Wednesday 18 September 2019

Trump: Armed guard who failed to tackle school shooter is 'a coward'

Donald Trump is looking to increase economic pressure on North Korea. Photo: AP
Donald Trump is looking to increase economic pressure on North Korea. Photo: AP

Ben Riley-Smith in Washington

US President Donald Trump said the armed officer who stayed outside during the school shooting last week in South Florida was either a "coward" or "didn't react properly under pressure".

Trump made his remarks to reporters outside the White House en route to a national gathering of conservatives in Maryland, where he reiterated his view that a primary strategy to counter such shootings is to arm teachers with concealed weapons.

Scot Peterson, school resource officer assigned to protect students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, took a defensive position outside the school and did not go into the building while shooter and former pupil Nikolas Cruz (19) was murdering students and teachers with an AR-15 assault-style rifle.

"When it came time to get in there or do something, he didn't have the courage," Mr Trump told reporters. "He certainly did a poor job.

"They didn't react properly under pressure or they were a coward."

Mr Peterson, a Broward sheriff's deputy, broke with police practices put in place following the Columbine massacre in 1999.

Instead of waiting for back-up or specially trained teams to arrive, officers are trained to pursue and eliminate the threat as soon as possible in an attempt to save lives.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel criticised Mr Peterson for his inaction, saying he should have "killed the killer".

Mr Peterson, who had been with the department for more than three decades, resigned on Thursday after being suspended and media attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.

Mr Trump told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that if the Democrats win seats this year they will "repeal your tax cuts" and "take away your Second Amendment," which he said, "we will never allow to happen".

He asked the crowd which priority they'd pick if they only had a choice of one. The cheers were louder for the gun rights.

He has also proposed increasing the minimum age for the purchase of certain guns in the wake of last week's school shooting in Florida. The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposes the plan.

Mr Trump defended the NRA, America's biggest gun lobby, saying it was led by "great people" who would "do the right thing" as he intensified his support for arming school teachers.

The US president said "attacks would end" if around a fifth of America's teachers were armed with concealed weapons and trained how to use them.

Mr Trump wrote on Twitter: "What many people don't understand is that the folks who work so hard at the NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots."

He added: "If a potential 'sicko shooter' knows a school has a large number of very weapons-talented teachers and others who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack. Cowards won't go there."

Mr Trump also vowed to strongly push tighter background checks for those purchasing weapons, along with investment in mental health services and potentially raising the minimum age people can buy a semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21.

Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the NRA, offered free firearms training to schools to stop the "evil that walks among us".

Mr LaPierre delivered a full-throated defence of the Second Amendment - which enshrines the right to bear arms - at the CPAC to a group of young conservatives.

He said: "We must immediately harden our schools.

"Every day, young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide open, soft targets for anyone bent on mass murder.

"The elites don't care not one whit about America's school system and school children.

"Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms."

However, Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican senator and ardent NRA supporter, criticised the widespread arming of teachers.

He said: "The notion that my kids are going to school with teachers that are armed with a weapon is not something, quite frankly, I'm comfortable with."

Alfonso Calderon (16) a survivor of the Florida shooting, said: "As far as I'm aware teachers are meant to be educators.

"They are not meant to know how to put on Kevlar vests for the other students or themselves."

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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