President Donald Trump offered a full-throated endorsement of the National Rifle Association on Thursday as the organization mounted an offensive against efforts to tighten gun restrictions in the wake of a Florida school shooting that killed 17 people.
It was a jarring contrast just a day after his emotional meeting with students and parents affected by recent school massacres. Earlier Thursday morning, Trump went the furthest he’s ever gone on gun control, saying in a tweet he’d push for tougher background checks that screen for mental health, raising the minimum age of buyers to 21, and ending the sale of bump stocks.
The president Thursday proposed “a little bit of a bonus” for teachers who go through “rigorous” training to carry guns in the classroom, saying he hoped they would be “people with great talent at guns” such as military veterans.
Trump told state and local officials at the White House for a discussion of school safety that “you can’t hire enough security guards” to protect shooters but “you could have” firearms “concealed on teachers” and “nobody would know who they are.”
The president heaped praise on the NRA, which has been one of the most powerful political opponents to gun control measures, just minutes before its chief executive officer, Wayne LaPierre, took the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference. LaPierre proceeded to blast school officials, local law enforcement and the FBI for failing to prevent school shootings.
LaPierre and the NRA’s chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, are “Great People and Great American Patriots,” Trump said, adding that “They love our Country and will do the right thing.”
LaPierre called for more armed security at schools and criticized the notion of making schools “gun-free zones,” which he said are targets for potential shooters, echoing the comments Trump has made.
The NRA chief lashed out at Democrats including Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who has long pushed for tighter gun laws, for “politicizing” the Florida shooting. He said “elites” want to “eradicate all individual freedoms.”
“They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of family, the failure of America’s mental health system, and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI,” LaPierre said.
While Trump said he would push “comprehensive background checks” with an emphasis on mental health, an Obama-era gun rule aimed at preventing people with serious mental illness from buying guns was one of the first targets of Republicans in Congress last year. Lawmakers used a special procedure under the Congressional Review Act to do away with the…