the idea of national age limits on sales of assault rifles.

Under pressure after Parkland, Mr Trump on Tuesday directed the justice department to quickly complete a proposed rule that would treat “bump stocks” as machine guns, which could effectively outlaw them in the United States.

Last October, property investor and high-stakes gambler used multiple assault rifles equipped with bump stocks to kill 58 people at a Las Vegas outdoor concert, the deadliest attack by a single gunman in US history.

Bump stocks have not played a prominent role in other recent US mass shootings. – Reuters