OXON HILL, M.D. — President Donald Trump addressed the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, and in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., last week, he made an explosive call for more guns in schools. Trump shot down his critics and presented a concrete plan to defend schools better.
“Why do we protect our airports and our banks, our government buildings, but not our schools?” Trump asked. “It is time to make our schools a much harder target for attackers.”
In order to do so, the president called for a radical change in the strategy for peace in American schools. “When we declare our schools to be gun-free zones, it just puts our students in far more danger. Far more danger,” Trump argued.
When it comes to guns in schools, however, the president wasn’t just calling for everyone to carry weapons. “Well-trained, gun-adept teachers and coaches and people that work in those buildings, people that were in the Marines for 20 years, and retired, people in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, people that are adept, adept with weaponry, and with guns, they teach,” he said.
Then came the crucial detail: “I mean, I don’t want to have 100 guards standing with rifles all over the school,” Trump said. “You do a conceal carry permit.”
Having gun-adept teachers and administrators conceal their weapons not only provides a disincentive for potential school shooters who might meet an armed teacher, but it also prevents a potential shooter from knowing which teachers are armed, and how to circumvent them.
“This would be a major deterrent, because these people are inherently cowards,” Trump said, speaking of the shooters. “If they thought — like if this guy thought — that other people would be shooting bullets back at him, he wouldn’t have got to that school. He wouldn’t have gone there.”
The president noted that Marjory Stoneman Douglas “is a gun-free zone. It says this is a gun-free zone. Please check your guns away — far away.”
As for his idea, Trump attacked CNN for twisting the truth. “They said, Donald Trump wants all teachers…. Okay, fake news, folks. Fake news. I don’t want a person that has never handled a gun, that wouldn’t know what a gun looks like, to be armed,” he said.
Even so, “out of your teaching population, you have 10 percent, 20 percent, very gun-adept people. Military people, law enforcement people, they teach,” Trump said.
“These teachers — and I’ve seen them — these teachers love their students and the students love their teachers, in many cases,” he added. “I would 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,” the president argued, citing the story that the armed deputy did not go into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the shooting.
“The teachers, and the coaches, and other people in the building — the dean, the assistant dean, the principal, they can — they love their people, they want to protect these kids,” Trump explained.
In this speech, the president fleshed out his proposal, and addressed many complaints. This idea has all the hallmarks of success — rather than a top-down program like gun control, it would integrate the already existing network of gun-adept staff at schools.
Having concealed carry weapons in schools would not only help protect students, but it would also not have the unintended consequence of making students feel terrorized. Armed guards patrolling schools would put kids and teachers on edge, and it would remove the personal connection of students to teachers, principals, and coaches, who would likely be honored and very interested in protecting the children in their care.
Unfortunately, President Trump did not stop with this proposal. He also suggested that even though “there is nobody that loves the Second Amendment more than I do, and there is nobody that respects the NRA … we really do have to strengthen up, really strengthen up background checks.”
Current law already requires background checks, and most of the current mass shootings would not have been prevented by tougher regulations. Perhaps Trump put this suggestion in his platform as a bargaining tactic, but it was concerning to fans of the Second Amendment.
Trump’s speech also featured a tribute to “America’s pastor” Billy Graham, and a recitation of singer-songwriter Oscar Brown Jr.’s song “The Snake,” repurposed to attack dangerous immigrants. The president also showed a bald spot on the back of his head.
Whatever the merits and defects of the speech, Trump deserves hearty praise for his suggestion that teachers, coaches, and administrators in schools should conceal carry weapons to deter school shootings. This proposal cuts through much of the debate and enables school officials themselves to defend students on the local level. It is a quintessentially conservative — and brilliant — idea.