WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — After an emotional meeting with school shooting survivors and parents of victims, President Donald Trump met with state and local officials about school safety Thursday at the White House.
Attendees included Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, both Republicans, the White House said. The Democratic Mayor of Parkland, Florida, Christine Hunschofsky, also participated.
Trump also heard from local police, health and education officials.
At the start of the meeting, the president said he listened to the “heartbreaking stories” of mass shooting survivors Wednesday and said he “asked them for their ideas and pledged to them that we would take action.”
“We’re going to take action,” he said.
Calling the Florida school shooting suspect “a sicko,” the president said “we are going to be focusing very strongly on mental health” and said “part of the problem is that we used to have mental institutions.”
“Here’s a case of mental health,” he said. “You take a sicko like this guy, he was sick guy — so many signs, and you bring him to a mental health institution, those institutions are largely closed because communities didn’t want them.”
Trump also said “we have to harden our schools, not soften them up.”
“We have to get smart on gun-free zones. When they see ‘this is a gun-free zone’ that means that nobody has a gun except them. Nobody is going to be shooting in the other direction. And they see that as such a beautiful target. They live for gun-free zones,” he said.
“A gun free zone to a killer, or somebody that wants to be a killer, that’s like going in for the ice cream. That’s like, ‘Here I am, take me,'” he continued.
The president told state and local leaders that schools have to take the offensive, and one way is to arm teachers, trained in using weapons, and give them a bonus for doing it.
“We need to let people know you come into our schools, you’re going to be dead, and it’s going to be fast,” Trump said, “and unless you do that, you’re going to always have this problem.”
Trump also made it clear that he has no use for active shooter drills.
“I don’t like it. I’d much rather have a hardened school,” Trump said. “I wouldn’t want to tell my son, ‘You’re going to have an active shooter drill,’ and I know some have called it that. I think it’s crazy.”
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew quickly responded to the idea of arming teachers, saying, “Teachers should be marking papers, not being trained in marksmanship. We need to be preparing our lessons, not learning how to reload a gun.”
Back in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio also blasted the idea.
“There’s nothing more terrifying than the notion of putting more guns in our children’s schools,” de Blasio said. “I’m speaking as a parent. Both my kids went to New York City public schools their entire education. The last thing I want to see is more guns in our schools.”
Former NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton called it “the height of lunacy.”
“Are we also then going to arm school bus drivers and school crossing guards? The NRA & gun manufacturers would love that,” he tweeted.
New Jersey Education Association President Marie Blistan announced her organization is adamantly opposed to the idea, as well. She said turning schools into arsenals will put children and staff more at risk of becoming victims of gun violence. She also said schools should be safe havens for learning and development, not become armed fortresses of fear.
Blistan called on politicians to “stop cowering before the gun lobby.”
The proposal wasn’t popular at Rafael Hernandez School in Newark, where Patricia Gois is principal.
“Guns are not the answer,” she told CBS2’s Jessica Layton. “Guns are not going to solve the issue. It’s just an action. The problem is still going exist.”
Parents like Lisette Tapia, a mother of three, said too many things could go wrong if a teacher were to have a weapon in a classroom.
“At any given moment, a teacher could have a bad day,” she said.
“It’s hard to have a child walk into school where they see guns,” Ariagna Perello added.
“We send them every morning to learn, to be educated, not to face all this danger that’s going on,” said Ada Cintron.
Nelson Sanchez was a police officer but now is a school guidance counselor.
“There’s hesitation, there’s judgement – you don’t know what happens in a split second,” he explained.
Asked whether he would feel comfortable carrying a gun in the hallways, he replied, “Given my background and my training, absolutely, I know I would. But that’s not what I’m called for.”
Across Colorado, about 100 staff members volunteer to carry firearms. One science teacher keeps a gun concealed in his cowboy boot.
“We can’t afford security guards. And if teachers are will to and go through the training, I think they should have the opportunity to help protect them,” he said.
In order to carry a gun on school grounds in Colorado, each staff member must complete three days of training — including a simulated school shooting scenario — go through a background check and psychological evaluation.
Earlier Thursday morning, the president tweeted he will be “strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health.”
“Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks,” he wrote. “Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue – I hope!”
Raising the age to buy guns is something the National Rifle Association strongly opposes.
“In dealing with school shootings, we don’t expect to agree with the NRA on everything,” said White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah.
NRA officials spoke at the Conservative Political Action Committee Thursday. Spokeswoman Dana Loesch said the media actually love mass shootings.
“I’m not saying that you love the tragedy, but you love the ratings,” Loesch said. “Crying white mothers are ratings gold.”
The president had invited the teen survivors and parents Wednesday in a show of his resolve against gun violence in the wake of last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and in past years at schools in Connecticut and Colorado.
Watch Extended Coverage Of The Wednesday Session:
“How have we not stopped this after Columbine, after Sandy Hook?,” Stoneman Douglas student Samuel Zeif said. “I’m sitting with a mother who lost her son.”
“There needs to be significant change in this country,” Parkland shooting survivor Justin Gruber added.
Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed last week, noted the previous school massacres and raged over his loss.
“My daughter has no voice,” he said. “She was murdered last week and she was taken from us.”
The student body president at the Parkland school, Julia Cordover, tearfully told Trump that she “was lucky enough to come home from school.”
She added, “I am confident you will do the right thing.”
Trump promised to be “very strong on background checks.” And at the Wednesday meeting, he likewise suggested he supported allowing some teachers and other school employees to carry concealed weapons to be ready for intruders.
“If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack quickly,” Trump said Wednesday.
Mark Barden, who lost his son in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, addressed Trump at the Wednesday session.
“A deranged sociopath on his way to commit an act of murder in a school, knowing the outcome is going to be suicide, is not going to care if somebody is there with a gun,” Barden said. “That’s their plan anyway.”
Largely, the president listened Wednesday, holding handwritten notes bearing his message to the families. “I hear you” was written in black marker.
Trump said at the end of an hour listening to tales of pain and anguish, “Thank you for pouring out your hearts because the world is watching and we’re going to come up with a solution.”
He later tweeted that he would “always remember” the meeting. “So much love in the midst of so much pain. We must not let them down. We must keep our children safe!!”
Meanwhile, some of the victims’ parents confronted lawmakers during a town hall in Florida Wednesday night.
“Look at me and tell me guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids at the school this week,” Fred Guttenburg said to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida). “Look at me and tell me you will accept it and work with us to do something about guns.”
Thousands of students also joined Stoneman Douglas survivors at a rally in Florida’s state capital Wednesday. They called for action in the form of gun safety legislation and pushed for a ban on assault-style rifles.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)