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Trump again backs armed teachers, faults guard at school

President Donald Trump delivers remarks to the CPAC

President Donald Trump delivers remarks to the CPAC conference, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, in Oxon Hill, Md. Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump on Friday said teachers adept at firearms should be armed with concealed weapons as he criticized the Florida high school guard who failed to confront the gunman, saying he froze under pressure or was a “coward.”

In a speech to enthusiastic conservative activists, Trump suggested that had teachers and staff been armed at the Florida high school where a gunman killed 17, “The teacher would have shot the hell out of him before it ever happened.”

The president also said, “And I’d 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, and, frankly, for whatever reason, decided not to go in even though he heard lots of shots being fired inside,” a reference to the school guard.

Trump did not stray far from the National Rifle Association line, calling for better mental health care, hardening schools and stronger background checks. But he didn’t mention his idea to raise the age to buy semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21 — a move the NRA opposes.

As he left for the Conservative Political Action Conference in nearby Oxon Hill, Maryland, Trump derided the school guard, former Deputy Sheriff Scot Peterson, who resigned after it was determined he had stayed outside the school as the gunman rampaged inside.

“When it came time to get in there and do something, he didn’t have the courage or something happened. But he certainly did a poor job,” Trump said. “That’s a case where somebody was outside, they’re trained, they didn’t act properly . . . or they were a coward.”

The audience applauded and chanted “USA” as Trump took the stage at the conference, where he spoke for more than an hour to take a victory lap for his first year’s accomplishments and to charge up activists for this year’s midterm elections. One protester was escorted out.

Trump cited as his achievements: “a blazing economy,” more conservative judges, the tax-cut bill, cutting federal regulations and boosting funds for the military.

“My administration, I think, has had the most successful first year in the history of the presidency,” he declared. “I really believe it.”

He touched on issues that stoked the crowd: standing for the national anthem, building the border wall, stepping up law enforcement to create safe streets, honoring the death of evangelist Billy Graham, and a reference to Hillary Clinton without naming her, prompting a chant of “lock her up.”

Throughout the speech he kept returning to his plea to the conservative activists in the hall not to become complacent ahead of the midterm elections in November, which will determine whether Republicans continue to control the House and Senate.

“You have to get out. You have to get that enthusiasm. Keep it going,” Trump said.

He repeatedly accused Democrats of being resistant to his law-and-order agenda. “You meet with Democrats,” he said, “they are always fighting for the criminal.”

If Democrats win back the majority in Congress, Trump warned they would try to block and roll back much of his agenda, and, echoing NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre’s speech at the conference Thursday, said they would seek to take their guns away.

“Remember that they will take away those massive tax cuts, and they will take away your Second Amendment,” Trump said.

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