During a White House school safety event on Thursday, President Donald Trump made no bones about the fact that he wants to militarize public schools.
The president repeatedly expressed his desire to keep schools safe by “hardening” them — namely, adding armed guards, and in some circumstances, allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons.
Trump went as far as to say that to him, a school “is frankly no different” than a military base, his implication being that it’s equally absurd to ban firearms from either.
The specifics of Trump’s proposal remain unclear. During a White House press briefing held shortly after Trump’s event ended, Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said that the Trump administration is definitely opposed to any new weapons ban, but beyond that, remains in “a listening phase.”
In lieu of discussing concrete proposals to keep schools safer, Trump spent most of Thursday’s event going on a number of rants. At various points, the president sounded off about the dangers of violent video games, called MS-13 members “absolute animals,” heaped praise upon Kellyanne Conway, expressed a surprising revulsion to active shooter drills in schools, suggested that John Kelly would make an ideal armed guard in a school, and repeatedly referred to Nikolas Cruz — the gunman who killed 17 people last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School school in Parkland, Florida — as “a sicko.”
Trump also dismissed anyone who doesn’t think more guns are the answer as naive idealists.
“I hear so many of these wonderful plans where you are going to live in this Utopian school and there’s not going to be any protection, there’s not going to be any guns, there’s not gonna be any bullets flying at the perpetrator — the animal that wants to destroy the lives of families and children. Unless you’re going to have offensive capability, you are wasting your time.”
But throughout it all, Trump avoided the subject of gun control. In fact, the topic of AR-15s, which was Cruz’s weapon of choice, wasn’t brought up a single time during the course of the event.
The only person who mentioned gun control was the Democratic mayor of Parkland, and Trump quickly changed the topic.
The mayor of Parkland mentioned the need for gun control but Trump didn't even acknowledge it. pic.twitter.com/1GmiQt2DdF
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 22, 2018
Trump also ignored that an armed guard was on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and was unable to stop the shooting.
Trump’s disinterest in gun control stands in contrast to the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who made clear during a CNN town hall event on Wednesday that they support an AR-15 ban. Perhaps the most remarkable moment of the event happened when Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) mentioned the possibility of an assault weapons ban as though it would be a very bad thing, leading the crowd to erupt in cheers.
Rubio responded by telling the cheering crowd that their position “is a valid position to hold,” and he backtracked after it ended. With nobody around to boo him or ask him why he didn’t do more to keep their children safe, Rubio tweeted that “banning all semi-auto weapons” is “a position well outside the mainstream.”