DeVos touts Trump plan to arm school staff

- Maret 12, 2018

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Monday morning defended the Trump administration's plan to arm school staff, but said a gun in every classroom wouldn't be "appropriate."

During an appearance on NBC's "Today," co-anchor Savannah Guthrie asked DeVos what percentage of teachers should be armed. President Donald Trump has previously said 10 percent to 40 percent of school personnel could be qualified to handle a weapon.

"I don’t have a percentage," DeVos said. "It should only be those capable and qualified and only in places where it's appropriate."

When pressed on putting a gun in every classroom or in every grade, DeVos said, "I don’t think that would be appropriate and I don’t think anybody would agree that would be. ... The point is that schools should have this tool if they choose to use the tool. … Nobody should be mandated to do it."

The White House on Sunday night announced backing for a new Justice Department program that would aid states that seek to train teachers and other school personnel to carry firearms, as part of a package of steps to curb school violence. Officials said that existing DOJ funds would be used to assist states and local law enforcement that want to bolster their armed school personnel.

Trump also tapped DeVos to lead a commission that will explore steps to prevent school violence, following the Parkland, Fla., shooting last month that left 17 dead. That commission will address issues like whether to repeal Obama-era school discipline efforts, the impact of video games on youth violence and the effects of press coverage of mass violence.

But the Trump administration's proposal doesn't call for raising the age to 21 for the purchases of some rifles — an idea Trump has said he backs.

When Guthrie pressed DeVos on why it was left out, despite what appears to be the president's support, DeVos said her commission would study the issue.

"Everything is on the table and the commission that is being formed of which I will lead is going to look at this issue, along with other issues, the point being that we have to get much broader than just talking about guns and a gun issue where camps go into their corners," DeVos said.

"We have to go back to the beginning and talk about how these violent acts are even occurring to start with," she added.

DeVos said the White House plan announced Sunday night "is really the first step in a more lengthy process."

The Education secretary also appeared on "Fox and Friends" Monday morning, stressing that schools should be protected like other venues, such as stadiums.

And she said Congress has an opportunity to act on legislation, including a bill by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) designed to improve background checks for gun purchases, as well as the separate “STOP School Violence Act," which would repurpose a $50 million Justice Department program focused on school safety.

"Every state and every community is going to do this slightly differently, but we're going to advance ways in which schools can be made safer for students and which works for each community and each state," DeVos said on "Fox and Friends."

On NBC's "Today," Guthrie also asked DeVos about the president's comments at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday, when he called NBC's Chuck Todd "a sleepy son of a bitch."

As Education secretary, "would you wash someone’s mouth out with soap?" Guthrie asked.

"Well I would probably use different language myself and I think we all have an opportunity and responsibility to be examples to our kids," DeVos said.

"Would that include the president?" Guthrie asked.

"That would include the president as well," DeVos said.

Louis Nelson contributed to this report.


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