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Trump pushes arming teachers

By JOHN WAGNER and JENNA JOHNSON
The Washington Post

February 22. 2018 8:47PM
NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, February 22, 2018 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md. Hosted by the American Conservative Union, CPAC is an annual gathering of right wing politicians, commentators and their supporters. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)



WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday doubled down on his idea of arming some teachers as a deterrent for school shootings and praised the top leadership of the National Rifle Association as “Great American Patriots.”

In morning tweets and later at the White House, Trump claimed the strategy of arming teachers would be far less costly than hiring guards. He said “gun-free” school zones make it like “going in for ice cream” for school shooters and said on Twitter that with his strategy, “ATTACKS WOULD END!”

His remarks amplified a strategy Trump pushed during a first “listening session” Wednesday at the White House, which included relatives of some of the 17 people killed by a gunman last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida. Thursday’s session included law enforcement officers and other officials.

“Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive,” Trump said in one morning tweet.

During the “listening session” a couple of hours later, Trump said he wants “my schools protected just like I want my banks protected.”

The strategy of arming teachers has many critics, including some law enforcement officers and the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers lobby. In a statement Wednesday, NEA president Lily Eskelsen García said, “Educators need to be focused on teaching our students.”

In his tweets, Trump claimed his strategy had been mischaracterized by some news outlets and is more nuanced than reported. He said he envisioned only about 20 percent of teachers having concealed weapons and said they would have “military or special training experience.”

“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,” Trump said. “Cowards won’t go there ... problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work!”

Some criminologists have questioned that reasoning, pointing out that some people who plan to commit mass shootings are prepared to die in the process.

In a later tweet, Trump praised NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre and executive director Chris Cox, whose organization has advocated not overreacting to last week’s shooting.

“What many people don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, is that Wayne, Chris and the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots,” Trump wrote. “They love our Country and will do the right thing.”

“MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Trump added.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Trump has publicly and privately floated actions that would be at odds with the positions of the NRA, one of his biggest supporters in the 2016 campaign.

In a separate tweet Thursday, Trump appeared to highlight one of those conflicts: raising the age for purchasing assault rifles from 18 to 21.

“I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks!” Trump said in the tweet. “Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue — I hope!”

In a statement this week, NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker noted that federal law prohibits anyone younger than 21 from purchasing a handgun from a licensed firearms dealer.

“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,” Baker said.

Trump said during Friday’s listening session that he thought the NRA would support raising the age to 21.

“I don’t think I’ll be going up against them. ... They’re good people,” said Trump, who also praised the organization more broadly. “The NRA is ready to do things. People like to blame them.”


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