President Trump’s call to arm more qualified teachers is going nowhere fast with the states and with teachers unions, although some individual teachers support the idea.
A mini-lecture that Mr. Trump received Monday from Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee at the White House was typical of the broad pushback against his idea of putting more guns in the hands of trained adults in schools.
“I have listened to the people who would be affected by that, I have listened to the biology teachers, and they don’t want to do that at any percentage,” Mr. Inslee told the president at a meeting of governors from across the nation. “I have listened to the 1st grade teachers that don’t want to be pistol-packing 1st grade teachers, I have listened to law enforcement who have said they don’t want to have to train teachers as law enforcement agents.”
Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, whose state was the scene of the high school massacre on Feb. 14 that left 17 dead, also rejects the idea of arming more school personnel. While Mr. Trump has said he’ll leave the decision up to states — few, if any governors from states that don’t currently allow adults to carry guns in schools, are embracing such a move.
The National Association for School Resource Officers, which trains and represents school police officers, warned that law enforcement officers responding to an incident might mistake a teacher with a firearm for a perpetrator.
“Anyone who hasn’t received the extensive training provided to law enforcement officers will likely be mentally unprepared to take a life, especially the life of a student assailant,” executive director Mo Canady said in a statement.
Even the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump isn’t convinced of the idea of arming more adults on school property to deter assailants.
“Having a teacher who is armed who cares deeply about her students or his students and who is capable and qualified to bear arms is not a bad idea, but it is an idea that needs to be discussed,” she told NBC News.
Mr. Inslee chided the president, “We need a little less tweeting here and a little more listening. And let’s just take that off the table and move forward.”
Instead, Mr. Trump turned to a reliable ally, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, whose state includes more than 100 school districts where personnel are authorized to carry firearms to respond to an attack.
“It’s not always a schoolteacher,” Mr. Abbott said. “It could be a coach, it could be an administrator, it could be anybody who works in that school. But it’s a well-thought-out program with a lot of training in advance.”
He said some districts promote their armed status with warning signs to deter possible attackers.
The president responded enthusiastically, “What you’re saying is that when a sick individual comes into that school, they can expect major trouble. The bullets are going to be going toward him, also. And I think that’s great. And you know what’s going to happen? Nobody is going into that school, Greg. That’s a big difference.”
He added, “You’re not going to stop it by being kind.”
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, also a Republican, described a similar program in his state. He said some schools can’t afford an armed resource officer, so “they prefer to have those either in the classroom or an assistant coach or somebody that would have a response capability.”
“That’s the key thing — that flexibility,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “I think what the governors want to say is that there can’t be, necessarily, a national security plan, but the states can develop this.”
Mr. Trump also revealed that he had a previously undisclosed lunch Sunday with top officials of the National Rifle Association. He said he’s willing to fight the National Rifle Association if necessary over new gun regulations, although he said the gun lobby is “on our side.”
“Don’t worry about the NRA,” the president told governors. “But sometimes we’re going to have to be very tough and we’re going to have to fight them.”
The president said he told NRA officials Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox that “we need to do something.” Mr. Trump seemed delighted that the media didn’t find out about the lunch.
The NRA is opposed to Mr. Trump’s proposal to raise the age limit for purchasing semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21. But the NRA supports the president’s call to arm more qualified teachers and other school personnel to confront a gunman or serve as a deterrent to an attack.
Referring to the economic progress and other achievements during his 13 months in office, Mr. Trump said school shootings are an unresolved challenge facing the country.
“The country is doing well, and then we have a setback like this that’s so heart-wrenching,” Mr. Trump said. “We have to clean it up. We have to straighten it out.”
During the discussion with governors on school safety, the president again expressed disdain for the Florida deputies, including one assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who didn’t confront the shooter on Feb. 14.
“You don’t know until you’re tested, but I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon,” Mr. Trump told the governors. “I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too.”
The president called the actions of a sheriff’s deputy who waited outside during the shooting “disgusting.”
“They weren’t exactly Medal of Honor winners,” Mr. Trump said. “The way they performed was a disgrace.”
A lawyer for deputy Scot Peterson, who resigned after being suspended, said Monday that Mr. Peterson wishes he could have saved lives during the massacre.
“The allegations that Mr. Peterson was a coward and that his performance, under the circumstances, failed to meet the standards of police officers are patently untrue,” the lawyer’s statement said.
White House aides say the president’s suggestion of arming more adults in schools is popular, although White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders couldn’t point to any states or school districts that are ready to take up the proposal.
“We’ve definitely heard from individual teachers and school personnel that support it,” Mrs. Sanders said. “But look, we’re not advocating for the arming of every single teacher in the school. There are teachers and other school personnel who have experienced pre-existing training, and a desire to be part of something like this. We’re still listening, and making and determining the best steps forward, but we think that hardening our schools and protecting our students with trained personnel is a viable path, and one that we’re very much looking at.”
Some teachers have expressed concern that guns in schools could be seized by students when teachers respond to break up fights that sometimes occur.
“These are kids who have raging passions,” said Ashley Kurth, a lifelong Republican and teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told ABC News. “Having something like this in their vicinity is not a good idea.”
The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teacher union, reiterated its opposition to arming teachers.
“Bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said in a statement. “Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses and school counselors; they do not need more guns in their classrooms.”
The White House has said the president supports bipartisan legislation from Sens. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, and Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, that would strengthen the current national background check system by encouraging more complete information on individuals’ criminal convictions.
Mr. Murphy said Monday that arming teachers, however, “is a recipe for disaster.”
“It puts guns near kids that can be used accidentally, it creates crossfire during a crisis that can end up hurting innocent people and it makes it harder for police responding to an incident to figure out who the good guy is and who bad the bad guy is. Teachers don’t want this. Law enforcement doesn’t want this. And parents don’t want this,” he said on Facebook.
On Monday, the president reiterated that he wanted to ban bump stocks, whether by regulation or legislation.
“By the way, bump stocks, we’re writing that out,” he said. “I’m writing that out myself, I don’t care if Congress does it or not, I’m writing it out myself, OK? You put it into the machine-gun category, which is what it is, it becomes essentially a machine gun.”
The president is also calling for greater institutionalization of mentally ill people.
“We’re going to have to start talking about mental institutions, because a lot of folks in this room closed their mental institutions also, so we have no halfway,” he said. “We have nothing between a prison and leaving him at his house, which we can’t do anymore. So I think you folks have to start thinking about that.”
Returning to the suggestion of arming more school personnel, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, said the unknown cost of the proposal is another challenge for states.
“Embedding law enforcement, trained personnel in whatever form or fashion you want is going to be at additional cost. That’s the result of society today,” Mr. Herbert said. “But I do believe this: Each state is going to have to find their own way, based on their own culture, based on their own politics, based on their own unique demographics. And we’ll learn from each other.”
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