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President Trump calls active shooter drills ‘a very negative thing’

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump continued to push the idea of arming teachers in schools during a meeting with state and local officials at the White House Thursday but also said having “active shooter drills is a very negative thing.”

“I mean if I’m a child and I’m 10 years old and they say we’re gonna have an active shooter drill and they say ‘what’s that?’ and I say ‘well, people may come in and shoot you,’ I think that’s a very negative thing to be honest. I don’t like it,” Trump said.

“I’d much rather have a hardened school. I don’t like it. I don’t like, I wouldn’t want to tell my son that you’re going to participate in an active shooter drill and I know some of them actually call it that. I think it’s crazy, I think it’s very bad for children.”

Trump said he’d prefer a “hardened school” where teachers with training or a military background carry weapons.

“We have to harden our schools, not soften them up,” Trump said. “You come into our schools – you’re gonna be dead. And it’s gonna be fast,” he added later.

Later, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah tried to clarify that the president doesn’t oppose safety drills to show teachers and students what to do in an active shooter situation, but that calling them “active shooter drills” could scare young students.

“The term active shooter drills particularly could be frightening for young children, he thinks a drill that has a different name that the brand of it frankly doesn’t frighten children might be a better way to approach it,” Shah told reporters at the White House briefing Thursday.

Trump’s suggestion to arm educators in the wake of a deadly mass shooting last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 dead and 14 injured, has been panned by some education groups, including the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union.

“Bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence. Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses and school counselors; they do not need more guns in their classrooms. Parents and educators overwhelmingly reject the idea of arming school staff,” NEA president Liky Eskelsen Garcia said in a statement.

“Educators need to be focused on teaching our students. We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators. Arming teachers does nothing to prevent that,” Eskelsen said.

Trump disagrees, saying that teachers carrying a weapon should be paid more money, adding that it would be cheaper and more effective than hiring armed guards. Shah said the White House has been in touch with some teachers who have indicated they would be willing to be trained to use a weapon.

Trump said that, by arming teachers, “practically for free” you have made the school less of a target, but did not provide specifics during Thursday’s meeting about how the administration would reduce the cost for school districts to train and arm teachers. He said later in the meeting, in which Education secretary Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions also participated, that the federal government would provide some funding for additional training.

Trump’s comments come as part of an ongoing discussion on how to change the country’s gun laws.

Over in Maryland, Vice President Mike Pence echoed some of the administration’s suggestions for reform and said school safety will be a top national priority in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

“As the president has said, no child, no teacher should ever be in danger in an American school,” he said, adding that the president has called on Congress to strengthen background checks and asked the Justice Department to regulate devices like bump stocks used to change rifles into machine guns.

“Later this week when the president meets with the nation’s governors in our nation’s capital we’ll make the safety of the nation’s schools and our students our top national priority,” he said.

National Rifle Association vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre echoed calls for schools to amp up security during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

“I refuse to leave this stage until I say one more time that we must immediately harden our schools every day,” LaPierre said. “Every day young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide-open soft targets for any one bent on mass murder.”

During Thursday’s meeting at the White House, Trump also said he’s spoken with lawmakers who support changes to strengthen the background check system and that the administration needs to look into how the Internet affects young people, saying that exposure to violent videos and video games are affecting people’s minds.

And he repeated an earlier promise to push raising the federal minimum age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21.

The NRA said in a statement on Wednesday that it would not support such a change.

“Passing a law that makes it illegal for a 20 year-old to purchase a shotgun for hunting or an adult single mother from purchasing the most effective self-defense rifle on the market punishes law-abiding citizens for the evil acts of criminals. The NRA supports efforts to prevent those who are a danger to themselves or others from getting access to firearms. At the same time, we will continue to oppose gun control measures that only serve to punish law-abiding citizens,” NRA Spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said in a statement.

The president met with students and family members affected by the shooting for a listening session on Wednesday on solutions to prevent mass shootings.

In that meeting, too, Trump floated the idea that more teachers should carry weapons in schools, indicating that if they had a gun they would be able to stop an active shooter.

“If the coach had a firearm in his locker, when he ran at this guy — that coach was very brave — saved a lot of lives, I suspect,” Trump said in the listening session, a comment that seemed to reference Aaron Feis a teacher and coach who was killed protecting students last week. “But, if he had a firearm, he wouldn’t have had to run. He would have shot, and that would have been the end of it. And this would only be, obviously, for people that are very adept at handling a gun. And it would be — it’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them.”

There was an armed security guard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but law enforcement said he did not encounter the gunman during the mass shooting, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said during a press conference on Friday.

Trump also defended the idea of arming teachers in a series of tweets on Thursday morning, saying that knowing there were armed teachers in a school could deter potential shooters.

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