President Donald Trump again on Monday criticized Florida law enforcement officers who did not enter the Parkland high school where a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 people earlier this month.
“I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon,” the president told a group of Republican and Democratic governors during a summit on a range of issues at the White House. He called it “disgusting” that a handful of officers who responded to the shooting quickly did not immediately storm the school.
Trump on Friday called Scot Peterson — the deputy assigned to the school who has since resigned — a “coward.”
Three days later, he said all the officers who remained outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while Nikolas Cruz repeatedly fired his AR-15 semiautomatic rifle “weren’t exactly Medal of Honor winners.”
The president also revealed he had lunch with National Rifle Association leaders over the weekend, including chief executive Wayne LaPierre.
“Don’t worry about the NRA,” Trump said. “They’re on our side.”
Watch: Students March for Gun Control
Trump and the NRA, which holds great influence over Republican lawmakers, appear at odds over his notion of raising the age limit to buy semiautomatic guns to 21. He told the governors that while he thinks the NRA is doing what it believes is right, there will be times they collectively will have to “fight” the organization.
Notably, after saying days earlier he would be willing to use federal dollars to arm and train teachers to take on mass shooters, the president — seemingly out of the blue — shifted course over the weekend.
It should be “up to states” to provide firearms and training to teachers so they can combat school shooters, Trump tweeted around 2 p.m. Saturday.
“Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them. Very smart people,” Trump tweeted. “Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States.”
The president also accused some media outlets of misrepresenting his initial calls for some school employees to be armed after getting specialized training. “I want highly trained people that have a natural talent — like hitting a baseball or hitting a golfball or putting,” he said Monday.
During the meeting with state executives, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, urged the president to restrain his public comments on the gun matter.
“We need a little less Tweeting, a little more listening,” Inslee told Trump when the president opened the floor for suggestions on school shootings while reporters were in the room.
The president vowed that guns would be addressed after the latest deadly school gun massacre.
“Our nation is heartbroken,” Trump said, adding: “We’ll turn our grief into action.” Despite that comment, Capitol Hill has not coalesced around a single or even a few pieces of legislation since the Feb. 14 shooting.
And that, to him, means using his executive powers to do something even if Congress is unable to find consensus. One example is on bump stocks and other devices that turn semiautomatic firearms into automatic machine guns. (Automatic weapons are illegal.)
“I’m writing that out myself. I don’t care if Congress doesn’t [act],” Trump said. “We’re getting rid of it. You write it into the machine gun category.”
He has directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to finalize regulations banning bump stocks “very soon.” But some lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, say the office of the presidency lacks the legal authority to ban those devices without legislation passed by both chambers.