US President Donald Trump has said arming teachers could prevent school shootings like the one that left 17 people dead last week in Florida.
He endorsed stricter gun-control measures yesterday, including raising the minimum age to 21 for possessing a broader range of weapons than at present.
But Mr Trump’s most controversial proposal was to train teachers or others in schools to carry guns as a deterrent to attacks – a move long championed by the powerful NRA gun lobby.
Teachers carrying a concealed gun could end attacks “very quickly”, Mr Trump said.
“If a potential `sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school,” he tweeted.
“Cowards won’t go there...problem solved. Must be offensive, defence alone won’t work!”
Mr Trump made the declaration after listening intently at the White House on Wednesday as students described the horror of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The students and their parents appealed to him to press for stricter gun controls.
Hundreds of teenagers from the Washington DC suburbs rallied outside at the time – some voicing support for arming teachers.
Gunman Nikolas Cruz – a former pupil at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High – committed one of the deadliest school shootings in American history last week in killing 17 students and staff members and wounding many others.
Mr Trump tweeted his strongest stance on gun control yesterday, saying: “I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks!”
The federal minimum age for buying or possessing handguns is 21, but the limit is 18 for rifles, including assault-type weapons such as the AR-15 used by Cruz in last week’s attack.
A White House official said the president was not endorsing or ruling out any specific policy.
Mr Trump has previously expressed an interest in efforts to strengthen the federal background check system. It was not clear if he would back closing loopholes permitting loose private sales on the internet and at gun shows.
On Wednesday, Trump listened intently at the White House as students described the horror of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. The students and their parents appealed to him to press for stricter gun controls.
The US President had invited the teen survivors of school violence and parents of murdered children in a show of his resolve against gun violence in the wake of the Florida massacre and in past years at schools in Connecticut and Colorado.
Mr Trump asked his guests to suggest solutions and solicited feedback. He largely listened, holding handwritten notes bearing his message to the families. “I hear you” was written in black marker.
Besides considering concealed carrying of weapons by trained school employees – a concept Mr Trump has endorsed in the past – he said he planned to go “very strongly into age, age of purchase”.
Most in the group Wednesday were emotional, but quiet and polite.
But Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed last week, noted the previous school massacres and raged over his loss, saying this moment was not about gun laws, but about fixing the schools.
He said: “It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it and I’m pi**ed because my daughter, I’m not going to see again. King David Cemetery, that is where I go to see my kid now.”