Trump Tweeted He Never Said "Give Teachers Guns" — Then He Said Teachers Should Have Guns
The president originally made the "concealed carry" proposal Wednesday at a town hall with the families of victims of the Parkland, Florida shooting, before going into detail Thursday morning.
President Trump tweeted Thursday claiming he had never said to "give teachers guns" — but in the very same tweet suggested the government "look at the possibility of giving 'concealed guns to gun adept teachers.'"
Trump's comments came the morning after an emotional "listening session" at the White House with students and parents from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of a mass shooting that left 17 dead on Valentine's Day, as well as family members of victims from past school attacks.
The tweets followed backlash from local law enforcement, students, and parents to the proposal, many of whom have organized themselves into a movement called "Never Again," which advocates for gun control measures.
But Trump appeared to go all-in on the idea Thursday, saying it was the solution to the problem. "ATTACKS WOULD END!" he said.
The president also tweeted that a "gun free" school is a "magnet for bad people," and that armed teachers could "immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions."
At the White House Wednesday, Trump asked those in the room who liked the idea of arming teachers and just a handful of people responded positively. Many more emphatically raised their hands when he asked who felt "strongly against it."
In addition to arguing for concealed carry at the White House event, the president mentioned intensifying background checks and focusing on the mental health of gun buyers.
"We are going to do strong background checks," Trump said at the White House later on Thursday. "We are going to work on getting the age up to 21, instead of 18. We are getting rid of the bump stocks. We are going to be focusing very strongly on mental health."
Trump also blamed the internet, video games, and violence in movies for the "bad things" happening to the minds of "young kids."
"We have to look at the internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds, and their minds are being formed. And we have to do something about maybe what they're seeing, how they're seeing it, and also, video games," Trump said. "More and more people say that the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts. And then you go the further step, and that's movies."
On TV and radio and in op-eds across the country, students, parents, and experts argued against arming teachers in classrooms.
Scott Israel, the sheriff of Broward County, where the Florida school shooting occurred, said during a CNN town hall on Wednesday night that the answer was gun control restrictions rather than more guns. Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the attack, also said that "guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids in the school this week."
And Broward County Public Schools superintendent Robert Runcie said, "'We don't need to put guns in the hands of teachers."
At the CNN town hall, a teacher at Stoneman — who said she supported the Second Amendment and had voted for Trump — told Sen. Marco Rubio that "a lot of the flak I've been getting back from my friends and from a lot of other people that are around the world is, 'the answer to the problem is to arm teachers.'"
"When I had those hundreds of terrified children that were running at me, my question is, am I supposed to get extra training now to serve and protect on top of educating these children on how to be these eloquent speakers that are coming up and presenting issues to you?" the teacher asked. "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?"
"I don't support that," the senator responded.
Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son, Dylan, died at the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, said that rather than arming teachers with firearms, she “would rather arm them with the knowledge of how to prevent these acts from happening in the first place."
During a White House briefing on Thursday, Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said the president's suggestion was for "some teachers and other individuals who have training in how to use firearms" to have access to concealed weapons on school grounds as their presence "would deter potential attackers."
Shah said that Congress leaders and the NRA were supportive of the idea that "trained individuals who work within schools that have firearms can serve as a deterrent that could keep a lot of schools in a lot of communities community safe."
When asked about the practicality of arming more than 700,000 teachers in schools, Shah responded, "When you have a horrific situation like you had last week and some other school shootings we've seen, these horrible tragedies, what we think and don't think is practical can change."
In addition to considering a narrow, National Rifle Association–backed, bipartisan bill to reinforce the background check system now before Congress, Trump has called on the Department of Justice to ban "bump stocks" (which increase the lethality of certain weapons), but it’s unclear if the agency would have the authority to enforce that regulation.
Trump has also said he would consider raising the minimum age for buying semiautomatic weapons, and reinforced that Thursday in a tweet.
Speaking for the first time since the attack at the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre called for immediately "hardening" the country's schools, including with more armed security.
"Schools must be the hardened targets in this country. Evil must be confronted with all necessary force to protect our kids," he said. "Never forget these words: 'To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.'"
Trump himself tweeted during the 2016 campaign that he did not want "guns in classrooms."
The president added that he would be meeting with lawmakers Thursday and with the nation's governors next week to discuss school safety.
Tasneem Nashrulla contributed to this report.