President Donald Trump suggested on Wednesday that arming teachers and school staff members could provide security against events like the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week, in which 17 students and school workers were killed.
"If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly," Trump said at the White House, during a meeting with students and parents from the school.
"This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun," Trump added. "It's called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They'd go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone."
Trump clarified his comments on Thursday morning, stressing that he said "to look at the possibility of" arming teachers with military backgrounds or special training — "only the best."
"Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this," he added. "Far more assets at much less cost than guards."
Despite Trump's stipulations, the idea of arming teachers and other school staff was widely panned — especially by veterans with experience using high-powered weapons and firing under duress.
101st Airborne Division soldiers return fire during combat operations in the valley of Barawala Kalet, Kunar province, Afghanistan, March 29. (U.S. Army / Pfc. Cameron Boyd)
"Shooting under stress is extremely difficult. Even for the most well-trained shooters," Jay Kirell, an Afghanistan veteran who has written about difficulties veterans face in civilian life, tweeted. "A teacher is not going to be able to do this. Cops & soldiers literally get paid to do this & most of them can't shoot accurately under stress."
"Not because they suck, but because it's nearly impossible to hit a target in one shot when pumped full of adrenaline," Kirell added. "And if you're in a school with a shooter and dozens of children, if you're not shooting accurately you're just creating crossfire."
Data compiled by the New York City Police Department underscores the difficulty of firing accurately in challenging situations.
In 2005, NYPD officers intentionally fired their guns at someone 472 times, hitting their mark 82 times. In 2006, New York police fired under the same circumstances 364 times, hitting their target 103 times. That same year, Los Angeles police fired 67 times, recording 27 hits.
Other veterans responded directly to Trump, dismissing the idea of arming teachers as inappropriate and dangerous.
Paul Szoldra, a Marine veteran, former Business Insider editor, and editor-in-chief at Code Red News and Duffle Blog, pointed out the challenges firearms present to military personnel trained to live and work with them.
"The act of having a pistol go off accidentally among military officers is so common it has its own name: 'desk pop,'" Szoldra wrote on Twitter. (A number of shootings reported on school grounds this year were accidental discharges.)
"Think about a law-enforcement officer showing up to an active scene, where often they have no idea how many shooters or where they are. And then they run into a teacher with a gun. Or a veteran. Wonder what happens," Szoldra added.
Kristen Beck, a transgender retired Navy SEAL, was one of a number of former servicemembers who called for changes to gun laws.
"I am a retired combat #veteran and I support common sense reform of our current gun laws," Beck tweeted. "The legislation absolutely must be steered by people who know about guns & unpolarized by" the Second Amendment.
A sheriff's vehicle outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a mass shooting. (AP)
Schools in some localities already have armed teachers, and teachers in some places have expressed interest in receiving training to carry concealed handguns. A number of state and national politicians have echoed Trump's suggestion in recent days, saying that armed teachers could provide classroom defense.
But educators — including those present during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — have also criticized the idea.
"We don't need to put guns in the hands of teachers," Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie, whose district includes Stoneman Douglas High, said at a CNN town hall event on Wednesday. "You know what we need? We need to arm our teachers with more money in their pocket."
Randi Weingarten, the president of the 1.7-million-member American Federation of Teachers, said arming teachers was "one of the worst ideas I have heard in a series of really, really, really bad ideas."
"Bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence," Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, which represents 3 million K-12 and college educators, told the Chicago Tribune. "We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators. Arming teachers does nothing to prevent that."
The National Association of School Resource Officers has backed hiring more trained law-enforcement officers — in part to make sure a student doesn't wind up with a teacher's gun.