President Trump and the National Rifle Association back arming more school employees, but the Associated Press finds 30 recent incidents in which guns went off by mistake or were left unattended. Nevertheless, at the NRA convention last weekend Trump said gun-free school zones were an invitation to mass killers.
They are the “good guys with guns” the National Rifle Association says are needed to protect students from shooters: a school police officer, a teacher who moonlights in law enforcement, a veteran sheriff.
But in a span of 48 hours in March, the three were responsible for gun safety lapses that put students in danger, the Associated Press reports.
The Virginia school police officer accidentally fired his gun, sending a bullet through a wall into a middle school classroom. The California teacher was demonstrating firearm safety when he mistakenly put a round in the ceiling, injuring three students hit by falling debris. The Michigan sheriff left a loaded service weapon in a middle school locker room, where a sixth-grader found it.
An AP review of news reports collected by the Gun Violence Archive found more than 30 publicly reported mishaps since 2014 involving firearms brought onto school grounds by law enforcement officers or educators.
Guns went off by mistake, were fired by curious or unruly students, and were left unattended in bathrooms and other locations.
“If this can happen with a highly trained police officer, why would we give teachers guns?” asked Alexandria, Va., school superintendent Lois Berlin after the incident involving the officer whose accidental discharge put a bullet through a wall at George Washington Middle School.
Amid a push to arm teachers or add more police officers and armed guards, the AP review suggests that doing so will have unintended consequences. They have frightened students, outraged parents, prompted investigations and left at least nine people injured.
Some insurance companies have refused to cover schools that allow non-law enforcement personnel to be armed. Many school employees have said in surveys that they would feel less safe if more of their colleagues were carrying weapons.
But at the National Rifle Association Convention on Friday, Trump said the goal was to keep guns away from “maniacs” rather than school officers and teachers.
He also said he needs gun lovers to vote in force this fall to keep Congress in Republican hands, the Dallas Morning News reports.
Trump has positioned himself as an indispensable champion of gun rights, though over the years he has supported a ban on assault-style weapons such as the AR-15s on display at the NRA’s annual exposition.
After a Florida school rampage three months ago, he called for expanded background checks and even gun confiscation without a court order — ideas that didn’t sit well with the group’s leadership.
He didn’t mention such sore topics Friday, focusing instead on the vast common ground he shares with gun owners who helped deliver the election to him, and whose support Republicans need in November to keep control of Congress.
Trump blamed a rash of mass shootings on “maniacs” and reiterated the prescriptions he’s been offering for months: arming more teachers and security guards and ending gun-free zones.
“Ninety-eight percent of mass public shootings have occurred in places where guns are banned,” Trump said. “There’s no sign more inviting to a mass killer than a sign that declares, `This school is a gun-free zone.’ ”
Vice President Pence, who also spoke to the NRA, chided news media for spending too much time reporting on “deranged” attackers rather than on good guys with guns who protect their neighbors. “They focus on the tragedies and the heartbreak,” Pence said, “but too often many in the media ignore what happens when well-trained law-abiding gun owners save lives.”