President Donald Trump dubbed an armed Florida sheriff’s deputy who remained outside the Parkland, Florida, high school where 17 people were gunned down last week a “coward.”
Scot Peterson, a Broward County sheriff’s deputy, was at the high school when a 19-year-old former student entered with an AR-15 assault rifle and began firing. Peterson, local law enforcement officials said Thursday, did not go inside to confront the gunman. Peterson has resigned.
“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,” Trump told reporters Friday while leaving the White House. “He was there for five minutes, for five minutes. That was during the entire shooting. He heard it right from the beginning. So he certainly did a poor job.
“But that’s a case where somebody was outside, they’re trained, they didn’t act properly or under pressure or they were a coward,” Trump said bluntly. “It was a real shock to the police department.”
Despite Peterson being armed and opting against taking on accused shooter Nikolas Cruz, the president on Friday continued to call for teachers and school employees to be armed and get special training to stop school shooters.
Watch: Trump’s Clout on Gun Control is Limited, and House GOP Won’t Help
“I also believe that schools have to have some form of protection. … [It’s too easy] for these crazy people to come in and shoot,” Trump said. “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 amount of offensive power within the school. It can’t only be defense.”
“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,” he predicted, offering no supporting evidence. “It won’t be happening again. Our schools are essentially gun-free zones and that makes them very dangerous places.”
Trump was asked about the National Rifle Association, which backed him strongly during the 2016 presidential election but has voiced opposition to his idea of setting an age limit of 21 for the purchases of some assault-style firearms. NRA officials have been sharply criticized in recent days for the organization’s attacks on law enforcement, the intelligence community, and its claims that those who want to alter existing laws to crack down on school shootings as trying to “destroy” personal freedoms.
“The NRA is composed of people that I know very well. These are good people. In many cases patriots, they love our country,” he said. “The NRA wants to do the right thing. I’ve been speaking to them and they want to do the right thing.”