President Trump on Thursday defended his call to arm some teachers as a way to stop a “savage sicko” from causing mass casualties, while also calling for gun control measures -- including raising the age for purchasing firearms to 21.
In a flurry of tweets, the president hit back at media coverage of his comments about arming teachers the day before. He suggested his remarks were mischaracterized, but made clear he supports allowing some trained teachers to carry concealed weapons.
“I never said ‘give teachers guns’ like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @NBC. 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,” Trump tweeted.
“20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards,” Trump added. “A ‘gun free’ school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!”
The president’s tweets followed a listening session at the White House Wednesday afternoon with students, parents and teachers affected by the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting last week which left 17 dead. He also invited parents affected by the Sandy Hook and Columbine massacres.
During the almost two-hour session, Trump left the floor open for suggestions to prevent school shootings. One parent floated the idea of concealed-carry for teachers—an idea the president discussed at length with support, noting the administration would look “very strongly” at the option. His Thursday morning tweets seemed to double down on his earlier comments, even as he criticized media coverage.
At the same time, Trump made clear Thursday that he will urge several new gun law restrictions -- including raising the age for purchasing firearms, something sources said he was considering.
“I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue—I hope!”
But Trump especially sought to clarify and defend his comments about guns in schools.
Trump said Wednesday that “a gun-free zone to a maniac, they’re all cowards, is 'let’s go in and attack because bullets aren’t coming at us.'”
On Thursday, he tweeted: “History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/ coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!”
Minutes later, Trump added: “If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there…problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work.”
While top NRA officials on Thursday – at the Conservative Political Action Conference – pushed back on gun control calls, Trump said at another listening session late Thursday morning that the NRA “is ready to do things.”
Among those things, he said the NRA would back his call to raise the purchasing age to 21.
Thursday’s listening session was for state and local officials on how to improve school safety. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky and others attended, along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
“We want to ensure that when we see warning signs, we act quickly. This guy was a sicko,” the president said at the beginning of the meeting. “There’s a tremendous feeling that we want to get something done … including at the NRA.”
The president noted that he has called “many lawmakers” in recent days.
“They’re into doing background checks that maybe they wouldn’t be thinking about [a few weeks ago],” Trump said.
Earlier this week, the president directed Sessions to create new regulations to ban firearm modifiers, including the “bump stock” used in the Las Vegas massacre in October 2017.
Under current federal law, licensed firearm dealers cannot sell handguns to people under 21 and cannot sell long guns to people under 18, according to the Giffords Law Center, which tracks gun laws and advocates for more restrictions. Some states already impose laws with tighter minimum age requirements.
The National Rifle Association, which endorsed Trump in the 2016 presidential election, quickly rejected any talk of raising the age for buying long guns to 21.
“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,” the NRA said in a statement.
It is unclear at this point, however, whether Trump will push for a change in federal law or encourage a change at the state level.