Earlier this month, 17 people were shot and killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The shooter, a 19-year-old former student, squeezed off dozens of rounds of bullets into classrooms, closets, and bodies, with an assist from the National Rifle Association which has lobbied hard to keep assault rifles like the AR-15 legal.
In the aftermath of the school shooting, the 18th so far in 2018, gun violence apologists took up a familiar position: we should fight gun violence in schools by introducing more guns in schools. Led by the NRA, conservative lawmakers, including the president, called for teachers and school security personnel to be equipped with weapons of their own.
As it turns out, there was an armed security guard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the day of the shooting. But once gunshots began ringing out, the officer never entered the building, fearing for his own life. Pro-gun activists were quick to condemn the officer as a coward, a sentiment echoed in short order by Donald Trump himself before he suggested he would have conducted himself differently.
“I really believe — you don’t know until you test it — but I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon,” Trump told reporters on Monday.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 26, 2018
It’s an interesting hypothetical coming from the mouth of a noted draft dodger. Trump famously avoided the Vietnam War draft by loudly complaining about uncomfortable bone spurs in his legs, supposedly sustained from playing too much tennis and squash in college.
Of course, we don’t know the kind of soldier Trump would have made had he actually landed in Saigon. Maybe he would have exhibited the kind of bravery and courage he seems to think he possesses. Though given this anecdote, surfaced by The Daily Beast last year, that seems doubtful:
“So what happens is, this guy falls off right on his face, hits his head, and I thought he died. And you know what I did? I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s disgusting,’ and I turned away,” said Trump. “I couldn’t, you know, he was right in front of me and I turned away. I didn’t want to touch him… he’s bleeding all over the place, I felt terrible. You know, beautiful marble floor, didn’t look like it. It changed color. Became very red.
That’s Donald Trump talking about an elderly man falling off the stage at his gaudy Mar-A-Lago resort and literally turning away in disgust at the mere sight of blood on his perfect marble floor. Then there was this incident in 2016, when an unarmed protester rushed the stage during a campaign event and Donald Trump bolted from the podium faster than if he had been married to it.
Though he’s no stranger to offensive and ludicrous pronouncements, Donald Trump’s claim that he would have played the role of hero in Parkland might set a new threshold for depravity. Not only did he once again manage to spin a national tragedy involving the murder of children into a false narrative in which he plays a starring role, but in doing so he completely overwrote the actual heroism displayed by survivors and victims of the shooting.
There was Anthony Borges, a 15-year-old who shielded his classmates by blocking the door to a classroom even after five bullets tore through his body. There was 15-year-old Peter Wang, who gave his life while holding open a door to the building so people could escape. There was Ashley Kurth, and Scott Beigel, and Aaron Feis, and many other adults who did everything in their power to protect and comfort the students in their care. And there was Donald Trump, who was golfing during victims’ funerals. Perhaps the school hadn’t cleaned the blood off their marble floors to his satisfaction yet.
Update, Feb. 26 3:35 PM EST: During her daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to clarify Trump’s remarks, and suggested that when Donald Trump said “I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon,” he didn’t mean that he would really run in there even if he didn’t have a weapon.
“I think he was just stating that as a leader, he would have stepped in and hopefully been able to help, as a number of the individuals that were in the school—the coach, and other adults and even a lot of students—stepped up and helped protect other students,” she told CNN’s Jim Acosta. “I think the point he was making is that he would have wanted to have played a role in that as well.”
Acosta followed up by asking if Trump has any training or experience in firing a gun, to which Sanders reiterated that her boss should not be taken literally.
“I don’t think that is the point he was making,” she said. “He was saying that he would be a leader and would want to take a courageous action, and a lot of the individuals that helped protect others that day weren’t carrying firearms, which I think shows that you can be helpful in that process without it.”