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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Trump proposes solution to school shootings: arm teachers

United States President Donald Trump promised on Wednesday to act quickly to prevent more school shootings as often-tearful, occasionally angry survivors and parents of victims poured out their frustration to him at a White House meeting.

But he appeared to introduce a harder line on how to resolve the issue, which has come to the fore since last week’s deadly shooting at a Florida school which claimed 17 lives. The president suggested that teachers should be allowed to carry concealed weapons to defend pupils and staff.

There were extraordinary expressions of grief and emotion during the summit. “I lost a best friend, practically a brother, I’m here to use my voice because I know he can’t,” said Samuel Zeif, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Since then, “me and my friends, we get scared when a car drives by” Mr Zeif said. “I don’t understand why I can still go into a store and buy a weapon of war.”

The meeting was passionate as students who lost friends in shootings and parents who lost children told the president their personal stories in unsparing detail. Mr Trump mostly listened intently without interruption, his hands pressed against each other in front of him, grim-faced, often nodding.

He held a card with handwritten notes, including a reminder to tell meeting participants that “I hear you,” according to an Associated Press photo.

“We’re going to do something about this horrible situation,” the president said. “It’s not going to be talk like it has been in the past.”

He offered no specific promises. After listening to stories from around the room, he asked a question. “Does anybody have an idea to stop it? What is your recommendation to stop it?” he said.

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The first recommendation came from Fred Abt, the father of a student who wasn’t shot in Parkland, who said school employees who volunteer for it should be trained and armed. Mr Trump nodded vigorously and then ridiculed the idea of making schools gun-free zones.

“A gun-free zone is, ‘Let’s go in and let’s attack, because bullets aren’t coming back at us’,” he said.

“We’re going to be looking at that very strongly. A lot of people are going to be opposed to it. I think a lot of people are going to like it.”

Mr Trump told the group at the White House that he plans “very strong” actions on background checks for gun purchases and to put “an emphasis” on mental health treatment.

Passions flared at moments during the White House meeting, which included parents of other students killed in school shootings.

“It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it. I’m p***ed!” said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed in the Parkland shooting. “Never ever will I see my kid. I want it to sink in. It’s eternity.”

“I’m just begging for a change. We need a change,” added Melissa Blank, the mother of a Parkland student, who is also a teacher’s aide at a nearby school.