WHITE HOUSE —
U.S. President Donald Trump refined his gun control views Thursday, saying he wants only the most trained 20 to 40 percent of teachers to carry concealed weapons to thwart school massacres.
"These would be people that actually would want them. And it would be a small percentage but it would be a lot of people. And once you do this you will have a situation where all of a sudden this horrible plague will stop," Trump said in reply to a question from VOA at the end of a 55-minute White House session on school shootings.
The U.S. leader said if capably trained teachers are armed with concealed weapons they could "immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards."
He offered his gun thoughts in a string of Twitter comments a day after meeting at the White House with survivors of schoolhouse shooting rampages and relatives of victims.
Trump said schools in the U.S. that have declared themselves as "gun free" are a "magnet for bad people," but that if some teachers were armed, "ATTACKS WOULD END!"
Trump's support for arming teachers drew modest support at his White House "listening session" a week after a man armed with an AR-15 assault-style rifle gunned down 14 students and three adults at a high school in Parkland, Florida, setting off a storm of protests over school safety in the U.S.
Nineteen-year-old troubled former student Nikolas Cruz is being held without bond on 17 counts of premeditated murder at the Broward County jail.
At one point while talking about arming teachers, Trump asked: "Does everybody like that idea?"
A few people raised their hands. The president then asked who opposed it and more hands went up from the estimated 40 people in the room, mainly students, family members and educators directly affected by school shootings. Some prominent U.S. educators also said they oppose arming teachers.
In another of his Thursday tweets, Trump said, "History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!"
He added, "If a potential 'sicko shooter' knows that a school has a large number of ... weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there...problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work!"
Trump also praised Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, two officials at the National Rifle Association (NRA), the country's top gun lobby, that is opposing almost every restriction that gun opponents have advanced in the aftermath of last week's rampage. Trump called them "Great People and Great American Patriots (who) love our Country and will do the right thing."
Hours after Trump's White House gathering, CNN staged a town hall event in Florida that included survivors of last week's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Florida Senator Marco Rubio told the audience he does not support arming teachers and defended his acceptance of more than $3 million in political campaign donations from the NRA.
Under questioning by students, parents and teachers, Rubio also said tighter gun laws alone will not prevent future shootings, while he does support a minimum age for buying rifles and a ban on the bump stocks that can allow some weapons to shoot more bullets more quickly.
Scott Israel, the sheriff in the county that includes Parkland, said trained deputies would carry rifles on school grounds, but he also rejected the idea of giving guns to teachers.
Trump is set to hold another meeting on school safety Thursday at the White House, this time with state and local officials.