US school shootings: Teachers to bear arms

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday said the idea of arming teachers to prevent school shootings will be considered in a debate over US gun ownership laws reignited by last week’s shooting at a Florida high school.

Trump heard a range of ideas on ending school shootings at a White House session in which survivors of the shooting and parents of students who died spoke out.

The “concealed-carry” suggestion would require teachers to have special training and would mean that schools would not be gun-free zones, which Trump said leaves them vulnerable to attackers who know no one at the school is armed.

“This would only be, obviously, for people who are very adept at handling a gun,” Trump said.

Reflecting on the most recent shooting in which 17 people were shot dead, Trump said if a coach, who was one of the victims, had had a firearm in his locker “he would have had a shot and that would have been the end of it.”

Trump said the idea of arming teachers will be discussed along with stricter background checks on gun buyers with emphasis on their mental health and age.

The father of a first-grade boy killed in 2012 at a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut pushed back against the idea of arming teachers. Mark Barden urged Trump instead to back the gun violence prevention group he co-founded after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“Schoolteachers have more than enough responsibilities right now than to have to have the awesome responsibility of lethal force to take a life,” he told Trump.

He said his group, Sandy Hook Promise, has created a programme to train students and teachers to recognize and report warning signs of school shootings.

“We have a solution right here,” Barden said. “We’re asking for you to please help. We need to do this nationally, now.”

Trump, who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in the 2016 presidential election, promised students and families his administration would work hard on finding a solution and thanked participants.

“There can be nothing worse than what you’ve gone through,” he told them.

One week ago 19-year-old Nicholas Cruz opened fire with an AR-15 rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Cruz is charged with killing 17 students and teachers.

A gun control movement dubbed “Never Again” launched by survivors of the shooting has since been gathering momentum, with student protesters meeting lawmakers and holding demonstrations.

Earlier Wednesday hundreds of teens rallied for stricter gun laws in Washington. Some 500 teens staged school walkouts and gathered outside the Capitol to demand a ban on assault rifles and stricter background checks for those acquiring guns.

Their numbers swelled to about 1,000 as the teens marched towards the White House.

Molly Howard, a 14-year-old student at Montgomery Blair High School in Maryland, said she was rallying because she believes semi-automatic weapons like the one used by Cruz should not be covered by the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

“For what reason do people need access to weapons of war? It makes no sense at all,” she said. “We live in a democracy and we’ve taken that for granted for too long. Now, under Trump, people are starting to realize that.”

The White House was criticized last week after Trump focussed on Cruz’s mental health rather than his ability to legally acquire an assault weapon.

In an attempt to appease gun control advocates, the Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it was moving to ban bump stocks – devices that enable semi-automatic rifles to fire faster.

Trump wants to avoid alienating his pro-gun base while also ceding to public opinion. According to a poll released on Tuesday by Quinnipiac University, 66 per cent of US citizens are in favour of stricter gun laws, while 31 per cent are opposed.(dpa/NAN)

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