WASHINGTON -- US President Donald Trump has backed a proposal to arm school teachers with guns to prevent mass shootings, drawing criticism from certain quarters who accused him of promoting gun culture in schools.
Trump's comments came as demands intensified for stronger gun control after a shooter killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14.
The incident reignited a national debate over gun laws and school safety.
"We have to harden our schools, not soften them up. A gun-free zone to a killer, or somebody that wants to be a killer, that's like going in for the ice cream," Trump said during a White House meeting with local and state officials on school safety.
Trump said it was essential to provide concealed firearms to teachers, who are highly trained.
"I want certain highly adept people, people that understand weaponry, guns -- if they really have that aptitude. Because not everybody has an aptitude for a gun. But if they have the aptitude, I think a concealed permit for -- having teachers and letting people know that there are people in the building with a gun, in my opinion, you won't have these shootings, he said.
The president estimated that 10 percent to 40 percent of school employees would be qualified to handle a weapon. He offered no data for the claim and said he would devote federal money to training them.
"You give them a little bit of a bonus, so practically for free, you have now made the school into a hardened target," Trump said.
His comments drew criticism from certain quarters who alleged that Trump was promoting gun culture in schools and it would be a massive financial burden on schools.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said Trump's emphasis on arming teachers revealed that he was in the thrall of the gun lobby.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, who has been an outspoken advocate for gun control and is among Trump s most vocal critics, blistered the president.
"No police officer, no educator of any note is advocating that what we need is more weapons on school campuses rather than fewer," said Emanuel.
However, the White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said that there is a lot of support for Trump’s move in this regard.
"We talked to teachers, we talked to folks in communities. I think there are a lot of people who if they are -- a lot of teachers who aren't currently trained would be willing to get trained. This is a very complex problem and we need serious solutions," he said.
"I also think that if we really want school safety, a very serious idea is having trained individuals in schools with concealed weapons, because that will certainly deter potential attackers," Shah told reporters. (PTI)