President Donald Trump has doubled down on his proposals for combating school shootings, saying attackers would love to take advantage of "gun-free" zones.
In an interview with Fox News on Saturday, Trump claimed that "a gun-free zone is like target practice" for mass shooters.
The president heavily promoted the idea of allowing teachers and staff to carry concealed firearms in classrooms and schools to protect students following this month's shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people.
"If they go into a school, a gun-free zone is like target practice for these guys. They see that and that's what they want. Gun-free zones are very dangerous. The bad guys love gun-free zones, Jeanine," Trump said in the interview.
The president asserted that Nikolas Cruz, the suspect in the Parkland massacre, would never have entered the school building if he believed teachers were armed and ready to return fire.
"He would never have run into the building if he thought bullets were going to come flying back into him," Trump said.
"He left the building pretending he was a student. He didn't want to get shot. If he thought there were people who could defend offensively that you could have some offensive power in there, he would have never ever gone into that school building," the president added.
The Florida school rampage has reignited a national debate in the US about the need to reform the nation’s gun laws.
Opponents of stricter gun laws, including the powerful National Rifle Association, have dismissed the mounting demands for gun control as being politically motivated.
“They hate the NRA. They hate the Second Amendment. They hate individual freedom,” NRA chief Wayne LaPierre said at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday.
In a tweet on Saturday, Trump said his proposal to arm teachers as a deterrent against school shootings was "up to states."
The president called for bonuses for educators who volunteer to carry a gun, and also said he wanted to see stronger background checks and increased minimum age for the purchase of assault-style weapons.
Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them. Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again - a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2018
The White House has yet to release a detailed plan on how to curb school violence, including who would bear the financial cost. Trump told Fox News that a proposal would be put forward "very soon."
The president tweeted that arming educators and paying their bonuses would be "very inexpensive."
Teachers and law enforcement organizations oppose the idea, while several states are considering arming teachers.
Trump spent several days this week hearing emotional pleas from parents and students, including some who survived the Parkland shooting, for urgent action on gun reforms.
The president also solicited advice from state and local authorities on the issue.