National News

Trump Condemns Florida Officer Who Didn’t Act; Sticks by Plan to Arm Teachers

Posted February 23, 2018 3:03 p.m. EST
Updated February 23, 2018 3:11 p.m. EST

President Donald Trump on Friday condemned a Parkland, Florida, sheriff’s deputy who stayed outside the school he was patrolling while a shooting rampage unfolded inside last week, even as he insisted that his proposal to arm well-trained teachers would have prevented the massacre.

“When it came time to get in there and do something, he didn’t have the courage, or something happened, but he certainly did a poor job — there’s no question about that,” Trump said of Scot Peterson, who resigned Thursday after surveillance video showed he had failed to enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland to confront the gunman as he was in the process of killing 17 people.

“He was there for five minutes — for five minutes,” Trump added. “That was during the entire shooting. He heard it right from the beginning. So he certainly did a poor job, but that’s a case where somebody was outside, they’re trained, they didn’t act properly under pressure, or they were a coward.”

He spoke on his way to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Maryland, where he promoted his proposal — embraced by the National Rifle Association — to allow some teachers and other educators to carry concealed firearms in schools. He said Thursday that such gun-wielding teachers should be paid a small bonus and that he would devote federal resources to training them to use weapons to protect students.

“These teachers love their students, and these teachers are talented with weaponry and with guns,” Trump said Friday during a fiery speech to the conservative gathering, where he said Democrats wanted to revoke Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

“I’d rather have somebody that loves their students and wants to protect their students than somebody standing outside that doesn’t know anybody and doesn’t know the students, and frankly, for whatever reason, decided not to go in even though he heard lots of shots being fired inside,” Trump said, referring to Peterson. He said the officer “was not a credit to law enforcement.”

Speaking of the gunman in Parkland, Trump added that if his idea had been in place, “a teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened.”

It was the third time in as many days that Trump, who has vowed to take swift action following the latest gun massacre in a U.S. school, has championed the idea of transforming schools into heavily fortified zones where educators would secretly be carrying weapons to guard against attacks.

Trump is under pressure to embrace stiffer gun restrictions, such as a ban on assault weapons and limits on high-capacity ammunition, despite vehement NRA opposition. The president instead has seized the idea of loosening gun laws to protect schools.

“Why do we protect our airports and our banks, our government buildings, but not our schools?” Trump said. “It’s time to make our schools a much harder target for attackers.”

He said declaring schools gun-free zones “puts our students in far more danger.”

Trump, who was endorsed by the NRA during his campaign and has been an ardent ally, suggested that he was pressuring the pro-gun lobby to accept measures it had deemed objectionable. But the two proposals he mentioned Friday — improving background checks for gun buyers and ensuring that mentally ill people cannot access firearms — are both supported by the group.

The comments were part of a highly partisan speech to the conservative gathering — attended by some of Trump’s core supporters — in which the president proclaimed his first 12 months in office “the most successful first year in the history of the presidency.” He referred to Democrats as “crazed” and said his opponents had “committed a lot of atrocities” — all to rapturous applause. Trump also outlined his efforts to step up immigration enforcement and crack down on sanctuary cities, those that decline to cooperate with federal immigration authorities to track and remove unauthorized immigrants. And he resurrected a favorite campaign-trail routine of reciting the lyrics to a song called “The Snake,” about a woman who takes in an ailing snake that recovers and repays her with a lethal bite — suggesting an analogy between immigrants and a poisonous reptile.

“Think of it in terms of immigration,” Trump said, before reciting the verses for the cheering audience. When he finished, he said: “And that’s what we’re doing with our country, we’re letting them in.”

Trump ended the address with a call to action for Republicans and warned that they must not be complacent about getting out to vote in 2018 and defeating Democrats.

“They want to give your money away, they want to end your tax cuts, they want to do things you wouldn’t believe — including taking your Second Amendment rights away,” Trump said. “They will do that, so we have to get out there, and we have to fight in ’18 like never before.”