11:40 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all for being here. We are doing a lot of things. A lot of things are happening. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Secretary Alex Azar, who’s really setting the world on fire now with your lowering of prescription drug prices and a lot of other things you’re doing, and we appreciate it very much. A lot of people are seeing it, already, what’s happening. And especially the lowering of the price of healthcare — we see what’s going on there. It’s going to be a tremendous reduction in healthcare pricing because of what we’re all doing together. So, great going, Alex. And Secretary Betsy DeVos for joining us.
Today we’re here with state and local leaders, law enforcement officers, and educations officials to discuss how we can make our schools safe and our communities secure. And no better time to discuss it than right now. And I think we’re making a lot of progress, and I can tell you there’s a tremendous feeling that we want to get something done. And we’re leading that feeling, I hope.
But there’s a great feeling, including at the NRA, including with Republican senators and, hopefully, Democrat senators and congressmen.
I want to thank Curtis Hill for being here, attorney general. I also want to thank a really tremendous attorney general — that’s Pam Bondi, from Florida — for being here. Thank you, Pam, very much. Great job you’ve done there.
Yesterday, I met with survivors of Parkland shooting. The Parkland shooting is just horrible. So bad for so many people and so bad for our country. Families who have lost their children in school shootings and local community members of Washington, D.C. who want to make sure that every child is safe at school. We’re having a lot of problems in Washington, D.C.
I listened to their heartbreaking stories. I asked them for their ideas, and pledged to them that we will take action, unlike, for many years, where people sitting in my position did not take action. They didn’t take proper action. They took no action at all. We’re going to take action.
Today we want to hear from you on how we can improve physical security in our schools, tackle the issue of mental health, which is a very big issue. This person that was caught after having killed so many people — 17 — and badly injuring so many others — people don’t talk about the injured, and they have to go through life with that horrible, horrible situation that they were put in unnecessarily. People don’t talk about that, the people that are so badly — I visited them in the hospital, in Broward County. And these are injuries like people wouldn’t believe.
And we want to ensure that, when we see warning signs, we act quickly. When we have somebody that’s mentally unstable, like this guy that was a sicko, and there were a lot of warning signs. A lot of people were calling, saying, hey, he’s going to do something bad. People have to act.
As I said last week, we must work together to create a culture of our country that cherishes life and forces real human connections. We’re also working to reduce violent crime in America and to make our communities places that can be totally safe for our children, for our families.
Under my administration, gun prosecutions have increased very significantly. The Attorney General is very, very much after that. And we’re also after the gangs. The gangs have been incredible. MS-13 — I see where a couple of commentators that are lightweights said, “Oh, MS-13, who talks about that? That’s all he talked about on Fox.” No, that’s not talked about on Fox. That’s talked about in communities where they’re killing people, not necessarily with guns — because that’s not painful enough. This is what they think. They want to do it more painfully and they want to do it slowly. So they cut them up with knives. They don’t use guns; they use knives, because they want it to be a long, painful death to people that had no idea this was coming.
And we’re getting them out by the thousands, putting them in jail and we’re getting them out by the thousands. And our people from ICE and our Border Patrol people are much tougher than they are. That’s the only thing they understand, by the way, is toughness. They don’t understand niceness. They understand toughness. And our people are much tougher. They go in there, they grab them by the neck. There’s no games being played. And I let them know that’s what we want. We need tougher people than they are, and our people are a lot tougher than they are.
So we’re working on getting violent offenders off the streets and guns out of the hands of the dangerous criminals. There’s nothing more important than protecting our children. We had a, really, incredible meeting yesterday with some of the families that have suffered so greatly, in different places, not only in Florida — as you know, Columbine. And it was a very sad situation.
But I will tell you, background checks — I called many senators last night, many congressmen, and Jeff and Pam and everybody in this room. I can tell you, Curtis, they’re into doing background checks that they wouldn’t be thinking about maybe two weeks ago. We’re going to do strong background checks. We’re going to work on getting the age up to 21 instead of 18. We’re getting rid of the bump stocks. And we’re going to be focusing very strongly on mental health, because here’s a case of mental health.
Part of the problem is we used to have mental institutions. And I said this yesterday — where you had a mental institution where you take a sicko, like this guy — he was a sick guy, so many sides — and you bring him to a mental health institution. Those institutions are largely closed because communities didn’t want them. Communities didn’t want to spend the money for them. So you don’t have any intermediate ground. You can’t put them in jail because he hadn’t done anything yet, but you know he’s going to do something.
So we’re going to be talking seriously about opening mental health institutions again. In some cases, reopening. I can tell you, in New York, the governors in New York did a very, very bad thing when they closed our mental institutions, so many of them. You have these people living on the streets. And I can say that, in many cases throughout the country, they’re very dangerous. They shouldn’t be there. So we’re going to be talking about mental institutions. And when you have some person like this, you can bring them into a mental institution and they can see what they can do. But we got to get them out of our communities.
So with that being said, I’d like to ask the very talented people around this table to just introduce themselves quickly and say a few words. And maybe we can start off with Pam Bondi.
Pam, thank you.
MS. BONDI: Thanks, President. I’m Pam Bondi, Attorney General of Florida. And, Mayor, thank you. I know you’re going through a lot now. President, she was there that night with me. I think you were there with me until 3:30 in the morning when all these families were being notified, and it was horrific. So I know you’ve been through a lot, so thank you so much.
THE PRESIDENT: She did a great job.
MS. BONDI: I have a couple issues that I’ll wait — or do you want to talk about them now?
THE PRESIDENT: Talk about them. You can talk.
MS. BONDI: Well, one it addresses some of the things you said in Florida. It’s called the Baker Act, but it’s our civil commitment act. And it’s weak, and it’s about 1,000 pages long. And I’ve had my solicitor general on it for four days, three days now, working on it. We’re rewriting it — along with Governor Scott, who’s — you’re going to meet with him and he’s going to give you a ton of good information.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
MS. BONDI: We’ve been rewriting it, and we are going to bring in something called the Gun Violence Restraining Order. So if someone is civilly committed — and typically, you can hold them for up to 72 hours, but people are getting out within 24 hours, the majority of them. So what we want to do is let law enforcement come in and take the guns.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
MS. BONDI: They are a danger to themselves or others.
THE PRESIDENT: Which you can’t do right now.
MS. BONDI: Well, without being adjudicated. So because they’re a danger to themselves —
THE PRESIDENT: You want them to take the guns and not go through six months of legal trials and everything else, which is a problem.
MS. BONDI: Exactly.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
MS. BONDI: But we also have to give the mentally ill the due process in which they deserve, President. So what we’re doing is they’re going to be able to take the guns when they’re taken into custody — or into the hospital. And then, when they’re released, within 24 hours or 72 hours later — typically, it’s 24 hours — but law enforcement will have 72 hours to determine whether they should give those guns back, or they can go to a judge and say, “Your Honor, please keep these guns. We feel this person is still a danger to himself or others,” whether they’re in or out of custody.
THE PRESIDENT: So this would not have worked the way it’s currently constituted. This would not have worked with Cruz as it’s currently constituted.
MS. BONDI: As it’s currently written.
THE PRESIDENT: So you’re going to make changes?
MS. BONDI: We’re going to make changes. And one other thing we’re doing about the reporting, President, which is — this is a big issue — we need a clearinghouse. And that’s what we’ve all been discussing. And we have created, and several of my counterparts have done it around the country, but we’re the biggest state doing it — it’s an app. Because kids now are on social media. And there were so many warning signs on Snapchat, on Twitter, on Instagram. And they were posting — they were sending them to all different sources. And we’re going to have — and we just got it in written in our House and Senate budget; it will cost at least half a million dollars a year to fund this. But what it does — kids — and so I met with 10 students, and they loved it. And they said I’m empowering them. Three of them are my graphic designers.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
MS. BONDI: They’re going to design the icon. Some are going to name it; they’re helping us with it. But it will cost probably about $100,000 maximum to develop. That’s all in our budget.
So what kids can do now — they can automatically send something that says, “I’m going to buy a gun,” just like Cruz was doing. “I’m going to do this. I’m going to do this.” And one of the girls who I met with — one of the students — told me he had been doing this since middle school, he had bullied her. And she reported it.
So it will all — they can instantly — and they can do it with anonymity.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
Q Put it in this app. It will go in the app, and it will go through one clearinghouse with state law enforcement in Florida.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you mentioned the Internet. We have to look at the Internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds, and their minds are being formed. And we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it. And also video games. I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts. And then you go the further step, and that’s the movies. You see these movies, they’re so violent. And yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved, and maybe they have to put a rating system for that.
And, you know, you get into a whole very complicated, very big deal. But the fact is that you are having movies come out that are so violent, with the killing and everything else, that maybe that’s another thing we’re going to have to discuss. And a lot of people are saying it, you have these movies today where you can go and have a child see the movie, and yet it’s so violent and so disgusting. So we may have to talk about that also.
Well, thank you very much, Pam. Thank you very much. Jeff?
ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS: Mr. President, my schoolteacher wife watched your meeting yesterday. She was very moved by it. And I think it has touched people all over the country.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS: And I salute you for that. And I won’t talk now; others have got things they’ll say. I just will say that we believe we can do better. We believe that some of the things that Attorney General Bondi is talking about can work. We’ve done a lot of research in this country over the last several years. We need to go back and act on it. It’s one thing to research, as you indicated. It’s another thing to do something about it.
THE PRESIDENT: We’re going to act. That’s right.
ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS: And we think we can help you develop the kind of policies that will make America safer.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Thank you. And you’re doing a great job with the gangs. The gangs are such a problem. You know, we talk about child safety. The kids walk home and they meet one of these gangs. And these are absolute animals. These aren’t human beings; these are animals. And it’s the torture — the level of torture. In this country, who would ever believe a thing like this could happen? But we’re literally getting MS-13 out by the thousands. But they come in — these are smart. They’re smart. They actually have franchises going to Los Angeles.
We’re getting no help from the state of California. I mean, frankly, if I wanted to pull our people from California, you would have a crying mess like you’ve never seen in California. All I’d have to do is say, ICE and Border Patrol, let California alone. You’d be inundated — you would see crime like nobody has ever seen crime in this country. And yet we get no help from the state of California. They are doing a lousy management job. They have the highest taxes in the nation, and they don’t know what’s happening out there. Frankly, it’s a disgrace — the sanctuary city situation, the protection of these horrible criminals — you know because you’re working on it. And the protection of these horrible criminals in California, and other places, but in California. That if we ever pulled our ICE out and we ever said, “Hey, let California alone. Let them figure it out for themselves,” in two months they’d be begging for us to come back. They would be begging. And you know what? I’m thinking about doing it.
Yes, sir. Go ahead.
SHERIFF MCDONALD: Yes, sir, Charles McDonald. Mr. President, it’s a pleasure to be here. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support, certainly from all the sheriffs in North Carolina, if not, all of law enforcement.
THE PRESIDENT: Congressman Meadows is a big fan of yours, that I can tell you. You know who I’m talking about, right?
SHERIFF MCDONALD: Well, I’m a big fan of his. Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Good man.
SHERIFF MCDONALD: I’ve been very impressed, Mr. President, with a lot of the ideas I’ve heard just since — before you came in, actually. And I do think mental health is a serious issue that’s affecting us across the nation. I know it is in North Carolina.
I appreciate your courage, sir, to talk about the fact that I do think there is a place where properly trained people in certain areas as well — think multi-layered, like an onion. Security has got a lot of facets. And I believe that you’ve got, certainly, the courage and the leadership to bring all of this together.
I know there’s a lot of good ideas out there. I think they all need to be listened to. But it’s going to take a lot of courage on the part of leaders, I think, in this nation, to bring the community together, to help them do the things that that they really want to do in their heart, but maybe haven’t had the courage to do yet.
Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Sheriff. It’s going to take a lot of political courage. You’re right.
SHERIFF MCDONALD: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: A lot of political courage. Some of it won’t be politically correct. But time for political correctness is over. We have to get this problem solved. So you’re right about that.
Thank you, Sheriff. Yes, sir.
MR. SANDERS: Mr. President, Rick Sanders, Commissioner of the Kentucky State Police. And much like Florida, we went through this last month. We had a school shooting at Marshall County High School. And we’re going to hear a lot about what we can do in the future to help protect our children. What I’m concerned with is, what are we going to do now to protect our children?
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
MR. SANDERS: And there’s going to be a lot of debate, but I applaud you, sir, for having the courage to bring together law enforcement, mental health professionals and educators, all sitting around this table to decide together what we need to do.
I’m real curious to hear what Attorney General Bondi continues to do in Florida. I think the gun violence restraining order is critically important. And I also think that we, in law enforcement, we need to create a database in our fusion centers where can take information that we have on students that may be a threat, and put that into a database so that the FBI can share with local law enforcement and state police, and we all have that information that we can act upon.
And more importantly, I think there should be something coming out of that; that we did something with it. And it didn’t just lay there, but we took that information and we actually acted on that. And that’s something I’m very interested in pursuing.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Rick. The federal government is really going to be a coordinator between all of the states so that you give information and other states will have that information. Otherwise, there’s no way of getting it.
MR. SANDERS: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: So we’ll be doing that. And I have to say, the states are starting to act — Florida, as an example; your state. A lot of states are starting to act on their own. They don’t necessarily need 100 percent from the federal government. Federal government is going to help a lot, but a lot of states can do some of the things that I’m talking about on their own. And I really implore them to do it, and to do it as quickly as possible, as you understand. Thank you.
MS. BONDI: And Governor Scott, Mr. President. Wait until you see what Governor Scott is about to release in Florida.
THE PRESIDENT: Governor Scott is a great example.
MS. BONDI: It’s great.
THE PRESIDENT: He’s going to do a lot of things. And, again, there will be coordination with the federal government, but the states can do a lot of this work on their own and get it done very quickly.
MS. STONE: Yes, I’m Paula Stone and I’m a mental health professional, although I now work for the Department of Human Services in the area of making sure that mental health services are provided to the citizens of Arkansas.
And so I think what you said about early warning signs is very important to note, and access to appropriate services, and training educators. There’s a program called Mental Health First Aid, where educators can be trained in how to identify those early warning signs and making sure that those services are easily accessible, because access is a problem. If somebody has to leave the school grounds and go to a clinic, wait for an appointment, then you’ve lost all that time.
If we can have mental health professionals that are located in schools, co-located with physicians in places where people go into the community so those people are identified with those needs and get those services very quickly before it gets to the point of having some significant needs.
Mental health professionals also, for people that have more significant needs, can wrap around the whole families. Because a lot of times, the families are asking for help but they haven’t gotten that support. There may be stigma, there may be access issues. You want to make sure that all of those services are there, readily available, that there’s no stigma to those services and that they can have those.
And then, we were talking down at this end of the table a minute ago about then, when it gets to the point where somebody is scared or somebody gets arrested, we are starting crisis stabilization units in our state. And other states have used crisis stabilization units. And our Governor Hutchinson has given some funds for us to start them in our state. They are units which is not just mental health; it’s a partnership between the county, the mental health agency in that area, and the law enforcement.
So when law enforcement is trained with crisis intervention training, they can identify people when they arrest them, that they have a mental illness, that they’re having a mental health issue, instead of taking them to jail, where they wouldn’t receive that treatment, or where it would be very difficult for them to be screened. They can take them to the crisis stabilization units. They can hold them there for 72 hours.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
MS. STONE: They can do screenings, they can begin treatment, and then they can make sure that they get filtered into the right treatment, also working with the judiciary and the law enforcement officials as a partnership, a collaboration with them all.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Paula. Say hello to the governor.
MS. STONE: I will.
THE PRESIDENT: He’s a great governor.
MS. STONE: He is.
THE PRESIDENT: He is. Done a great job.
SECRETARY AZAR: Well, Mr. President, as you know, you, last year, had identified serious mental illness as one of the core priorities at HHS already.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right.
SECRETARY AZAR: And that involved funding and also involved creating the interdepartmental coordinating committee around serious mental illness to pull all the resources of federal government together around these issues. And I’ve enjoyed the discussion so far this morning with these experts around some of the areas of how we’re building our future agenda here to really tackle these issues of serious mental illness around the issues of violence.
One of those areas is education. What can we do better to assist educators, and parents, and first responders on dealing with serious mental illness situations?
Second is, what can we do around screening and identification of those at risk for serious mental illness?
The third is treatment. Both preventive treatment for those who are recently diagnosed, but also those who are an imminent risk of danger to themselves or others. And that might involve involuntary issues. As talked about earlier, how can we be of assistance there to get people the care that they need to live fruitful and good lives, but also be safe.
The fourth is community engagement. So often, serious mental illness is part of being disengaged and disconnected, and how can we reconnect people or keep them connected.
And then finally, it’s research on the next generations of therapies. What can we in the federal government do to help bring the research and next-generation therapies for mental illness to the table for people?
THE PRESIDENT: Right. That’s great, Alex. That’s great. Thank you very much.
The Mayor of Parkland, Florida has suffered greatly, seen things that you never thought you would ever be a part of or see. And I just want to say, Christine, on behalf of all of us, you’ve done a great job.
MAYOR HUNSCHOFSKY: Thank you so much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: You’ve been given a rough hand, but you have done a great job. Thank you.
MAYOR HUNSCHOFSKY: I would just, first of all, like to say thank you. I don’t know if you realize how much it meant to the students to be able to have a voice and to be heard by you and your administration. That’s a very empowering thing for the students, and we appreciate it immensely.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MAYOR HUNSCHOFSKY: We spoke yesterday, and this roundtable has been amazing. I am grateful to be able to be here.
This didn’t just happen in a vacuum; there was a whole timeline that led to this. And I’m very happy that there’s such a commitment to action on all the steps that could have been taken to prevent it: The beginning of the mental health portion of it.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
MAYOR HUNSCHOFSKY: The police portion of it; if there had been better communication, maybe that could have been acted on.
What’s very important to our residents right now is the school safety portion of it: that someone like that cannot gain access to these schools, and that our students are safe going to school. And it’s very important that we act on that as quickly as possibly, because that is where the parents and the students are afraid right now.
And then, on the end, how did somebody like this person get access to that kind of firearm? And I think what Pam Bondi is working on is wonderful. And thank you so much for allowing us a seat at the table, and for really listening and being committed to action. I think that makes us all very hopeful.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. And I’m so sorry for what you’ve gone through. I mean, few people will ever go through what you’ve gone through over the last week, and we really all appreciate it. You’ve done a — you’ve been an incredible mayor in a time when they need it, really, right now — a very incredible mayor.
The amazing thing about Parkland — which I know, because Florida is a special place that I know very well — this is probably the last place in this country where you’d think a thing like this could happen.
MAYOR HUNSCHOFSKY: We were the safest city.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
MAYOR HUNSCHOFSKY: We’re one of the safest cities. The message is, if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. And it’s very important that we do everything we can to secure our schools so that the students feel safe there and the parents feel safe sending them there.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
MAYOR HUNSCHOFSKY: Thank you, Mr. President. I appreciate it.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much, Christine.
MR. BREMBERG: Well, Mr. President, we had a really great conversation, and I want to leave more time for the other participants. We can brief you later on more —
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good.
MR. BREMBERG: — of the great ideas and issues that these leaders have talked about —
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
MR. BREMBERG: — particularly as you continue to lead this discussion —
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MR. BREMBERG: — and as you prepare for your conversation with the governors.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Andrew. And Kellyanne Conway, though, I’ll have you say — I think most people know Kellyanne, she’s become a pretty big star. (Laughter.) What do you think?
ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS: Big star.
THE PRESIDENT: Pretty big star. I think the best. Right?
MS. CONWAY: Thank you, sir. I don’t see it that way.
THE PRESIDENT: Would you like to say something? Because I know it’s a very important issue for you, personally.
MS. CONWAY: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Thank you for yesterday and today. And the one thing I would mention, because we heard it from the mayor before you walked in the room, we heard it from Mr. Scott yesterday — whose daughter, Rachel Joy Scott, was the first fatality at Columbine 19 years ago — is this lack of connectedness for our youth. And some of the social media outlets you’ve mentioned didn’t even exist in 1999. But it’s this lack of connectedness, and I think that’s a whole other type of stigma and silence that needs to be cured in our society.
We all have a role to play there; there’s an entire spectrum of actors. We should watch our words and our actions, and realize that there are many different causes and symptoms and consequences, obviously.
But at the same time, if we’re focusing on youth, we need to focus on all youth and the ability for them to feel that they are connected. That is not with respect to any one individual. It’s just I heard it very clearly from Mr. Scott yesterday, very clearly from the mayor, and very clearly from the President of the United States moments ago.
Thank you very much for being a leader on this, Mr. President. I think that you have a great opportunity to join with the nation and help them to heal and to move forward in a way that shows not just resilience, but great resolve, and not just talk, but action. We’re very grateful that you’re President at this time.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much, Kellyanne.
MR. NEVILLE: Mr. President, Patrick Neville. Colorado House Minority Leader, and also a former Columbine student who was there that day.
Thank you for your leadership on this issue. You’re absolutely right — I read some of your comments from last night, but we have to find a way to let good people defend our students. We can’t let criminals think that this is going to be an easy target for them to enter their schools and injure our students. We have to find a way to harden those targets so that our students aren’t sitting ducks.
Furthermore, I think that we do have some good programs to model off of. The Safe to Tell program in Colorado has been wildly successful. We have similar to what Pam Bondi was talking about. It can be used not just for school violence actions, but it can also be used for suicidal ideations and other things of that nature.
But that said, I think we have to do it immediately, but I think we also need to realize, too, it’s not just about the guns. My experience is pretty unique in Columbine that there was also two propane tanks that were supposed to be a bomb that going to go off. By the grace of God, that didn’t happen. But there are other ways that people can commit these atrocious acts.
So I appreciate your approach on this, by listening before just reacting.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate what you’re saying. And I’ve watched you and read about you, and you have a great story, where you came from and how you — and you’re doing so fantastically well right now.
But I happen to agree with you. We have to harden our schools, not soften them up. 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.” We have to get smart on gun-free zones. When they see it says, “This is a gun-free zone,” that means that nobody has a gun except them; nobody is going to be shooting bullets in the other direction. And they see that as such a beautiful target. They live for gun-free zones.
And, I mean, frankly, you have teachers that are Marines for 20 years, and they retire, they become a teacher. And they’re Army, Navy, Air Force, they’re Coast Guard, they’re people that have won shooting contests. And they’re for whatever — this is what they do. They know guns, they understand guns.
And I, frankly, have been reading a lot about it. And I think when you allow a person who has been in the Marines for 20 years, who’s done nothing but handle guns and handle them safely and well — because you can’t just give a teacher a gun.
One of the fake news networks, CNN, last night was saying I want teachers to have guns. I don’t want teachers to have guns. I want certain highly adept people, people that understand weaponry, guns — if they really have that aptitude. Because not everybody has an aptitude for a gun. But if they have the aptitude, I think a concealed permit for — having teachers and letting people know that there are people in the building with a gun — you won’t have — in my opinion, you won’t have these shootings. Because these people are cowards. They’re not going to walk into a school if 20 percent of the teachers have guns. It may be 10 percent or it may be 40 percent.
And what I would recommend doing is the people that do carry, we give them a bonus. We give them a little bit of a bonus. Frankly, they’d feel more comfortable having a gun anyway. But you give them a little bit of a bonus.
So practically for free, you have now made the school into a hardened target. For instance, if the coaches, who I guarantee had plenty of experience with weapons — if they had guns — you need to hard, because no matter what you do to keep them gun-free, they’ll be able to get in there, and they’ll crawl through the back of a window or something. And you’re going to have everybody, again, without any protection.
So I know where you stand on it. You want a hardened school, and I want a hardened school, too. I want to know that if they get in there, they’re not going to be long. Because it’s going to take 10 minutes for the police to get there. The police do an incredible job in getting there. I guess it averages about eight minutes, but the shootings average three minutes. And that’s tremendous destruction and death.
So I would like to see true people with great talent at guns and being adept at guns, of which there’s only a percentage of people. But whatever that percentage may be, it’s a substantial number. Because you can’t hire enough security guards. You can’t hire — I mean, the school — your school, as an example, Christine, you would have — you’d need 100, 150 security guards. That is a very big school with a tremendous floor area. You can’t have that many — who wants that many security guards standing all over the place, loaded up with guns?
But you could have concealed on the teachers. They wouldn’t know — the people — nobody would know who they are. And it is a tremendous threat. And, by the way, instead of advertising, “This school has no guns. We are gun-free,” you let the people know the opposite. Nobody is going to attack that school, believe me. Because they’re cowards. They don’t want to be shot at. And they’re going to be shot at.
So not everybody agrees with us — I know how you stand — and a lot of people do agree with us. But I think we need hardened sites. We need to let people know: You come into our schools, you’re going to be dead, and it’s going to be fast. And unless you do that, you’re going to always have this problem. You can talk about your gun-free zones. We had a case three years ago at a military base where five Marines, I believe, three of whom were world-class shots and experts at guns, they were told it was a gun-free area — within a military base, if you can believe that.
If we can’t trust our military, who are we going to trust? You know what I’m saying. Five. They were putting away — they put away their guns. Their guns were in a different section, totally gun-free. Their guns were 250 yards away from them where they had to store them. And they went in for lunch, and a wacko came in and shot the five of them. He wouldn’t have lasted for one — three of these people were world-class marksmen. He wouldn’t have lasted for a second. But they stood there; there was nothing they could do. All five were killed. You know the instance I’m talking about. That was in a gun-free zone on a military base.
Well, a school is, frankly, no different. I want my schools protected just like my banks are protected, just like everything else. And I get a kick — I was watching a politician, weak, ineffective politician last night — I’d tell you a name, but I don’t want to embarrass anybody — and he was talking about no guns, no this, no that. And yet, he’s surrounded by three guys carrying guns. I said, “Well, when are they going to give up their guns?” They’re not going to give up their guns. But he wants everybody else to have no guns. And you have plenty of them.
So we have to harden our sites. We have to be very careful. And these people, as adept as they may — they have to go to training, I would say, every six months or every year. They have to have a fairly — really, a rigorous course in what they’re doing. And they should be paid extra money. Those teachers should be paid extra money. So they get a bonus, and they’d love getting that bonus, too. And it would be much less expensive than the guards. It wouldn’t look bad. You know, if you have guards, it looks like you have an armed camp that would look terrible. Because people are telling me, we’re going to put a lot of security guards in the buildings. Will look terrible. And it would be much more effective.
But I’ll tell you what, if you harden these sites in that way, or some other way in a similar fashion — not only teachers; coaches, it could be other people that work in the building — if you harden the sites, you’re not going to have this problem, because these guys who lack courage will never go into those schools. Those schools are going to be safe.
But when you say a school is gun-free — it’s got no guns, no nothing, it’s gun-free — boy, they start — that’s what they want to hear. So I agree with you, Patrick. Strongly agree with you.
MR. KITTLE: Fred Kittle from Bartow County schools in Bartow County, Georgia.
First, so my mom doesn’t whoop me, thank you for March 29th — for the veterans. She is a Vietnam widow, and my uncle is a wounded veteran, former police chief in (inaudible) City.
What we’re doing in our — I got to thank Clarence Robie (ph) of DNS (ph), who’s — as you know, school boards, we have regular jobs and do this on the side.
But one of the things that we’re doing in our school system — and Georgia has given the school boards a lot of power. And you are absolutely correct, there’s things local can already do. We have the single point of entry at all of our schools. You have to be buzzed to get in. We do have resource officers. And like you said, it would take quite a bit — we have, I believe, it’s seven with our school. And we have 13,332 students and 892 teachers there.
But we also work really closely with our law enforcement. For example, one of our middle schools and elementary — police station is right around the corner. And we do pay the sheriff’s department and local police to help do, when people are coming and going, to do the traffic. But it’s also, they’re there and they’re present. So that’s also a deterrent.
THE PRESIDENT: How many are in the school? Because when you have a sheriff’s department, they don’t have enough people to really take care of the school. That’s the problem.
MR. KITTLE: You’re absolutely correct. Now, here’s something the state of Georgia did after the last shootings in 2014, in giving the school systems the authority. We’re allowed to — if the school board so votes on it, we actually can have armed employees. They do have to go through their safety firearm training and that, and then our resource officers also go through a third party — another party for training each year.
So you’re absolutely correct. And there is more that can be done. And I think a lot of it, too, that we need to address, too, is the heart problem — the heart issue. You know, one of the things that comes out is the family. We come from a community where the faith-based community just wants to help all they can. When the tornadoes hit Adairsville, FEMA thought they were going to be there a long time. Very short. People volunteered, came out with chainsaws right when it happened. And they had to send them back because they had to get the power and gas and all that.
But when you’re allowed to have the faith-based, it does a lot. Right now, they’re trying to figure out how to help us in all kinds of ways. But because of this separation of church and state, that was never intended. So we would appreciate if you keep electing — or not electing — appointing the justices like you’re doing that follow the Constitution on their (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: We’re having a great success with the appointment of justices, that’s true, and judges.
MR. KITTLE: And I need to say this, so they don’t fuss at me: But we have a lot of people praying for you and your administration there in Georgia. We have quite a few churches there. We have a group called President’s Team. Once a week, they pray for you all.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MR. KITTLE: They’re praying for you and your community. I know that may sound — with the devastation, I can’t imagine. I’ve got six kids, and I can’t imagine losing any of those. In fact, watching what you had — and I love how you’re having everybody discuss and talk, and then a solution. You’re solving things that we hear politicians for 30 years, and you’re doing it within a year. And we really appreciate it.
And we’ve, kind of, taken your motto, “Just do your job.” And that just works phenomenally. Because when it’s one person responsible, then we know where it comes down on.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I want the politicians to watch. Like yesterday, very importantly, they watched, and a lot of them saw that. And they saw the devastation that’s caused. And you know, some of them maybe don’t know if they don’t get to see. I mean, I was with those families, and those families are devastated.
And I want the politicians to see that because they have to pass legislation. They have to do things. And I’m the biggest believer of the Second Amendment that there is. Okay? I am the biggest. But I’ll tell you what, I spoke with the NRA — the top people. And I spoke, and they gave me tremendous support, and — tremendous. I think I had their earliest — I was probably the earliest one, Kellyanne, from what I hear, ever. You know, they endorsed me at the absolute earliest point that you could. And I’m a believer.
But I spoke to them, and they’re ready to do things. They want to do things. You know, they’re good people. They’re patriots. They love this country. But the NRA is ready to do things. And you know, people like to blame them, and they do have power and all of that. But they want to do — they want to — they actually came up with certain of the rules and regulations that we have now. But we’re going to have to toughen — I told them, I said, we’re going to have to toughen them up. Because it doesn’t make anybody look good, and most importantly, I saw the devastation of these families. We can’t allow that to happen.
But again, we need a hardened school. But we want to harden it without having everybody standing there with a rifle. I don’t want that either because that’s no good. That sends a lot of bad signals. As an example, I’m watching John Kelly — General John Kelly. So he’s a four-star Marine. He’s a tough cookie. If he was a teacher, I wouldn’t mind him have a gun because I guarantee he can use it better than anybody. There’s no security guard you’re going to hire that’s going to handle a gun better than him. So if he’s a teacher, and if other friends of his from the Marines, if they’re teaching — or other people like that — I want them to have a gun.
But more importantly — almost more importantly, nobody is going to attack that school. Because they know General Kelly is the history teacher. He’s teaching about how we win wars, okay? And he’s got a concealed weapon. But they’re going to know he’s got a concealed, because we tell them that the bullets are going to be flying in the other direction. You’re not going to have these attacks if you do that.
If you’re going to continue with this nonsense about a gun-free zone — gun-free, it sounds so good. It’s like — it sounds so great. It is such a target for the killer. They look for gun-free zones because, believe it or not, they don’t want to get killed.
MR. KITTLE: And we are a soft target, and so are movie theaters and that.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look at the guy in Florida. He tried to escape with the other. Right? You had a great policeman caught him in a different community. But he actually escaped. He didn’t want to get shot. If he would have known that he was going to be shot — because he’s a coward — but he tried to escape. He did actually escape. They had a great policeman in a different community found him. So that’s what we need.
MR. KITTLE: One of our board members did ask me to ask you, however, when we’re looking at all these solutions — and we all know that the kids are precious, and we need to do whatever we need to do — but at the same time, one of the things that hurts our systems a lot is when we come up with these unfunded mandates. We’ll suddenly have something that we have to do, and we don’t necessarily have the money. So if it is something on the federal level, we would like to make sure that it’s funded because we’ve already had to go to a different block schedule, and it cost us 30 teachers. And we don’t want to —
THE PRESIDENT: You know, this isn’t so much about funding. This is more about common sense. I mean, the money we’re talking about — I mean, what I’m talking about is going to save money. Everybody that agrees on a hard — they’re all talking about having 50 security guards standing all over the school, which is, you know, going to be very not nice for the students.
I’m talking about something where they’re there anyway, where they get a little extra money because they happen to carry, where they go for training every year. I mean, we’re talking about rules and regulations for purchasing. We’re talking about changing an age, from 18 to 21.
I mean, so they buy a revolver — a handgun — they buy at the age of 21. And yet, these other weapons that we talk about — that some people don’t like — they’re allowed to buy them at 18. So how does that make sense? How does that make sense? So I say that it should all be at 21.
But we’re not only talking about money. We’re talking about common sense, and it’s a great thing. And the NRA will back it. I really feel very confident the NRA will back it, and so will Congress, and so will the Senate.
MR. KITTLE : I really like how you’re not focused on just the tool, you’re also focusing on like mental illness and other issues, and families —
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, focus on mental illness. You got to focus on mental illness; it’s a big factor. But in addition to mental illness, we have to harden our schools, we have to make sure — in a way that doesn’t look like they’re hardened. But we have to let the bad guy know that they are hardened. There’s not going to be news. And we don’t want to have a secret. So you come in here, you’re not going to last long. You do that, you’re not going to have a problem.
Betsy, thank you.
SECRETARY DEVOS: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you so much for your leadership on this. The session yesterday was difficult and very moving, but very important. I really appreciate our focus on both protection but also on prevention. And I think particularly about this issue of connectedness, and I think of all of our teachers and what tools can we give them, what practices that they can do daily, weekly, bi-weekly.
I heard a great story about a teacher, following Columbine, who now every two weeks asks her students to make a list of five students that they’d like to sit by next week and five students who might like to sit by them. And by the simple act, regularly done, she is able to detect a pattern, if there’s a child that is on the outside. And this is a simple practice that can be implemented tomorrow, today.
So I just really — my heart goes to the teachers who, in some cases, feel powerless. But I think we can help them and empower them with tools —
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
SECRETARY DEVOS: — to notice these things.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks, Betsy. Thank you.
SECRETARY DEVOS: Thanks, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Pam.
MS. STEWART: Mr. President, I’m Pam Stewart. I’m the Commissioner of Education for the great state of Florida.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
MS. STEWART: And it was a terrible tragedy. I appreciate, so much, your willingness to visit the victims and their families and to hear from students and parents yesterday, as well as convening this group today.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you.
MS. STEWART: The Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, as you know, was in Parkland and has spent a great deal of time there. He also asked that we convene three roundtables, which we did on Tuesday — one on public safety, one of mental health, and one of school safety. I moderated the one on school safety. We discussed mental health. We discussed the policies and practices that need to be in place. We discussed the hardening of the building.
And so many of the issues that have been brought up came up when we talked. Secretary DeVos has just mentioned one of those, which is what we would call Tier 1 social-emotional issues, where that needs to be a practice where we are helping students feel connected so that we don’t reach that point of Tier 3 or Tier 4 where we’ve got to have the mental health services to intervene on individuals like that.
Individual practices being in place: We are required to have a fire drill in schools once a month. We are not required to have active shooter drills. And so a practice like that, where you put something like that into place —
THE PRESIDENT: But active shooter drills is a very negative thing, I’ll be honest with you. I mean, if I’m a child and I’m 10 years old, and they say, we’re going to have an active shooter drill, I say, “What’s that?” “Well, people may come in and shoot you.” I think that’s a very negative thing to be talking about, to be honest with you. I don’t like it. I’d much rather have a hardened school. I don’t like it. I wouldn’t want to tell my son that you’re going to participate in an active shooter drill. And I know some of them actually call it that. I think it’s crazy. I think it’s very bad for children.
MS. STEWART: And I think calling it something else is something important. The student that served on our committee felt that it was important that he and other students would know what to do in an emergency of this type so that they would know where to go, how to get out.
Things like hardening the building so that there is, as the Mayor has said, one point of entry. Having plans that are developed that have minimum standards are established. And having those individuals in our schools who are ready to respond, as you had mentioned.
The other issue that did come up was the ability to interface agencies together so that we are able to work together and know what one another are doing, and to better be able to address these issues as they arise.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Thank you, Pam, very much.
MR. HILL: Mr. President, thank you so much —
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MR. HILL: — for the opportunity to be here. And I want to start out by saying that, as we all know, this is the freest nation on Earth, and whatever measures we take have got to be consistent with the character of who are as Americans, first and foremost.
I’d like to make three points of things that we’re doing in Indiana and things that we can do better in Indiana. And it goes to the discussion that we had here. Securing the physical environment of the school is an absolute must. It goes beyond policies and plans.
We have a school in Indiana, in Shelby County, Southwestern High School, which was participating in a pilot project, and it wouldn’t surprise you to know that it was under the leadership of your Vice President —
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
MR. HILL: — then-Governor Pence.
Through this program of innovation and technology in connection with the Indiana Sheriff’s Association, the school created a model for security. And in the security, not only do we have bulletproof doors, bulletproof glass; we have containment zones. When the students are in the classrooms, the doors are locked so we don’t have to go up and lock it from the outside.
And, Mayor, we talked about that earlier. That was a concern you had on how that’s done. This is all done automatically. The school is wired directly, securely to the Sheriff’s Department 10 miles away. So the Sheriff’s Department can monitor in real time what’s occurring. Each teacher has a key fob, so that when something occurs, they can communicate effectively, immediately, with someone off-site. And the most —
THE PRESIDENT: Do you have anybody inside with a gun that can take on the man that’s right outside the door, that, by the way, can shoot right through the steel doors, as they did in your school? Those bullets went right through those steel doors like they were butter.
MR. HILL: That’s a part of what’s — that’s a part of what’s necessary. But I can tell you this: What else they have are countermeasures — countermeasures that can be employed from the Sheriff’s Department within seconds to contain the attacker and, in a sense, turn the attack on them. That’s a critical piece. I would invite you to come to Shelby County —
THE PRESIDENT: I just don’t know what that means. Honestly, I don’t know what that means.
MR. HILL: Well, I can tell you what it means. When you’re in a hallway — if you have an active shooter in the hall, and he’s going around and he’s looking for targets, we’ve got the doors blocked. We’ve got it locked up. Somebody is monitoring. And, for example, they have smoke canisters that can come in and blind the shooter, which detracts him from his target. That gives time, as you know, that critical time when he’s alone looking for targets. Now’s he discombobulated, he doesn’t know where he’s going.
THE PRESIDENT: Hopefully. Hopefully.
MR. HILL: Well, that’s the idea. I mean, these are not (inaudible) —
THE PRESIDENT: In the meantime, he’s shooting everybody, though.
MR. HILL: Well, in this particular school, they’re locked down. We need to have those types of hard products or hard targets in our schools. We do need to have secure — I think, secured or highly skilled, highly trained individuals that would combine with that to make sure that if they do get in there, there is that deterrent.
Another piece that I want to talk about is the mental health aspect in Indiana. And Pam is working on this in Florida. In Indiana, we already have what we call “red-flag laws.” We have a law in Indiana that allows police officers who believe that someone is dangerous or who believe that someone — or have reason to believe that someone has a mental illness and is off their medications, or is otherwise a danger, to be able to take the guns, both under a warrant and in some circumstances without a warrant, but then to certainly provide due process for that particular individual.
What that does, it gets us past the issue of the person’s mental illness. We address the taking of the guns. We get them in court. They’re allowed to have their day in court, but in the meantime, we’re able to cool down this process and take the guns from someone, which is exactly the type of thing that we’re not having all over the country. I think there’s a handful of states that have this process. Indiana has been doing it for a number of years. We just issued a public safety advisory yesterday, because what we learned is that many of prosecutors and our police officers weren’t even aware that we had it.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, it’s good.
MR. HILL: So we’re making sure that that’s getting out there. I would suggest that it be something that all states adopt as quickly as possible.
And one last point. To the extent that this is about guns, let it be about the illicit use of guns used inappropriately or in crimes so that we can do what we do in Indiana and that we need to work on continually, is to enhance the penalties for any type of offense that’s used with a firearm. Let’s double down on that. If you commit a burglary or robbery with a firearm, you need to pay a severe consequence.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Thank you very much.
MR. HILL: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank everybody. I just want to end by saying — in listening to some of these suggestions, we really do have to have offensive measures also. I know people don’t like talking about it, but we need offensive as well as defensive. We have to be totally defensive. But if we don’t have offensive measures within these schools, we’re just — you’re just kidding yourselves, folks. You’re just kidding yourselves.
And if the offensive measures are strong and solid, you’re going to stop the problem. You’re going to stop the problem. Because they’re not coming into that school. They’ll find something else, unfortunately. But they’re not coming into that school.
So I just would like everybody to think about that because I hear so many of these wonderful plans where you’re going to live in this utopian school and there’s not going to be any protection, there’s not going to be any guns, there’s not going to be any bullets flying at the perpetrator — the animal that wants to destroy the lives of families and children.
Unless you’re going to have offensive capability, you’re wasting your time. You’re wasting your time. And you’re going to talk, and it would be easier to pass — I’m sure you’re having a lot of trouble in Florida passing because a lot of people don’t understand it, or they do understand it, but it’s politically what they want to believe.
Because I want to end the problem. I don’t want to have it where this happens again. And unless we’re going to have an offensive capability, it’s going to happen again, and again, and again, and it’s going to be the same old story. And people are going to be sitting around tables and talking. I like to get things done. And to get this done, we do need defense but we also need offensive capability.
I want to thank everybody. You’re really experts at what you’re doing. And it’s really tremendous hearing some of these ideas that a lot of people haven’t heard. The media is now hearing things that they haven’t heard. And a lot of people that are watching on television right now are hearing things that they haven’t heard.
So it’s a horrible situation. We’re going to get it stopped. And we’re going to stop it through heart and through toughness. It’s a combination of through love and through toughness. Otherwise it’s not going to happen. Just not going to happen. It’s not going to stop.
And again, thank you all very much. It’s a great honor to be with you. Thank you all very much. Thank you.
Q Mr. President, many school teachers say that they don’t want guns in the classroom.
Q Are you willing to go up against the NRA, sir, on age limits?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I don’t think I’ll be going up against them. I really think the NRA wants to do what’s right. I mean, they’re very close to me. I’m very close to them. They’re very, very great people. They love this country. They’re patriots.
The NRA wants to do the right thing. I have spoken to them often in the last two days, and they want to do the right thing. They’re going to do the right thing. I have no doubt about it.
Q Do you think you can win that battle, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: It’s not a battle. I think the NRA wants to do the right thing.
Q What do you say to teachers who say that they don’t want guns in the classroom?
THE PRESIDENT: These are experts. These would be people that actually would want them. And it would be a small percentage, but it would be a lot of people. And once you do this, you will have a situation where, all of a sudden, this horrible plague will stop.
Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.
Q Sir, just one more. (Inaudible.) Do you worry about that — to have a gun?
THE PRESIDENT: These are experts. Only experts. You understand that. Only experts. That’s all we’re talking about. These are people that are at the highest level of professionalism.
Q Would you give them money, federally, for that?
THE PRESIDENT: I would. For training. For additional training.
Thank you. Thank you very much.