Donald Trump has said he will consider a proposal to arm school teachers in an attempt to prevent mass shootings, a move certain to prove fiercely divisive.
The US president, holding a listening session at the White House with survivors of last week’s Florida school shooting and others affected by gun violence, claimed that allowing airline pilots to carry and conceal guns had demonstrated the measure could be a success.
an armed security guard on site but he did not get the chance to engage the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, on the sprawling campus. In May 2016, during the presidential election, Trump tweeted: “Crooked Hillary [Clinton] said that I want guns brought into the school classroom. Wrong!”
Nicole Hockley, whose six-year-old son Dylan died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, spoke out against the idea of arming teachers. “It’s not personally something that I support. Rather than arming them with a firearm, I would rather arm them with the knowledge of how to prevent these acts from happening in the first place,” she told Trump.
Safety assessments programmes and interventions for troubled children are vital, she added. “Let’s talk about prevention. There is so much that we can do to help people before it reaches that point, and I urge you please stay focused on that as well. It is the gun, it’s the person behind the gun and it’s about helping people before they ever reach that point.”
Earlier during the session in the state dining room, where some speakers were tearful but composed as they recalled their experiences, Hockley also issued a challenge to the president. ‘This is not difficult,” she told him. “These deaths are preventable. And I implore you: consider your own children. You don’t want to be me. No parent does.”
During the meeting Trump also asserted that he would be “very strong” on background checks for gun buyers as well as mental health issues. He sat in the middle of a semi-circle listening intently as six survivors of last week’s shooting and bereaved parents from Parkland, Columbine and Sandy Hook took turns to address him.
Sam Zeif, 18, a Parkland student whose text messages with his brother during last week’s shooting went viral, fought back tears as he told Trump: “I turned 18 the day after. Woke up to the news that my best friend was gone. I don’t understand why I can still go in a score and buy a weapon of war, an AR. I was reading today that a person 20 years old walked into a store and bought an AR-15 in five minutes with an expired ID. How is it that easy to buy this type of weapon? How are we not stopping this after columbine, after Sandy Hook, sitting with a mother that lost her son? It’s still happening.”
Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow was killed, reflected the candid anger of many when he took the microphone. “We’re here because my daughter has no voice – she was murdered last week, shot nine times,” he said. “How many schools, how many children have to get shot? It stops here, with this administration and me.”
Pollack, his voice rising with raw emotion, added: “It should have been one school shooting, and we should have fixed it, and I’m pissed because my daughter, I’m not going to see again.”