(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump in an address to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday continued his call to arm teachers and school staff to deter potential mass shooters — a refrain he has repeated this week in the wake of a deadly shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school.
He also promised the administration will take action on recommendations from survivors of last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, including improvements to background checks and improved mental health services.
Many of the students who survived the shooting have been calling for gun control and improved school security.
“I can speak for all of the senators, congressmen and congresswomen, all of the people in this room that are involved in this decision, that we will act and do something. We will act,” Trump said.
The president called for increased mental health support and said the shooter was a “sick person,” and continued to call for more security in schools.
“When we declare our schools gun-free zones, it just puts our students in far more danger,” he said, repeating his calls to arm teachers with training or military experience.
Trump continued to repeat his call to “harden” schools as a deterrent for people who would go into a school intending to harm students or teachers.
“This would be a major deterrent because these people are inherently cowards. If they thought — like, if this guy thought that other people would be shooting bullets back at him, he would not have gone to that school. He would not have gone there,” he said.
Trump said Stoneman Douglas had a big campus and would have to have “150 real guards.” The school had one armed guard who the Broward County Sheriff said did not go into the school to engage the shooter, and has since resigned.
His speech also stressed support for the Second Amendment.
The president called for attendees to vote in the midterm elections and indicated that if Democrats win, they will take away tax cuts, asking, “If you only had a choice of when, what would you rather have: Second Amendment or tax cuts?”
“I will leave it at the Second Amendment,” he said. “I don’t want to get into that battle. We’re gonna say you want the Second Amendment the most, but we are going to get them all.”
Earlier in the morning, the president slammed the Florida deputy who was armed and outside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school, but did not enter the school when the shooting began.
“When it came time to go in there and do something, he didn’t have the courage or something happened, but he certainly did a poor job — there’s no question about that,” Trump said.
Deputy Scot Peterson, a school resource officer, was suspended without pay after Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said video showed him taking up a defensive position during the shooting, but never entering the school.
Peterson retired following the suspension.
The president spoke as he left the White House on his way to make a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a gathering where the topic of gun policy reform has been front and center.
Trump was asked by ABC News’ Cecilia Vega whether the fact that the armed deputy did not engage the shooter gives him pause given that he has been recommending that teachers and other school officials might get firearm training to defend their classrooms against gun violence.
“He certainly did a poor job. But that’s the case where somebody’s outside, they’re trained, they didn’t react properly under pressure — or they were a coward,” he added.
Asked whether a teacher with a gun could do a better job than a sheriff’s deputy, Trump did not address the question in his response.
“I think we have a group of people that want to do the right thing. The NRA is composed of people I know very well. These are people, great people, patriots that love our country,” he said.
Trump said he will be exploring ways to make schools safer that involve “offensive power” as well as measures to strengthen background checks when a person tries to buy a gun.
He also reiterated his focus on mental health, noting that authorities ignored many warning signs about the shooter.
“They should have caught it. This could have been prevented. So the whole mental situation is very big.”
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