US president Donald Trump has pressed for the arming of teachers and more school security guards following last week’s mass shooting in Florida.
Basking in the glow of the cheering crowd of friendly conservatives at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland, Mr Trump urged activists to help Republicans in the autumn mid-term elections and heed his recent calls to address American gun violence.
Before he left for CPAC event, Mr Trump questioned the alleged inaction of an armed officer who failed to stop the gunman who carried out last week’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead.
He told reporters that “when it came time to get in there and do something”, Florida deputy Scot Peterson “didn’t have the courage, or something happened”.
“He certainly did a poor job,” Mr Trump said. “But that’s a case where somebody was outside, they’re trained, they didn’t react properly under pressure, or they were a coward.”
Long supported by powerful gun lobby group the National Rifle Association (NRA), Mr Trump has sought to maintain his backing among gun rights activists even as he has called for strengthening background checks and raising the minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles in the wake of the mass killing.
He said that past efforts to address school safety and gun violence had faded and “nothing ever gets done”. He said: “We want to see if we can get it done. Let’s get it done right, we really owe it to our country.”
He added: “Most of it’s just common sense. It’s not ‘do you love guns, do you hate guns’. It’s common sense.”
Mr Trump then surveyed the audience of conservatives on which issue was more important to them, and listened as the crowd cheered loudly in support of the Second Amendment.
Mr Trump’s speech at CPAC came at the end of a week that included meetings with students and teachers and state and local officials on ways to bolster school safety and address gun violence. Mr Trump said the “evil massacre” of 17 people at a Florida high school last week had “broken our hearts”.
He added that designating schools as “gun-free zones” puts students in “far more danger”. He reiterated his push for “gun-adept teachers and coaches” to be able to carry concealed firearms and said it was “time to make our schools a much harder target for attackers — we don’t want them in our schools”.
If a teacher had been carrying a concealed firearm at the Florida school, “the teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened”, Mr Trump asserted.
Officials announced on Thursday that Mr Peterson did not go inside to engage the gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, while the shooting was under way. Mr Peterson has resigned.
“It was a real shot to the police department,” Mr Trump said, before leaving the White House. “This could have been prevented.”