As students across the country continue to advocate for gun control in the wake of last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would consider a proposal allowing teachers and other school staff to be armed.
At a White House listening session that featured students and parents of shooting victims, the president said arming teachers would allow them to stop school shooters before there were significant casualties, despite there being zero evidence to show that more armed personnel in schools helps with safety.
“If [football coach Aaron Feis] had a firearm he wouldn’t have had to run [at the shooter], he would have shot him and that would have been the end of it,” Trump said. “This would only obviously be for people who are very adept at handling a gun… They’d go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun free zone.”
Trump also seemed to advocate for veterans being used as armed security guards in schools. “They may be Marines that left the Marines, left the Army, left the Air Force, and they are very adept,” he said. “You’d have a lot of them and the would be spread evenly through the school.” At the same time, Trump offered only vague promises for more concrete policy solutions, like raising the minimum age for buying an AR-15 or improving the background check system.
The proposal to arm teachers has been consistently advocated by right-wing pundits like Newt Gingrich and Fox News’ Judge Napolitano. It’s also a top NRA talking point, with executive vice president Wayne La Pierre famously stating “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The NRA, and its Republican allies, have also consistently backed proposals to repeal the 1990 ban on guns in schools.
But the idea that a “good guy with a gun” is the only way of stopping an active shooter has been consistently shown to be wishful thinking. During a mass shooting in Colorado last November, police investigations were hindered by the number of witnesses at the scene who were also carrying firearms. In 2012, a study by the Violence Policy Center found that someone carrying a gun was 4.46 times more likely to be shot in an assault. Nonetheless, Trump tried to use the “good guy with the gun” myth after the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting last fall to pivot away from discussing genuine gun control measures.
“Fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it [wouldn’t have] been as bad as it was, it would’ve been much worse,” Trump said. “But this is a mental health problem at the highest level.”
Members of the audience at Wednesday’s listening session pushed back against Trump’s suggestion, including Mark Barden, whose seven-year-old son Daniel was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“My wife Jackie could not be here because she is a schoolteacher… She has spent over a decade in the Bronx. And she will tell you that schoolteachers have more than enough responsibilities right now than to have to have the awesome responsibility of lethal force to take a life,” Barden said. “A deranged sociopath on his way to commit an act of murder in a school with the outcome — knowing the outcome is going to be suicide, is not going to care if there is somebody there with a gun.”
Students from Parkland, Florida, site of the latest school shooting, weren’t exactly keen on Trump’s proposal either.
“I feel like arming teachers is just like fighting fire with fire, I feel like we won’t get anything done if we just continue to pile on the amount of firearms that we’re selling and giving out to people,” student Isabella Barry told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I just feel that that’s just not needed.”