At CPAC, Trump Reiterates Support For Arming Teachers To Prevent School Shootings

Feb 23, 2018
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump is speaking to a gathering of conservative activists outside our nation's capital this morning. In his remarks, the president again suggested that one of the best ways to prevent mass shootings like the one that happened last week in Parkland, Fla., is to arm some well-trained teachers with guns. NPR's Scott Horsley has been listening to the president's address to the CPAC crowd, and he joins us now. Hey, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: So the massacre in Florida last week has been a major theme at this year's CPAC conference. How could you not talk about it, right? The NRA executive Wayne LaPierre addressed the group yesterday about gun laws, along with Vice President Pence reinforcing their commitment to the Second Amendment. The president is also talking about how he thinks the government should respond. What's he been saying?

HORSLEY: President Trump says he wants to do what works. And he has said both the NRA and Republican lawmakers are in a mood to take some action in response to last week's shooting in Florida. Of course, Trump was elected with strong backing from the NRA. And one of the proposals that he has endorsed is one that the NRA supports, that is, as you say, giving some teachers a green light to carry weapons. Trump says schools need to go on offense as well as defense.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: When we declare our schools to be gun-free zones, it just puts our students in far more danger.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Far more danger.

HORSLEY: You can hear that's obviously a popular response with this crowd. The president has also talked about enhancing background checks for gun buyers. By that, he seems to mean getting more information into the database of those who are barred from buying weapons, not necessarily extending background checks to gun sales that aren't subject to them now. And he's also talked about raising the legal age for people to buy long guns. That's a proposal that does put him at odds with the NRA.

MARTIN: Before he left the White House this morning, I understand the president was asked about this sheriff's deputy in Broward County who ended up resigning over how he responded or didn't respond, rather, to the school shooting. What did the president have to say about that?

HORSLEY: Yeah. The president spoke critically of that deputy who is shown on videotape taking up a position outside one of the school buildings and staying outside for several minutes while the killing continued inside.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: They didn't react properly under pressure or they were a coward. It was a real shock to the police department.

HORSLEY: The president was pressed about that. He was asked if a trained sheriff's deputy didn't stop the Parkland shooter, why would he expect armed teachers to do any better? But the president stood by his idea.

MARTIN: So President Trump is also expected to, in this address, talk about the threat from North Korea and the new sanctions that his administration has placed on the regime there. I mean, we have heard sanctions package after sanctions package. Is there anything left to sanction in North Korea?

HORSLEY: You're right. I mean, North Korea is already cut off from much of the world's commerce as the international community tries to discourage growing Pyongyang's nuclear program. But the North Koreans have managed to evade some of those sanctions with illicit ship-to-ship transfers on the high seas of things like coal or petroleum. So that's what the U.S. is now targeting with these new sanctions, more than 50 vessels and shipping companies that have taken part in that illicit ship traffic. The U.S. is also sending out a warning to shippers around the world not to do business, even in secret, with the North Koreans.

MARTIN: This is clearly a friendly crowd for the president. The bit of the address I caught, he's getting a lot of applause. He's taken his time with this message because this is his audience. This is his crowd. And it's an election year, right? Midterms are coming up. So this is a moment that he wants to capitalize on, this particular conference and this audience.

HORSLEY: That's right. But it's worth remembering that CPAC was not always this president's crowd or Donald Trump's crowd before he was president. During the 2016 campaign, conservative activists weren't sure what to make of Donald Trump. After he won, though, they embraced him. And they've embraced him even more after this last year. So this was part victory lap, touting successes like the tax cuts and conservative judicial appointments. It was also part pep talk, reminding people that this is an election year, that the president's party typically loses seats in a midterm elections, saying the Democrats are going to be fired up and urging conservatives not to be complacent.

MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley for us this morning. Thanks so much, Scott.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.