“It’s time to make our schools a much harder target for attackers. We don’t want them in our schools,” Trump said Friday in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual event near Washington attended by thousands of conservative politicians, strategists and activists.
As he did Thursday, Trump called for up to 20 percent of teachers to carry concealed weapons to thwart school massacres.
“This would be a major deterrent because these [attackers] are inherently cowards.”
Trump also called again for comprehensive background checks on gun buyers, ending the sale of “bump stocks” that increase the fire power of some weapons, and raising the age to buy assault-style rifles from 18 to 21.
Minutes into his speech, President Trump was heckled by a man who yelled about Russia and threw Russian flags. Security immediately surrounded and escorted the protester out of the room. Trump was not deterred, savaging the protester and the media in form. As the audience booed the protester, Trump said “How did he get in here, Matt?” referring to CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp.
The POTUS said, “Just for the media, the fake news back there, they took very good care of him. They were very gentle. He was very obnoxious. It was only one person. So we have thousands of people here. So listen, tomorrow, the headline will be a “Protesters that disturb –” It was one person, folks. It doesn’t deserve a mention. Doesn’t deserve a headline. One person, he was very nice.”
“We looked at him, he immediately left,” POTUS continued, “Okay?” The crowd erupted in laughter and applause. “He will say something, nobody hears them,” Trump continued. “And then the crowd will start screaming at him, and then all of a sudden, we stopped, and that’s okay. You have to show your spirit, right? You have to show your spirit.”
“I’m thrilled to be back at CPAC with so many of my wonderful friends, and amazing supporters and proud conservators,” Trump told the crowd before apparently catching a glimpse of himself on a video board. “By the way, what a nice picture that is. Look at that,” he added while pointing at the board. “I’d love to watch that guy speak. Oh boy.” Oh, I try like hell to hide that bald spot, folks,” POTUS continued. “I work hard. It doesn’t look bad, hey, we’re hanging in. We’re hanging in there, right? Together, we’re hanging in.”
On the hot button issue of immigration, Trump said: “A strong nation has strong borders. Don’t worry, you’re getting the wall, OK,” to loud chants of “build the wall.” Trump also riffed about the diversity visa lottery system, which he is trying to end, quipping that “they’re not sending their best people.” He continued, “I want people based on merit.”
The president joked that pundits — who doubted he would actually build a wall and only used it as a rhetorical campaign device — were delusional. “Every time they say that the wall gets 10 feet higher.” “I have a couple of these characters in the back say, ‘oh, he really doesn’t want the wall, he used that for campaigning,’” POTUS declared before the crowd of supporters. “Can you believe it? I say every time I hear that, the wall gets 10 feet higher. You know that, right? Every time. Every single time.”
Trump also took aim at Democratic lawmakers for blocking immigration legislation in recent weeks and not engaging in negotiations over the future of the DACA program. He echoed the frustrations expressed in tweets he wrote earlier Friday morning.
The president’s age proposal is opposed by the National Rifle Association, one of the country’s most powerful lobbying groups that claims 5 million members.
Trump again clearly indicated he does not intend to battle the powerful organization. “They’re friends of mine,” he said of the group that gave more than $11 million to his presidential campaign in 2016 and spent nearly $20 million attacking his Democratic Party general election challenger, Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s remarks were a continuation of the national debate over gun control in the wake of the February 14 killing of students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
While the president was addressing the conservative audience, Florida Governor Rick Scott also called for the minimum age for gun purchases to be raised from 18 to 21. Scott, a Republican who has been mentioned as a possible Senate candidate, also proposed that a police officer be assigned to every public school in the state and for a ban on “the purchase or sale of bump stocks.”
In the wake of last week’s school shooting, some victims and gun rights activists have called for a ban on semi-automatic rifles, such as the AR-15, which was used in the recent Florida school shooting.
The mass shooting has also sparked a wave of rallies in Florida, Washington and in other areas of the U.S. in an attempt to force local and national leaders to take action to prevent such attacks.
National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre criticized advocates of tougher gun control laws Thursday, saying they won’t prevent mass school shootings like the one that killed 17 people recently in Florida, instead touting enforcement measures such as armed security in U.S. schools.
“Schools must be the most hardened targets in this country and evil must be confronted immediately with all necessary force to protect our kids,” LaPierre said in his first public comments since the February 14 killing of students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
LaPierre, the head of one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the United States, strongly defended the nation’s gun laws at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual event outside Washington attended by thousands of conservative politicians, strategists and activists.
LaPierre criticized “Democratic socialists” for promoting the need for more stringent gun control laws and warned the country would be adversely affected if they gained representation in state legislatures and in Congress.
“Our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever, and the first to go will be the Second Amendment of our Constitution,” he said.
LaPierre made no mention of the student survivors of the Parkland shooting, who have sparked an unprecedented wave of youth-led gun-reform protests across the U.S.
Also addressing the issue was Vice President Mike Pence, who vowed President Donald Trump will “make the safety of our nation’s schools and our students our top national priority” when he meets with U.S. governors next week in Washington.
“President Trump and our entire administration will continue to take strong action to make our schools safe and to give law enforcement and our families the tools they need to deal with those struggling with dangerous mental illness,” Pence said.
Earlier Thursday, Trump refined his gun control views, saying he wants only the most trained 20 percent of teachers to carry concealed weapons to thwart school massacres. Trump also called for comprehensive background checks of gun buyers, raising the age to buy assault-style rifles from 18 to 21 and ending the sale of “bump stocks” that increase the fire power of some weapons.
Pence and North Korea, IS, Israel
The vice president used the event to tout the administration’s progress during the past year, including its resolve to stand firm against North Korea, a country he said is governed by “the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet.”
“The United States of America doesn’t stand with murderous dictatorships. We stand up to murderous dictatorships,” Pence said. “And we will keep standing strong until North Korea stops threatening our country, our allies, or until they abandon their nuclear and ballistics once and for all.”
Pence also praised the administration for participating in the campaign to defeat the Islamic State militant group, declaring, “ISIS is on the run, their caliphate has crumbled.”
He added the administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has restored the country’s global reputation. “America once again stands without apology as leader of the free world.”
Trump is the featured speaker at the four-day event and will address the audience Friday. At last year’s conference, an annual event hosted by the American Conservative Union, Trump was considered too controversial to attend.
Also on Thursday, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, the niece of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and former rising star of France’s National Front (FN) addressed the CPAC conference. Le Pen kicked off her speech by ripping into the European Union and exclaiming “France first.”
Le Pen spoke of the recent rise of conservatism in the Western world, applauding both Brexit and the election of U.S. President Donald Trump. “When the people are given the opportunity to take their country back, they will seize it,” she said.