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Remarks in an Exchange With Reporters Prior to Departure for Oxon Hill, Maryland

February 23, 2018

Gun Control/Mental Health/School Safety

Q. We've heard from students who say they do not want to see guns in America's schools?

The President. Well, it's a very big subject. It's a subject that everybody is talking about, obviously for all the wrong reasons. And we're going to do something about it. We're going to make changes. I see Congress wanting to act now for the first time. So we certainly have to strengthen background checks. Everybody agrees with that. And we're going to make background checks very, very strong. I'll be speaking about that at CPAC. Very, very important is to do that.

And also, the mentally ill—people that are mentally—they have mental problems—we cannot allow them to have guns. So we're going to be very strong on that. That's going to go a long way.

I also believe that schools have to have some form of protection. They can't just be open-ended gun-free. Gun-free is an invitation for these crazy people to just come in and shoot. If they're not gun-free, if there are guns inside, held by the right people, by highly trained professionals, you're going to see this end. It won't be happening anymore.

Our schools are, essentially, gun-free zones, and that makes them very dangerous places.

Shooting in Parkland, FL

Q. The Parkland sheriff was armed, and he didn't go in. Does that give you any pause?

The President. Say it. What?

Q. The Parkland sheriff was armed, and he didn't go in. Does that give you any pause?

The President. Deputy Sheriff Peterson, I guess his name is—I mean, they brought it out, I was surprised—but it deserves to be brought out. What he did—he's trained his whole life—there's an example—but when it came time to get in there and do something, he didn't have the courage, or something happened, but he certainly did a poor job, there's no question about that. He was there for 5 minutes—for 5 minutes. That was during the entire shooting. He heard it right at the beginning. So he certainly did a poor job.

But that's a case where somebody was outside, they're trained, they didn't react properly, under pressure, or they were cowards. It was a real shock to the police department.

National Rifle Association/School Safety/Gun Control/Mental Health

Q. Would a teacher be any different? Would an armed teacher be any different?

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. Well, I think we really have a group of people that want to do the right thing. The NRA is composed of people that I know very well. These are good people; in many cases, great people. They're patriots; they love our country. The NRA wants to do the right thing. I've been speaking to them, and they do want to do the right thing. Look, I haven't been here that long. This has been going on for a long time—many years, decades. And we're going to get it fixed. But the only way you're going to get it fixed is you have to have a certain degree of offensive power within the school. It can't only be defense. You have to have protection within the schools, and we're going to work it out. But we are going to be very, very powerful, strong on background checks, especially having to do with people with mental problems.

This person that did this horrible act, he was mentally deranged, and everybody knew it for a long period of time. I guess they had 38 red flags, 39 red flags. You can't do any better than that. Unfortunately, they didn't catch it. They should have caught it. This could have been prevented.

So the whole mental situation is very big. But background checks, to me, are very important. And we have to strengthen up our schools.

I'm going over to CPAC; I'll be talking about it. Thank you all very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:18 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Scot Peterson, deputy sheriff, Broward County, FL, Sheriff's Office; and Nikolas J. Cruz, suspected gunman in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, on February 14.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks in an Exchange With Reporters Prior to Departure for Oxon Hill, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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