- The Washington Times - Friday, May 4, 2018

DALLAS — President Trump on Friday reiterated his call to arm qualified teachers as part of the response to the recent Parkland, Florida, school shooting, while slamming gun-free zones as invitations to potential mass killers.

“We strongly believe in allowing highly-trained teachers to carry concealed weapons,” Mr. Trump said, also calling for “highly trained security guards.”

He said there’s no sign “more inviting” to a mass killer than a sign declaring that a school is a gun-free zone.

“All of us here today are deeply committed to school safety,” Mr. Trump said.

He also told gun-rights activists at the National Rifle Association’s 2018 convention he will protect their Second Amendment rights.

“Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never ever be under siege as long as I am your president,” he said.

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“The one thing that has always stood between the American people and the elimination of our Second Amendment rights has been conservatives in Congress willing to fight for those rights,” the president said, urging people to get out and vote in the midterm elections this year.

The crowd, which Mr. Trump said was an all-time record, greeted the president with an extended standing ovation and chants of “USA! USA! USA!”

Mr. Trump also gave a shout-out to several Texas politicians, including Sen. Ted Cruz, his one-time presidential rival who is up for re-election this year.

“That was very rousing. That’s a good sign,” Mr. Trump said of the crowd’s enthusiastic reaction to his mention of Mr. Cruz.

Mr. Trump was speaking at the “Leadership Forum” hosted by the NRA’s legislative-lobbying arm at the gun-rights group’s 2018 convention.

In 2016, Mr. Trump secured the NRA’s earliest-ever president endorsement, which the group announced at its convention that year. The gun-rights group was also one of his biggest financial supporters, putting more than $30 million into efforts to boost his campaign.

SEE ALSO: Mike Pence to NRA: In the Trump administration, right to bear arms will ‘not be infringed’

After the Valentine’s Day shooting in Parkland, the president had called for arming qualified teachers as one possible solution to the gun violence problem.

He also chastised lawmakers at a White House summit for being “afraid of the NRA” and signaled he could potentially support compromise legislation to expand gun-purchase background checks as part of a broader gun package.

But the White House backed off any potential support for the legislation from GOP Sen. Pat Toomey and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin after Mr. Trump met with NRA officials soon after the bipartisan summit with congressional leaders.

Gun control groups said the reversal confirmed their own accusations that the president himself is beholden to the NRA’s agenda.

Gun rights supporters also blanched when Mr. Trump said at the meeting with lawmakers to “take the guns first, go through due process second” when it comes to keeping guns away from potentially dangerous individuals.

Nevertheless, convention attendees said they remain extremely loyal to the president.

“One thing I do like about Trump is he fights, at least it seems like he does,” said Michael Butler, 66, who is from near Fort Hood.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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