President Trump said Friday that gun-free school zones don’t protect students, as he renewed his call to arm more qualified teachers and other school employees.
“When we declare our schools to be gun-free zones, it just puts our students in far more danger,” Mr. Trump said at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. “Well-trained gun-adept teachers and coaches and people that work in those buildings who were in the Marines for 20 years … should be able to carry concealed firearms. It’s time to make our schools a much harder target for attackers.”
He said the U.S. needs to implement commonsense measures that will protect the rights of law-abiding Americans while helping to keep guns out of the hands of those who pose a danger to themselves and to others.
Mr. Trump said the families who lost loved ones at last week’s shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, have “suffered beyond anything I’ve ever witnessed.”
“This was a sick person,” he said of accused gunman Nikolas Cruz. “We had a lot of warning about him being sick. This wasn’t a surprise. So what are we doing? We want to ensure when there are warning signs, we can act, and act quickly.”
He added, “A teacher would have shot the hell out of him.”
The president also criticized the sheriff’s deputy who failed to stop the shooting, saying, “He was tested under fire and it was not a good result.”
Noting that he was wading into the controversial area of gun control, the president said, “There’s nobody that loves the Second Amendment more than I do. But we really do have to strengthen up background checks. And we don’t want the mentally ill to have any form of weaponry. I really believe Congress is going to get it through this time.”
He added that he intends to review the U.S. policy against soldiers carrying firearms on military installations.
“I’m going to look at that whole policy on military bases. If we can’t have our military holding guns, it’s pretty bad,” Mr. Trump said.
The crowd at CPAC gave Mr. Trump an enthusiastic welcome, with cheers and standing ovations. He reminded the audience jokingly that before he became president, some questioned his conservative credentials.
“I think now that we’ve proved I’m a conservative,” the president said.
At one point, talking about his achievements on border security, Mr. Trump reassured the crowd, “Don’t worry, you’re getting the wall.” The cheering audience members chanted “Build that wall!”
The president also brought the crowd to its feet by paying tribute to the late Rev. Billy Graham, who died this week at age 99. He said Rev. Graham’s belief in the power of God’s word “changed the world.”
Noting the upcoming midterm elections, Mr. Trump warned against consequences if Democrats have success in November.
“They will take away those massive tax cuts and they will take away your Second Amendment,” he said.
Mr. Trump then took an informal poll of the crowd to see — if they had to choose — whether they would like to keep the Second Amendment or the tax cuts, with the crowd overwhelmingly choosing their gun rights.
“I’m going to leave it at the Second Amendment,” he said.
There were some boos and jeers when Mr. Trump alluded to Sen. John McCain’s decisive “no” vote on one of the GOP’s attempts to repeal Obamacare last year.
“Who was that? I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t want to be controversial, so I won’t use his name. What a mess.”