President Trump on Thursday repeated his call to arm teachers to prevent mass school shootings — saying that as many as 40 percents of a school’s educators could pack heat and get bonuses for their efforts to keep kids safe.
“I want certain highly adept people, people who understand weaponry, guns … [and] a concealed [carry] permit” for teachers to carry guns on school property, the president said during a White House sit-down with members of his cabinet, lawmakers and Mayor Christine Hunschofsky of Parkland, Florida.
Fourteen students and three staffers were gunned down at a high school there by a 19-year-old former student armed with an assault rifle last week.
Trump said the armed educators should get “a little bit of a bonus” and mentioned 10 percent, 20 percent, and 40 percent as possible numbers of teachers who would qualify for the “rigorous training” that would be required.
School security guards alone are not the answer, he added.
“You can’t hire enough security guards … You need 100, 150 security guards. But you could have concealed [guns] on the teacher,” Trump said.
The president also called for tighter security to protect schools.
“I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected. We have to harden our sites. 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 [shooters] want to hear. We have to harden or schools, not soften them up,” he said.
Trump again lamented that mental hospitals had been closed, leaving people with serious mental illness to wander the streets and pose a threat to law-abiding citizens.
“Part of the problem is we used to have mental institutions. We had a mental institution where you take a sicko like this guy, he was a sick guy, so many signs, and you bring him to a mental health institution,” he said about alleged Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz.
“Those institutions are largely closed because communities didn’t want them, communities didn’t want to spend the money for them, so you don’t have any intermediate ground,” he continued.
“You can’t put them in jail because he hasn’t done anything yet, but you know he’s going to do something. So we’ll be talking seriously about opening mental health institutions again.”
“I can tell you in New York, the governors in New York did a very, very bad thing when they closed our mental institutions, so many of them. You have these people living on the streets, and I can say that in many cases throughout the country, they’re very dangerous,” he said.
“They shouldn’t be there. When you have some person like this, you can bring them into a mental institution and they can see what they can do, but we’ve got to get them out of our communities.”
The president also offered some rare praise for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who attended along with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, chief of staff John Kelly and top aide Kellyanne Conway.
“You’re doing a great job on the gangs,” he told Sessions before ripping the violent street gang MS-13.
“We’re also after the gangs. The gangs have been incredible. MS-13. They’re killing people, not necessarily with guns, because that’s not painful enough. This is what they think. They want to do it more painful and they want to do it slowly, so they cut them up with knives,” Trump said.
“And we’re getting them out by the thousands. Putting them in jail, and we’re getting them out by the thousands.”
He also hailed ICE agents and border security guards for their toughness.
“Our people from ICE and our Border Patrol people are much tougher than they [gangs] are. That’s the only thing they understand, by the way, is toughness. They don’t understand niceness. They understand toughness. And our people are much tougher. They go in there and they grab them by the neck,” he said.
During the meeting, Hunschofsky asked about Cruz, “How did somebody like this person get access to that kind of firearm?”
The president mentioned banning bump stocks, beefing up background checks and raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21.
“It should all be at 21 … And the NRA will back it,” Trump said, although a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association said the opposite this week.
“Legislative proposals that prevent law-abiding adults aged 18-20 years old from acquiring rifles and shotguns effectively prohibits them for purchasing any firearm, thus depriving them of their constitutional right to self-protection,” Jennifer Baker said in a statement.
Trump also dismissed the value of active shooter drills that schools conduct to prepare for a shooting, calling them “crazy.”
“Active shooter drills is a very negative thing. I don’t like it. I’d much rather have a hardened school. I think it’s crazy. I think it’s very hard on children,” he said.
And the president declared that, unlike his Oval Office predecessors, he would take action on gun safety.
“We will take action, unlike for many years where people sitting in my position did not take action. They didn’t take proper action, they took no action at all. We’re going to take action,” he said.
“There is nothing more important than protecting our children.”
The meeting came after an emotional gathering the day before that included survivors of the Parkland shooting, plus the father of one girl who was shot nine times and died, as well as parents who lost children in the school shootings at Columbine and Sandy Hook.
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