Washington, Feb 22 (IANS) US President Donald Trump has floated a proposal to arm teachers that could help prevent massacres such as last week’s mass shooting at a Florida high school that claimed 17 lives.
Speaking at the White House on Wednesday to students, parents and family members affected by the massacre and other mass shootings in the past, Trump also pledged to be “very strong on background checks” and put a “very strong emphasis” on mental health.
Nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz armed with an assault rifle killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14, reigniting the debate about gun control in the US.
The White House event brought Trump face-to-face with students and parents who have demanded action on gun violence. The President’s idea was met with support from many of the attendees, CNN reported.
“If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly,” he said, stating that schools could arm up to 20 per cent of their teachers to stop “maniacs” who may try and attack them.
“This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They’d go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone,” Trump said.
Acknowledging that the idea was controversial, Trump said that his administration would give it serious study. The President also called for more mental institutions and hospitals in addition to the idea of arming teachers.
Fred Abt, father of Parkland shooting survivor Carson Abt, said he had discussed with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that rather than waiting for first responders to arrive, it would be more efficient to have firearms locked on school campuses.
Andrew Pollack, a father of one of the 17 victims who died in the Florida shooting, said he was speaking because his daughter couldn’t. “We as a country failed our children… This shouldn’t happen.”
Mark Barden, whose son was killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, said more guns was not the answer.
“Schoolteachers have more than enough responsibilities… than to have the awesome responsibility of lethal force to take a life,” he said.
The President — who was elected with the support of the National Rifle Association — has so far expressed support for regulating bump-fire stocks, which make it easier to fire rounds more quickly, and strengthening background checks for gun purchases.
Meanwhile, in Florida, survivors of the shooting poured into the state capital to demand lawmakers restrict sales of assault rifles. It was the first organised protest of the youth-led anti-gun movement that has swept the US since the school attack.
Other students in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Phoenix walked out of classes in solidarity.