ADDS WHITE HOUSE COMMENTS
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - President Donald Trump on Thursday supported arming trained school teachers as a means to end America's continued rash of school shootings.
In an early morning tweetstorm, Trump said giving as many as 20 percent of teachers concealed firearms will deter would-be "sicko" shooters.
"A 'gun free' school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!" Trump said. "Highly trained, gun adept teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!"
The suggestion comes one week after 17 students and adults were murdered in a Florida high school by a gunman armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle.
The mass shooting, one of the worst in modern U.S. history, prompted more than 100 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland to rally to the state capitol Wednesday to urge action from lawmakers as students across the state walked out of classes in protest.
But as survivors took the more than 400-mile (643-kilometer) trip to Tallahassee, state representatives declined to debate a potential assault rifle ban.
In Trump's raft of tweets, he suggested increasing the age to legally purchase a firearm to 21, comprehensive background checks including mental health checks, and ending the sale of a gun modification used to turn semi-automatic firearms into near-automatic guns.
Those proposals could face stiff opposition in Congress, where lawmakers backed by the highly influential National Rifle Association (NRA) are unlikely to lend their full support.
The NRA has staunchly opposed raising the age for gun purchases, and its president told a conservative gathering in Washington that gun control advocates are exploiting the "tragedy for political gain".
"The break back speed of calls for more gun control laws and the breathless national media eager to smear the NRA ... think about that," Wayne LaPierre said, arguing that efforts should instead be made to "harden our schools".
"The elites don’t care one wit about school children. If they truly cared, they would protect them," he added.
During a meeting with state and local officials on school safety, Trump said he thought the NRA would back an increase to the age requirement while doubling down on his insistence that trained teachers be armed.
"If we don't have offensive measures within these schools, you're just kidding yourselves folks," Trump said. "To get this done, we do need defense, but we also need offensive capability."
After a reporter brought up that most school shootings are carried out with assault rifles or other long-barreled weapons, the White House acknowledged the concealed weapons Trump is proposing “are of a certain variety”.
That type of weapon would almost always be a handgun, which would be outmatched in a shootout.