President Trump said the officers who responded to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14 but failed to confront the gunman “weren’t exactly medal of honor winners,” implying that most people would have done better — including himself.
“I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon,” Trump said on Monday during a meeting with dozens of U.S. governors at the White House. “I think most of the people in this room would’ve done that too. Because I know most of you. But the way they performed was really a disgrace.”
During a press briefing later in the day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump did not necessarily mean he would’ve stormed the building and engaged with the shooter.
“I think he was just stating that as a leader he would’ve stepped in and hopefully been able to help,” Sanders said. “He was saying he would be a leader and would want to take a courageous action.”
On Friday, Trump castigated Scot Peterson, the uniformed deputy assigned to the school who resigned from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office the day after surveillance footage showed he waited outside the building rather than attempting to confront the killer.
“When it came time to get in there and do something, he didn’t have the courage, or something happened,” Trump told reporters. “But he certainly did a poor job. There’s no question about that.”
“He was there for five minutes — for five minutes,” the president continued. “That was during the entire shooting. He heard it right from the beginning. So he certainly did a poor job. But that’s a case where somebody was outside, they’re trained, they didn’t act properly or [were] under pressure, or they were a coward. It was a real shock to the police department.”
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said he was “devastated” when he discovered that the deputy did nothing.
“What I saw was a deputy arrive at the west side of Building 12, take up a position, and he never went in,” Israel told reporters at a press conference on Thursday. According to Israel, Peterson “clearly” knew the shooter was inside the building, but stayed outside for four minutes while the killing continued.
On Friday, Israel said that his office received reports that two other responding officers also failed to enter the school, and that the department is investigating. Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced on Sunday that he has asked the state’s Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the Broward County Sheriff’s Office response to the Feb. 14 massacre.
Trump, whose favorite adjective is “strong,” spoke about physically confronting hecklers during his campaign speeches. He has told reporters he was ineligible for military service owing to bone spurs in both feet. He memorably staged a mock attack on wrestling impresario Vince McMahon in 2007. But he has admitted to finding the sight of blood “disgusting.” In a 2008 interview with Howard Stern, Trump told the shock jock that he turned away from an injured elderly man who had fallen off the stage at a Mar-a-Lago benefit because he couldn’t stomach the sight of blood.
“This guy falls off right on his face, hits his head, and I thought he died,” Trump told Stern. “And you know what I did? I said, ‘Oh, my God, that’s disgusting,’ and I turned away. I couldn’t, you know, he was right in front of me and I turned away. I didn’t want to touch him.”
During his meeting with governors on Monday, Trump said that he will ban so-called bump stocks, such as the one used by the gunman in last year’s massacre in Las Vegas, through executive action if Congress fails to do so. The president also said that he met with two top executives from the National Rifle Association over the weekend and told them that “something must be done” to curb gun violence.
Trump then called for a national debate on mental health.
“We’re going to have to start talking about mental institutions,” he said.
“In the old days,” he added, it was easier to commit to such facilities people who acted “like a boiler ready to explode.”
Last week, Trump suggested arming “adept” teachers with guns and offered to pay “a little bit of a bonus” to those who carry them.
During a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday afternoon, the president said he believed that an armed teacher or administrator would have stopped the shooter in Parkland.
“A teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened,” Trump said. “These teachers love their students. And these teachers are talented with weaponry and with guns. 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.”
During a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turbull on Friday afternoon, Trump again suggested that armed security guards do not care about students.
“We need people who can take of our children,” he said. “A security guard doesn’t know the children, doesn’t love the children. This man standing outside of the school the other day doesn’t love the children.”
On Monday, Trump again suggested arming some teachers. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee objected to the idea.
“We need to listen to educators and they should not be foisted upon this responsibility of packing heat,” Inslee told Trump. “We need a little less tweeting here, a little more listening.”
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