Trump has suggested arming teachers to defend classrooms — and veterans are ripping the idea

  • The deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week has reinvigorated debate about arming teachers.
  • President Donald Trump has spoken in favor of the idea, saying it would be cheaper than hiring guards and would be a deterrent.
  • But many people with experience using firearms under duress have been critical, calling it impractical and dangerous.


President Donald Trump suggested on Wednesday that arming teachers and school staff members could provide security against events like the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week, in which 17 students and school workers were killed.

"If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly," Trump said at the White House, during a meeting with students and parents from the school.

"This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun," Trump added. "It's called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They'd go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone."

Trump clarified his comments on Thursday morning, stressing that he said "to look at the possibility of" arming teachers with military backgrounds or special training — "only the best."

"Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this," he added. "Far more assets at much less cost than guards."

Despite Trump's stipulations, the idea of arming teachers and other school staff was widely panned — especially by veterans with experience using high-powered weapons and firing under duress.

RELATED: A timeline of how the Florida high school shooting unfolded

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A timeline of how the Florida high school shooting unfolded
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A timeline of how the Florida high school shooting unfolded

Wednesday, February 14, 2018: Sometime after 2 p.m. the gunman begins to make his approach to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale. 

(Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

2:30 p.m.: The shooting begins.

According to CNN, people first heard shots at 2:30 p.m. Several witnesses have said the gunman pulled the fire alarm before shooting so that people would run into his line of fire.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

2:35 p.m.: Some of the first signs to the outside world that a shooting was underway come from social media. One Twitter user noted that students were texting the about the shooting.
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all hell is breaking loose at Douglas high school @Coralspringsfla kids texting about a shooter ???? https://t.co/7NnoipVJpy

2:53 p.m.: Twenty minutes later the Broward County Sheriff's Office publicly acknowledges that a shooting is underway.
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#BSO is working a developing incident regarding a report of active shooter located at 5901 Pine Island Rd, Parkland… https://t.co/zrKtdjDxcb

The shooter's exact movements inside the school are not clear. This video was recorded by a student inside a classroom, where gunshots and screaming can be heard.
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JUST IN (warning, disturbing video): Cell phone video inside the school as shots were going off at Marjory Stoneman… https://t.co/UAHNy8LnAu

2:55 p.m.: Local media report five injuries in the shooting, the first sense of its scale.
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Appears there are at least 5 people injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Coral Springs after reports… https://t.co/GB3K6tliYy

People are told to avoid the area.
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Avoid the area of Stoneman Douglas HS. #BSO is currently working a developing incident regarding a report of active shooter.

3:10 p.m.: A student tweets an image of the inside of his classroom where he and classmates are hiding.
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Still locked in. I checked the local news and there is 20 victims. Long live Majory Stoneman Douglas High. https://t.co/4kQMAlCBWt

3:11 p.m.: Sheriffs confirm that the shooter remains at large.
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Follow @browardsheriff for latest info on the #stonemanshooting. Shooter still at large.

3:15 p.m.: Students are seen running from the school grounds.
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​​​​​​​MORE: Aerial footage above Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shows students running from grounds of campus after… https://t.co/riKt7KAbT4

Deputies said that Cruz tried to hide himself among the students running away from the shooting.
They eventually identified him by examining surveillance footage and picking him out from the crowd. A witness told the Miami Herald newspaper that Cruz had put on a military ROTC uniform like those used in class while he was running.

(John McCall/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

3:58 p.m.: Cruz is arrested around a mile from the school by the neighboring Coconut Creek Police Department. The incident is recorded by a news helicopter.
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Possible suspect in custody in #FloridaShooting #StonemanShooting. @wsvn https://t.co/gxisLcEVGf
At about the same time, President Donald Trump sends his "prayers and condolences" to victims.
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My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or an… https://t.co/RFJxgM1jhm

Shortly after the tweet, some students who survived the shooting responded in anger.

(Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

4:11 p.m.: Sheriffs confirm that the suspect had been arrested. Cruz is not yet named.
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Shooter is now in custody. Scene is still active. #stonemanshooting

4:27 p.m.: Cruz exhibits "labored breathing" after his arrest and was taken to hospital as a precaution. Local news outlets photographed him being loaded up for the journey.
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Photo: Suspect is loaded into fire rescue to be transported to hospital https://t.co/SP0rJg5tY5

4:22 p.m.: Sheriffs say 14 people were shot. The figure later increases.
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So far we have at least 14 victims. Victims have been and continue to be transported to Broward Health Medical Cent… https://t.co/hWUp5BuMcB

4:30 p.m.: The Associated Press reports that the shooting resulted in "numerous fatalities," the first indication that victims had died.

(John McCall/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

4:34 p.m.: The first videos of the arrest emerge.
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#NEW: Longer video of suspect arrested @wsvn https://t.co/2ZHmCd69rV

4:59 p.m.: Sheriffs say students are still inside the school and are being removed from classrooms by SWAT teams. The school has about 3,100 students.

(John McCall/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

5:15 p.m.: Video on social media shows SWAT teams evacuating students from their hiding places.
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My little brother just sent me this video of the swat team evacuating his classroom at stoneman douglas. So scary b… https://t.co/inomdpbpmS

5:30 p.m.: Local and national media begin to name the suspect as Nikolas Cruz. Some initially spell his first name Nicolas, or Nikolaus.
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UPDATE: US official: Parkland school shooter identified as Nicolas Cruz.
5:39 p.m.: Parents, who were being held at a staging area near the school, begin to be reunited with their children.
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Parents and families of Westglades Middle School can now pick-up students at the school. Pine Island Road has been… https://t.co/Pkg6ixPiBR

6:27 p.m.: Authorities confirm deaths for the first time (previous statements referred only to "victims"). Their death toll is 17.
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Business Insider has been keeping track of the identities of those killed and wounded in the attack. Click here for a full rundown.

"I'm saddened to say that 17 people lost their lives."- Sheriff Scott Israel #stonemanshooting

7:36 p.m.: Media outlets are allowed to get close to the outside of the school. The local channel WSVN broadcasts footage of classroom windows with bullet hotels.
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A window riddled with bullet holes could be seen at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in #Parkland https://t.co/aQ0zei1FX9

8:24 p.m.: A local correspondent tweets a clear photograph of the suspect.
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#BREAKING: Extremely clear picture of suspect captured by police @wsvn https://t.co/v4AiyIFFs1

Thursday 15th February, 5:39 a.m.: Reporters watch Cruz getting booked in to the Broward County Jail.
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BREAKING: deputies bring suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz to Broward County Jail @WPLGLocal10 #StonemanHighSchool https://t.co/718lffPkMo

Around 6:30 a.m.: Sheriffs publish jail booking details for Cruz, including his mugshot. He is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
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The entry is hosted on the Broward County Sheriff's website.

It lists Cruz's date of birth, physical characteristics, and lists the 17 separate murders with which he has been charged.

(Photo by Broward's Sheriff's Office via Getty Images)
7:12 a.m.: Trump tweets, saying the shooter was "mentally disturbed."
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So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavi… https://t.co/3mSYrtTng6

8:22 a.m.: A teen who survived the shooting pleads for action, saying "we're children. you guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role."
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David Hogg survivor of Fl. school shooting: "we're children. you guys are the adults. you need to take some action… https://t.co/6KXQuGpDxd

Throughout the morning, we learn new details about Cruz's personal history. Cruz was adopted. He had been living with the family of a classmates since both of his adoptive parents are deceased, ABC News reported.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

8:33 a.m.: BuzzFeed News' Tom Namako reports that Cruz legally purchased the AR-15 that he used to carry out the shooting.
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BREAKING: Law enforcement official: Ex-student suspected in Florida school shooting legally purchased AR-15 rifle about a year ago.

Around 10:30 a.m.: FBI special agent Robert Lasky confirms that a YouTube user named Nikolas Cruz posted, "I'm going to be a professional school shooter" in the comments section of a video in September.

The FBI was unable to confirm whether the account that made the comment belonged to Cruz, the suspected school shooter.

(Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

11 a.m.: Trump addresses the country.

"It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference," Trump said. "We must actually make that difference."

The speech focused on combatting mental health. Trump also said he plans to visit Parkland to console families and local officials at some point in the near future.

(AFP/Getty Images)

After Trump's speech, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he intends to meet with state leaders next week in Tallahassee to discuss potential legislation dealing with mental health.

"The violence has to stop. We cannot lose another child in this country to violence in a school," Scott said at a news conference on Thursday. "If someone is mentally ill, they should not have access to a gun … None of us want anything like this to happen again."

(Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

12:12 p.m.: Former President Barack Obama tweets in support of "common-sense gun safety laws."
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We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job. And until we can hon… https://t.co/LWGSkzRapH

12:51 p.m.: The AP reports that the leader of a white nationalist group — called the Republic of Florida — claimed Cruz was a member of the organization.
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Jordan Jereb told The Associated Press that his group, Republic of Florida, wants Florida to become its own white ethno-state. ROF describes itself as a "white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics," according to the Anti-Defamation League.

He added that he didn't know Cruz personally and that Cruz "acted on his own behalf of what he just did and he's solely responsible for what he just did."

PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — Leader of white nationalist group has confirmed suspect in Florida school shooting was member of his organization

Around 2 p.m.: A judge ordered Cruz held without bond on 17 murder charges.

(Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

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"Shooting under stress is extremely difficult. Even for the most well-trained shooters," Jay Kirell, an Afghanistan veteran who has written about difficulties veterans face in civilian life, tweeted. "A teacher is not going to be able to do this. Cops & soldiers literally get paid to do this & most of them can't shoot accurately under stress."

"Not because they suck, but because it's nearly impossible to hit a target in one shot when pumped full of adrenaline," Kirell added. "And if you're in a school with a shooter and dozens of children, if you're not shooting accurately you're just creating crossfire."

Data compiled by the New York City Police Department underscores the difficulty of firing accurately in challenging situations.

In 2005, NYPD officers intentionally fired their guns at someone 472 times, hitting their mark 82 times. In 2006, New York police fired under the same circumstances 364 times, hitting their target 103 times. That same year, Los Angeles police fired 67 times, recording 27 hits.

Other veterans responded directly to Trump, dismissing the idea of arming teachers as inappropriate and dangerous.

Paul Szoldra, a Marine veteran, former Business Insider editor, and editor-in-chief at Code Red News and Duffle Blog, pointed out the challenges firearms present to military personnel trained to live and work with them.

"The act of having a pistol go off accidentally among military officers is so common it has its own name: 'desk pop,'" Szoldra wrote on Twitter. (A number of shootings reported on school grounds this year were accidental discharges.)

"Think about a law-enforcement officer showing up to an active scene, where often they have no idea how many shooters or where they are. And then they run into a teacher with a gun. Or a veteran. Wonder what happens," Szoldra added.

Kristen Beck, a transgender retired Navy SEAL, was one of a number of former servicemembers who called for changes to gun laws.

"I am a retired combat #veteran and I support common sense reform of our current gun laws," Beck tweeted. "The legislation absolutely must be steered by people who know about guns & unpolarized by" the Second Amendment.

Schools in some localities already have armed teachers, and teachers in some places have expressed interest in receiving training to carry concealed handguns. A number of state and national politicians have echoed Trump's suggestion in recent days, saying that armed teachers could provide classroom defense.

But educators — including those present during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — have also criticized the idea.

"We don't need to put guns in the hands of teachers," Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie, whose district includes Stoneman Douglas High, said at a CNN town hall event on Wednesday. "You know what we need? We need to arm our teachers with more money in their pocket."

Randi Weingarten, the president of the 1.7-million-member American Federation of Teachers, said arming teachers was "one of the worst ideas I have heard in a series of really, really, really bad ideas."

"Bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence," Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, which represents 3 million K-12 and college educators, told the Chicago Tribune. "We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators. Arming teachers does nothing to prevent that."

The National Association of School Resource Officers has backed hiring more trained law-enforcement officers — in part to make sure a student doesn't wind up with a teacher's gun.

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