Trump defends NRA amid calls to arm teachers
Donald Trump defended the National Rifle Association (NRA), America's biggest gun lobby, yesterday 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 in how to use them.
Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the NRA, last night offered free firearms training to schools to stop the "evil that walks among us".
Mr Trump's enthusiasm for arming teachers was a response to America's worst high school shooting.
Nikolas Cruz (19) is suspected of opening fire with a semi-automatic rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last week, leaving 17 people dead.
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.
"If a potential 'sicko shooter' knows that a school has a large number of very weapons-talented teachers and others who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will never attack that school.
"Cowards won't go there."
He also vowed to push for tighter background checks for those buying weapons, along with investment in mental health services, and potentially raising the age people can buy a semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21.
Mr Trump said: "Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue - I hope."
Mr LaPierre stepped into the debate with a full-throated defence of the Second Amendment, which enshrines the right to bear arms.
"We must immediately harden our schools," he said.
"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 about America's school system and schoolchildren.
"Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms."
He questioned why professional basketball games and parts of Hollywood had armed guards but schools did not, and lashed out at the FBI for failing to act on a tip about the gunman.
However, Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida and ardent NRA supporter, publicly criticised the proposal to arm teachers.
He said: "The notion that my kids are going to school with teachers that are armed with a weapon is not something that... I'm comfortable with."
Alfonso Caldero (16), a survivor of the Florida shooting, said: "Teachers are meant to be educators. They are not meant to know how to carry AR-15s. They are not meant to know how to put on Kevlar vests."
Mr Trump floated the idea on Wednesday during an emotionally charged White House "listening session" with survivors of mass shootings in Florida, Columbine and Sandy Hook.
At the session Andrew Pollack, who lost his daughter Meadow (18) in the Florida shooting, told the president: "It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it. And I'm p-----. We as a country failed our children. I can't get on the plane with a bottle of water, but we leave some animal to walk into a classroom and shoot our children."