Vice-President Mike Pence introduces President Donald Trump during a White House conference with the nation’s governors. After opening remarks by both the Vice-President and President, President Trump asked governors for their input and questions.
This is an important discussion between the President and Governors because of the looming battle with the institutional republican political apparatus (GOPe) over a necessary NAFTA exit.
On the key topic of the economy the President remarked about the growing GDP and future of trade deals, trade negotiations and how important it is to break the cycle of trade agreements that do not advance the best interests of the entire nation. Another big topic of the larger discussion was school security and proactive measures to protect.
[Transcript] State Dining Room – 10:53 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you very much. And I want to thank our Vice President for that really lovely introduction. That was very nice, Mike, and I appreciate it.
This is a time of great opportunity for our country. We’ve created nearly 3 million jobs since the election — a number that nobody would have thought possible. You go back and take a look at what they were saying just prior to the election. Nobody thought it was even possible.
And we’ve done many other things, as you know. And I won’t go over them because I want to be hearing from you today, but many other things that, frankly, nobody thought possible. GDP — 3.2, 3, 3. I think we’re going to have another really big one coming up this current quarter, maybe a number that nobody would have thought would ever be hit. But I think we’re going to have a very good number because of the stimulus, because of the massive tax cuts that we’re all benefitting — whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, you’re benefitting tremendously from those tax cuts.
Apple is investing $350 billion in the United States. And you look at what’s going on, it’s really quite something. You just read, a week ago, Exxon is now coming in with $50 billion — and many, many companies.
Also, something that nobody expected — they’re also coming in with massive bonuses for their workers. Nobody thought in terms of that. We know that everybody is going to get a lot more income, and we’ve seen that as of February 1st. Everyone is saying, “Wow, I have an extra $250 in my paycheck.” And that’s pretty good stuff. So we knew that was going to happen.
We didn’t know that hundreds and hundreds of companies, millions and millions of people were going to be getting large bonuses because of what we did.
And one of the things we’re working on is fair and reciprocal trade deals. We’re not being treated fairly. You, as governors, are not being treated fairly. And when I get too tough with a country, you’re always calling, “Oh, gee, don’t do that.” But I must say, it’s more senators and congressmen and women that call. You haven’t been calling so much. You want to see great deals.
But we have to make the deals fair. You know, with Mexico, as an example, we probably lose $130 billion a year. Now, for years, I’ve been saying — for the last year and a half, I’ve been saying $71 billion, but it’s really not. And they have a VAT tax of 16 percent, and we don’t have a tax. And, at some point, we have to get stronger and smarter, because we cannot continue to lose that kind of money with one country.
We lose a lot with Canada. People don’t know it. Canada is very smooth. They have you believe that it’s wonderful. And it is — for them. Not wonderful for us; it’s wonderful for them. So we have to start showing that we know what we’re doing.
World Trade Organization — a catastrophe. China became strong — you look at it. It was going like this for years and years and hundreds of years, it was going just like this. I’m a great — I have great respect for President Xi, by the way. So I’m not blaming them. I’m not blaming Mexico. I’m not blaming anybody. I’m blaming us because we did such a poor job for so many years.
I’m not just talking about President Obama. I’m talking about many, many, many Presidents — for 30 years, 35 years. But the World Trade Organization makes it almost impossible for us to do good business. We lose the cases, we don’t have the judges. We have a minority of judges. It’s almost as bad as the 9th Circuit. Nothing is as bad as the 9th Circuit. (Laughter.) It’s almost as bad.
Speaking of that, DACA is going to be put back into the 9th Circuit. You know, we tried to get it moved quickly, because we’d like to help DACA. I think everybody in this room wants to help with DACA. But the Supreme Court just ruled that it has to go through the normal channel. So it’s going back in, and there won’t be any surprise.
I mean, it’s really sad when every single case filed against us is in the 9th Circuit. We lose, we lose, we lose, and then we do fine in the Supreme Court. But what does that tell you about our court system? It’s a very, very sad thing. So DACA is going back, and we’ll see what happens from there.
So we want fair trade deals. We want reciprocal trade deals. Scott Walker has a wonderful company called Harley Davidson in Wisconsin. Right? Great. So when they send a motorcycle to India, as an example, they have to pay 100 percent tax — 100 percent.
Now, the Prime Minister, who I think is a fantastic man, called me the other day. He said, “We are lowering it to 50 percent.” I said, “Okay, but so far we’re getting nothing.” So we get nothing, he gets 50 [percent], and they think we’re doing — like they’re doing us a favor. That’s not a favor. And you know what I’m talking about.
It’s a great company. When I spoke with your chairman or the president of Harley, they weren’t even asking for it because they’ve been ripped off with trade so long that they were surprised that I brought it up. I’m the one that’s pushing it more than they are, but it’s unfair. And India sells us a lot of motorbikes.
So when they have a motorbike — a big number, by the way — they have a company that does a lot of business. So they have a motorcycle or a motorbike that comes into our country — the number is zero. We get zero. They get 100 percent, brought down to 75; brought down, now, to 50. Okay.
And I wasn’t sure — he said it so beautifully. He’s a beautiful man. And he said, “I just want to inform you that we have reduced it to 75, but we have further reduced it to 50.” And I said, “Huh.” What do I say? Am I supposed to be thrilled? And that’s not good for you people, especially as governors. It’s just not right. And we have many deals like that.
Now, with all of that being said, let’s talk China. Because China, we probably lost $504 billion, last year, on trade — $504 billion. I think that President Xi is unique. He’s helping us with North Korea — who, by the way, wants to talk, as of last night; you heard that. They want to talk. And we want to talk also, only under the right conditions. Otherwise, we’re not talking.
You know, they’ve been talking for 25 years. Other Presidents should have solved this problem long before I got here. And they’ve been talking for 25 years. And you know what happened? Nothing. The Clinton administration spent billions and billions of dollars. They gave them billions. They built things for them. They went out of their way, and the day after the agreement was signed, they continued with nuclear research. It was horrible.
The Bush administration did nothing — both. The Obama administration wanted to do something. He told me it’s the single biggest problem that this country has. But they didn’t do anything. And it would have been much easier, in those days, than it is now. I think most people understand that. But we’ve been very tough with them.
China has been good, but they haven’t been great. China has really done more, probably, than they’ve ever done because of my relationship. We have a very good relationship, but President Xi is for China, and I’m for the United States. And Russia is behaving badly because Russia is sending in what China is taking out.
So China is doing pretty good numbers, but Russia is now sending a lot of stuff in. But I think they want to see it come to an end also. I think everybody does — talking about tremendous potential loss of lives; numbers that nobody has ever even contemplated, never thought of.
So they want to talk. First time — they want to talk. And we’ll see what happens. That’s my attitude: We’ll see what happens. But something has to be done.
Today, I want to hear your ideas on a number of critical issues. But, most importantly, we want to discuss the public safety in schools and public safety, generally. But school safety. We can’t have this go on.
I’m grateful that Governor Rick Scott is here, and we thank him for his leadership in the aftermath of the terrible tragedy in Parkland, Florida. Horrible. Our nation is heartbroken. We continue to mourn the loss of so many precious, innocent young lives. These are incredible people. I visited a lot of them.
But we will turn our grief into action. We have to have action. We don’t have any action. It happens, a week goes by, “let’s keep talking.” Another week goes by, we keep talking. Two months go by — all of the sudden, everybody is off to the next subject. Then, when it happens again, everybody is angry and “let’s start talking again.” We got to stop.
By the way, bump stocks — we’re writing that out. I’m writing that out myself. I don’t care if Congress does it or not. I’m writing it out myself, okay? (Applause.) You put it into the machine gun category — which is what it is — it becomes, essentially, a machine gun, and nobody is going to be able to — it’s going to very hard to get them. So we’re writing out bump stocks.
But we have to take steps to harden our schools so that they are less vulnerable to attack. This includes allowing well-trained and certified school personnel to carry concealed firearms. At some point, you need volume. I don’t know that a school is going to be able to hire a hundred security guards that are armed. Plus, you know, I got to watch some deputy sheriffs performing this week. And they weren’t exactly Medal of Honor winners. All right?
The way they performed was, frankly, disgusting. They were listening to what was going on. The one in particular, he was then — he was early. And then you had three others that probably a similar deal a little bit later, but a similar kind of a thing.
You know, I really believe — you don’t know until you test it — but I really believe I’d run in there, even if I didn’t had a weapon. And I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too, because I know most of you. But the way they performed was really a disgrace.
Second, we must confront the issue of mental health. And here is the best example of mental health. This kid — they had 39 red flags. They should have known. They did know. They didn’t do anything about it. That was really a bad time, I have to tell you. Nobody bigger for law enforcement than I am. But between the people that didn’t go into that school and protect those lives, and the fact that this should have been solved long before it happened — pretty sad.
So we have to confront the issue, and we have to discuss mental health, and we have to do something about it. You know, in the old days, we had mental institutions. We had a lot of them, and you could nab somebody like this. Because, you know, they did — they knew he was — something was off. You had to know that. People were calling all over the place.
But you used to be able to bring him into a mental institution, and hopefully he gets help or whatever — but he’s off the streets. You can’t arrest him, I guess, because he hasn’t done anything, but you know he’s like a boiler ready to explode, right? So he just — you have to do something. But you can’t put him in jail, I guess, because he hasn’t done anything.
But, in the old days, you would put him into a mental institution. And we had them in New York, and our government started closing them because of cost. And we’re going to have to start talking about mental institutions, because a lot of the folks in this room closed their mental institutions also.
So we have no halfway. We have nothing between a prison and leaving him at his house, which we can’t do anymore. So I think you folks have to start thinking about that.
Third, we have to improve our early warning response system so that when friends, family, and neighbors do warn the authorities about a violent or dangerous individual, action is taken quickly and decisively. Look, you had the one mother — you remember, in Connecticut, how horrible that was. She was begging — begging — to take her son in and help him — do something, anything, he’s so dangerous. And nobody really listened to her. And he ended up killing her, and then the rest. You know what happened. It was a horror. But she was begging to do something about her own son.
Recently, you had a grandmother that got to see the notes of her grandchild, and she reported him. And they nabbed him. He was ready to go in for a school — looked like. She reported him. And there, the law enforcement did a very good job.
Fourth, we must pursue commonsense measures that protect the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans while keeping guns out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others.
And fifth, we must strive to create a culture in our country that cherishes life and condemns violence and embraces dignity.
Now, with all of that, over the weekend — I cannot believe the press didn’t find this out, I can’t believe it. I think they’re getting a little bit — I could never use the word “lazy”; you don’t want to say that. We don’t want to give them any more enthusiasm than they already have. But I can’t believe they didn’t figure this one — because I had lunch with Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox, and David Lehman of the NRA. And I want to tell you, they want to do something. And I said, “Fellas, we got to do something. It’s too long now. We got to do something.”
And we’re going to do very strong background checks — very strong. We got to do background checks. If we see a sicko, I don’t want him having a gun. And, you know, I know there was a time when anybody could have — I mean, even if they were sick, they were fighting. And I said, “Fellas, we can’t do it anymore.” And there’s no bigger fan of the Second Amendment than me, and there’s no bigger fan of the NRA. And these guys are great patriots. They’re great people. And they want to do something. They’re going to do something. And they’re going to do it, I think, quickly. I think they want to see it.
But we don’t want to have sick people having the right to have a gun. Plus, when we see somebody is sick like this guy, when the police went to see him, they didn’t do a good job. But they have restrictions on what they can do. We got to give them immediate access to taking those guns away so that they don’t just leave and he’s sitting there with seven different weapons. (Applause.) Got to give immediate access.
Don’t worry, you’re not going to get any — you won’t — don’t worry about the NRA. They’re on our side. You guys — half of you are so afraid of the NRA. There’s nothing to be afraid of. And you know what? If they’re not with you, we have to fight them every once and a while. That’s okay. They’re doing what they think is right. I will tell you, they are doing what they think is right.
But sometimes we’re going to have to be very tough and we’re going to have to fight them. But we need strong background checks. For a long period of time, people resisted that. But now people, I think, are really into it.
And John Cornyn — great guy — senator, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy hopefully are going to work on some legislation. I hope you guys — they started already. In fact, John has legislation in. We’re going to strengthen it, we’re going to make it more pertinent to what we’re discussing, but he’s already started the process. We’ve already started it. And the other thing — we need hardened sites. We have to have hardened sites.
So just in concluding, we have tremendous things happening. The country is doing well, and then we have a setback like this that’s so heart-wrenching. It’s so heart-wrenching. And we have to — we have to clean it up. We have to straighten it out.
You know, it’s wonderful that we’re setting records on the economy. We’re setting records. Black unemployment at an all-time historical low. Hispanic unemployment at a historical low. Women unemployment at an 18-year low — 18 years. And actually, I did very well with women during the election. Nobody wants to give me credit for that, as you know. But — and I’m very proud of that. To me, these are incredible statistics.
And very importantly, we’re doing — our companies are doing well. The fundamentals are beyond what — literally beyond what anyone has ever seen. This isn’t a bubble. You know, there was bubbles in the past because these companies were valued and nobody understood where — where’s their money? Where’s the money? And these are really strong companies we’re building now. We have tremendous underlying value.
I want to bring the steel industry back into our country. If that takes tariffs, let them take tariffs, okay? Maybe it will cost a little bit more, but we’ll have jobs. Let it take tariffs. I want to bring aluminum back into our country. These plants are all closing or closed.
Recently, we put a tariff on washing machines because we were getting killed, believe it or not, on washing machines and solar panels. That was two months ago. You have to see the activity on new plants being built for washing machines and for solar panels. We had 32 solar-panel plants. Of the 32, 30 were closed, and 2 were on life-to-life resuscitation. They were dead.
Now they’re talking about opening up many of them — reopening plants that have been closed for a long time. And we make better solar panels than China. One of their knocks were that their solar panels were lousy, they weren’t good. We make a much higher-quality solar panel.
So, after two months, we’re opening up at least five plants, and other plants are expanding on the washing machines — which, by the way, it sounds like, sort of, a little hokey to say washing machines. It’s a big business. It’s a very big business. But then you look and you see, like — I won’t mention — I won’t mention countries. I would never do that.
But how many Chevrolets are in the middle of Berlin? How many Fords are in the middle of Tokyo? Not too many. In fact, Ford, sort of, closed up their operation in Japan because they couldn’t get cars in there. I spoke to Prime Minister Abe, another great friend of mine — he’s a great person — but I said, listen, you’re sending us millions of cars, and if we send you one and if we make it so perfect — they actually told me a case where they made this car so good. This was — they spent a fortune. They had the best environmental, the best this, the best skins, the best — everything you can have in a car. The best safety. They brought it in, and after inspections that lasted forever, it was rejected.
You see, that’s a form of tariff, too. Maybe that’s a more deadly form of tariff. That, to me, is just as deadly as 50 percent, and 25 percent, and 100 percent — in many cases.
So we’re going to straighten it out. We’ve already started. I mean, the first year is just — we laid the seeds. You know, a lot of it is statutory, where you can’t do anything unless you go through a process. Well, now, through our great team, we’ve gone through that process. Many of the — in other words, you’ll do a rule, you have to wait 90 days. That’s, sort of, what’s happening with the bump stocks. I’m waiting for the next process, but it’s gone. Just don’t worry about it. It’s gone. Essentially gone, because we’re going to make it so tough that you’re not going to be able to get them. Nobody is going to want them anyway.
You know, bump stocks — you shoot rapidly, but not accurately. I don’t know if you have ever heard what a bump stock does. The bullets come out fast, but you don’t know where the hell they’re going. That’s why nobody even, really — too much — came to its defense. But he used it in Las Vegas. He was using bump stocks in Las Vegas, as you know. So we’re getting rid of them.
So you’re going to ask questions. I’m going to help you folks. We’re going to get all of the things that we want to do, whether it’s transportation, whether it’s safety, whether it’s law and order.
One of the things that the past administration would not do is give this incredible equipment that we have — excess military equipment. Wouldn’t give it to your police. Would not give it to your law enforcement. They didn’t like the idea — the administration — of armored vehicles. I guess, maybe, they’d rather have — look, why wouldn’t they want that? People were in danger, people were being killed, people were being shot, people were being hit with rocks during some bad times and some rough places.
And we’ve given out hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of our excess military equipment to your police forces. And I will tell you, every time I go to one of your cities, they come up to me — the police — and they say, “Thank you so much for that equipment. We feel so much safer.” Where they can go in an armored van up to a site and not worried about being shot or hit in the head with a rock. And to me, it’s common sense. But, you know, what can I tell you? But I will say this: Your group really appreciates it.
So with that, I’m going to ask Brian to say a couple of words and then we’ll go around, we’ll take some questions. Maybe we’ll have Rick Scott come up second. And I’m here as long as you need me. Let’s get it all out. We want to help the governors, we want to help our states, and we want to make our schools safe.
Brian? Please. (Applause.)
GOVERNOR SANDOVAL: Mr. President, thank you. And I truly appreciate you. I appreciate all the members of the Cabinet. On behalf of all the governors, I want to thank you for your hospitality and the First Lady’s hospitality yesterday evening. It was an extraordinary night and truly a privilege to be able to visit and enjoy fellowship.
Mr. President, I appreciate, again, your having us all today. We can talk about issues with regard to infrastructure, workforce development, combatting opioids, prison reform, agriculture, healthcare, workforce — all these different issues. And those are things that we all need to talk about.
But the issue of the day is school safety, is public safety, Mr. President. You know, I shared this last night, Mr. President: After the massacre in Las Vegas — the mass shooting, where we lost 58 people, over 500 people were injured — this was a person who used those bump stocks. And I personally want to thank you for taking action to eliminate those, because it, essentially, was a killing field down there, where we had 20,000 people who were simply helpless. And that is an important first step.
You mentioned, in your remarks, school safety and public safety. And we need to have this national conversation with regard to what we’re going to do. I suppose you were looking for some suggestions, some ideas, and it will come in the form of questions, as well.
But I would suggest, Mr. President, with regard to the scope of the FBI background checks, if we could broaden those, Mr. President. Because I know, in my state, our background states are much broader. When we do an FBI background check, it does not include an adjudication of mental illness. It does not include an adjudication of a domestic violence protection order or a conviction for domestic violence. I think those are things that absolutely need to be included, and there are other categories that would be included in an expansion of FBI background checks.
We talked about this at dinner, with regard to Governor Scott. And again, my heart goes out to you and to the victims there in Florida, and Texas, and everywhere else where this has happened. And we need to have this national conversation. We need to bring the strength, the wisdom of all the governors and everyone else across the country to have this conversation.
Something else that we have done in Nevada, with regard to school safety, is, I included in my budget more money for social workers in the schools. We’ve had shootings where we’ve had bullied students that didn’t have access to resources at the schools, so now we have a social worker in every school. So somebody come to that — Mr. President, we talked about that last night, and that’s something else that we can do.
But again, having a room together like this, there’s no problem that we cannot solve. Every one of us brings a unique experience that we can come to solve this problem. You’re right, Mr. President — as a parent of a daughter who attends a middle school where there was simply a rumor that something could happen, and, one day later, half the school was absent — we can’t have parents living in fear. We can’t have students living in fear. They can’t teach, the kids can’t learn, and it’s just no way for our education system to operate.
So I know that I’m going to offer my experience to you, Mr. President. And I think I can speak for all the governors of the United States of America that we are here to solve this problem, once and for all. You are right, we need to take action now. The status quo is unacceptable.
So, with that, God bless you, Mr. President. God bless our great country. Thank you. (Applause.)
GOVERNOR SCOTT: Well, the first thing I want to do is I want to thank the President for making something happen. All of us, as governors, know, in any jobs we’ve had, you have to get something done. If you — anybody that has gone through one of these — and if you’ve gone to the funeral of a 14-year-old girl that her parents just loved her, you know that you have to make a change.
So what we’ve done in the last — I guess, it’s a little less than two weeks — we’ve looked at what other governors have done. We’ve brought people together. I’m very appreciative of what the President has done by bringing us all together to talk about this, and also what he did last week by bringing people together because it has created momentum to make sure something happens this time, that we don’t go through this and nothing happen.
So, in our state, the way I’ve done this is I’ve broken it down into three things. Number one, we’re going to have school safety. No parent in our state is going to say, “I’m concerned whether my child can go to school safely.” If you go to school in Florida, you’re going to know that your child can come home safely. If you’re a teacher, if you work at one of these schools, you’re going to know you’re going to come home safely. That’s step one.
We’re going to spend $500 million. I have two weeks left in my legislative session; I’m not waiting for the federal government. We’re going to invest $500 million, and we’re going to have significant law enforcement presence at every public school in our state.
We’ve already been investing dollars in hardening our schools. We’re not only going to invest a lot more state dollars, but we’re going to say any local dollars that go to capital outlay by our school districts, the first thing all those dollars have to be spent on is school hardening. It’s the most important thing we can do, is harden these schools. So we’re going to do it.
And, by the way, the way it’s going to happen is our sheriffs are going to oversee how all the money is spent to make sure that the money is spent the right way. There will be a plan annually, and the money will be spent the right way.
Number two, mental illness. We’re going to have mental health counselors in every school to make sure that all of our students can go through counseling or meet with a mental health counselor as often as they want. We’re going to do it.
We’re also going to have threat assessment teams. Virginia did that after their shooting. We’re going to have that in all of our schools, where you’ll have children, families, juvenile justice, teachers, principals, local law enforcement, all together, and say, “What are the threat assessments in our schools?” And we’re going to do that.
Next, we’re going to invest more dollars in mental health in our Children and Families Program. We do that around our state, but we’re going to invest more dollars to make sure we have youth teams all around our state to help them.
Finally, we’re not going to have — you’re not going to, in Florida, have access to a gun — if you struggle with mental illness, are you going to make violent threats — you’re not going to have access to a gun in our state. You shouldn’t have access to a gun, and you’re not.
So what we’re going to do is we’re going to have a violence threat restraining order that a family member, a mental health individual, or law enforcement can go to the court system — there will be due process — but they can make sure that you don’t have access to a gun.
If you’ve been involuntarily committed because you’re a threat to yourself or others, you will not have access to a gun. You’ll have to give those guns up. There will be due process. You can get those guns back, but we’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen.
We’re going to make sure, as you do background checks, all this information is out there so we can make sure we know who has the guns.
So, in our state, we are going to get all this done, and we’re going to get it done in the next two weeks. I’ve been talking to my legislative leadership every day. They’re committed to be a partner. But in Florida, I want to make sure every parent knows that their child is going to come home safe and sound every day.
Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Rick, and thank you, Brian, very much. Great job you’ve done, too, as chairman. Thank you.
Okay. Would you like to say — I think I can bring this over. It might be easier just to pass this around.
GOVERNOR IVEY: Thank you, Mr. President. Like you, I believe that the local officials have an awful lot of insight into what each school needs to provide public school safety. So as I mentioned a little earlier to this group, Mr. President, I suggested that we give our local folks a list of things that they can do quickly, like limit the number of entrances that a school has to enter the building. And then, equip every child above the 6th grade with a chip-activated card to enter that entrance.
And also, you can consider putting in a metal detector at one or two or three entrances, since you’re limiting the number of entrances. Also, a surveillance system. And that surveillance system can be tied to the virtual Alabama Visual Center at the Education Department, so it’s instant information all at the same time.
Certainly, training in mental health situation is fine, but for the immediate, I just think we need to give some guidance to our local people, and limit the access to entrancing, and equip with surveillance systems, metal detectors, or whatever they choose to do. Where is the money coming from? They’ve got some local money, but, in our state budget, there’s been a technology fund. And a senator and I are working, and he introduced the bill last week, to be able to free up some of that money for use for school safety.
So these are not costly things, but they are things that can be done immediately to improve school safety.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great. Thank you. Thank you very much, Kay.
How about going around the room. Anybody has some great ideas or suggestions? Governor?
GOVERNOR INSLEE: Thanks, Mr. President. Two comments. One from the state of Washington. Thank you.
We have a program called the Extreme Risk Protection Orders System that has been supremely effective in allowing family members that realize there’s a risk, to have them separated from their firearm. It involves a judicial decision. It involves a hearing. And it has saved lives, and I’m sure, in the state of Washington.
And I would commend it to you for national attention, because it makes sure that when you have an uncle that might be — you have concern about depression — it allows law enforcement to separate your uncle, and depressed uncle, from his firearm. If you have somebody in your family that might have some violent tendencies, after a hearing and a potential ex parte order, you get an order to actually allow law enforcement to remove them. It’s been in operation for a year. It’s been extremely successful. I would commend it to you.
Second issue. Now I know that you have suggested arming our teachers. And I just —
THE PRESIDENT: No. No, no. Not your teachers.
GOVERNOR INSLEE: Not your teachers.
THE PRESIDENT: Arming a small portion that are very gun adept, that truly know how to handle it. Because I do feel, Governor, it’s very important that gun-free zones — you have a gun-free zone, it’s like an invitation for these very sick people to go there.
I do think that there has to be some form of major retaliation if they’re able to enter a school. And if that happens, you’re not going have any problems anymore, because they’re never going to the school. You’re never going to have a problem.
So it would just be a very small group of people that are very gun adept. Anyway, go ahead, Governor.
GOVERNOR INSLEE: If I may respond to that. Let me just suggest, whatever percentage it is — I heard at one time you might have suggested 20 percent — whatever percentage it is, speaking as a grandfather, speaking as the Governor of the state of Washington, I have listened to the people who would be affected by that. I have listened to the biology teachers, and they don’t want to do that, at any percentage. I’ve listened to the first-grade teachers that don’t want to be pistol-packing first-grade teachers. I’ve listened to law enforcement who have said they don’t want to have to train teachers as law enforcement agents, which takes about six months.
Now, I just think this is a circumstance where we need to listen, that educators should educate, and they should not be foisted upon this responsibility of packing heat in first grade classes.
Now, I understand you have suggested this. And we suggest things, and sometimes then we listen to people about it, and maybe they don’t look so good a little later. So I just suggest we need a little less tweeting here and a little more listening. And let’s just take that off the table and move forward.
THE PRESIDENT: All right. Thank you very much. You know, we have a number of states right now that do that. And I think, with that in mind, I’ll call on Greg Abbott, the great governor of Texas. Greg.
GOVERNOR ABBOTT: Sure. Texas authorized schools to adopt policies to implement a school marshal program where individuals would be trained to have a weapon and to be able to use that weapon. And we now have well over a hundred school districts in the state of Texas where teachers or other people who work in the school do carry a weapon, and are trained to be able to respond to an attack that occurs.
Now, it’s not always a schoolteacher. It could be a coach, it could be an administrator, it could be anybody who works in that school. But it’s a well-thought-out program with a lot of training in advance. And, candidly, some school districts, they promote it. Because they will have signs out front — a warning sign: “Be aware, there are armed personnel on campus” — warning anybody coming on there that they — if they attempt to cause any harm, they’re going to be in trouble.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that’s great. And so, essentially, what you’re saying is that when a sick individual comes into that school, they can expect major trouble. Right? Major trouble. The bullets are going to be going toward him, also. And I think that’s great. And you know what’s going to happen? Nobody is going into that school, Greg. That’s a big difference.
That was really well said. Thank you very much. Anybody? Governors are so quiet, I can’t believe it.
GOVERNOR HUTCHINSON: Mr. President —
THE PRESIDENT: So well behaved today. I can’t believe this. (Laughter.)
GOVERNOR HUTCHINSON: We’ll start acting up soon. (Laughter.)
Mr. President, I just want to say that, in Arkansas, we have a very similar situation or program as what Greg has described in Texas. I have the belief that no teacher should be compelled, and most of them want to teach and focus on that. But others are concerned about their students and have training and specific capacity as you have described.
And so we have licensed certain school districts and those who want to be trained more significantly so that they can handle an active shooter situation. And so we have over 13 schools in Arkansas that can’t afford a school resource officer. They prefer to have those either in the classroom or an assistant coach or somebody that would have a response capability. And that’s the key thing. So that flexibility.
I think what the governors want to say is that there can’t be, necessarily, a national security plan, but the states can develop this.
And we did make some recommendations back in 2012, though, in reference to federal grants. Some of the biggest expense is training. Some of the biggest expense will be hardening of our schools, as Governor Ivey suggested. And so I hope that your Department of Homeland Security — in looking at some of the grants that come from DHS in terms of security, fighting terrorists — some of that money can be utilized by local jurisdictions, as well, for the protection of the number-one priority of protecting our students and our schools.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. And, Governor, you know how well we’re doing. It’s a never-ending quest. But with respect to MS-13, and these people are really causing havoc in certain communities, and with schoolchildren, and people walking home from school — what’s going on. And we’re moving them out by the thousands.
But we have to get immigration laws that allow us to do what we have to be able to do. They are so soft. No country in the world has immigration laws so soft like we do. So that’s also a part of it.
I appreciate what you said. Thank you very much, Governor. Yes, Paul.
GOVERNOR LEPAGE: Mr. President, I would ask that you address the Congress and ask them to look at the HIPAA laws, particularly with mental illness. Because we need help from the federal government to loosen up the laws so that we can do the truly good background checks on people.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. And that’s what we’re going to be doing. And as you know, Paul, we’re really, I think, going to have the support of the NRA having to do with background checks — very strong background checks — and a very heavy section on mental health, far different than what we’ve had in the past.
Thank you, Paul. Yes, ma’am. Yes.
GOVERNOR MARTINEZ: Thank you, Mr. President, for allowing us, the governors, to participate and give our perspectives, as each of our states are different. And as I’ve thanked you before, this was not something that we were engaged in before with previous administrations.
I do see that there is a huge pool of retired law enforcement officers where municipalities and counties have actually invested a lot of money into training them, and now they’re retired. And often, because they are receiving a public retirement, they cannot go back into that similar kind of retirement plan. If they go into an educational plan, they can actually work for a school, be trained. The school doesn’t have to train them. But, also, they can learn and figure out where cameras and different security pieces need to be implemented within the schools, because of their experience and training.
And so this is a pool of folks that we can immediately put out without having to expend great amount of dollars, and keeping our schools and our school personnel safe.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s well said. The fact is that, if you have a teacher, or you have a coach, or you have somebody that’s very adept — only adept, because a lot of people don’t have anything; they don’t know what it looks like; they can’t lift it. But only adept at weaponry and guns. And only a small number; you don’t need that many.
But we all learned a lot over the weekend, or last week, when you saw a man that was properly armed standing outside, probably afraid to go in. And now it turns out that there were probably four of them. They don’t love the students; they don’t know the students. The teachers love the students, and they want to protect those students.
The other thing is cost. The school in Florida was so large, Rick. Such a big school. You would have had to have 100, 150 guards. I mean, you would have had to have a lot of guards to have that building properly manned. Then you have an armed camp. Whereas, doing it like I think you’re suggesting it, and like many people in this room agree with, it costs almost nothing. I would actually give a bonus to every coach, teacher, et cetera, because they should go through training. As good as they are, they should go through a very strong, strenuous training. But I would like to give them a bonus.
So let’s say you gave them a thousand-dollar bonus for the year, and you’d have 50 or 60 of them in the school — compare that to paying $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 each. Where are the schools going to get that kind of money?
Somebody suggested last night, “We’re going to harden the doors. We’re going to make it impossible to get in.” I said, “That’s good, except in one instance: if the killer gets in and he closes the doors and you can’t get into the school.” They said, “Ah, I never thought of that.” Don’t forget, I was in the real estate business. And when you harden those schools, you’re not going to get in. But if they get in, then you’re not getting in. Law enforcement is not getting in.
Somebody else said, “Oh, we have something that we’re working on.” Wait until you see the cost of these things. Smoke fills into the school. Smoke. So you have a guy standing there with a weapon, and now he’s getting crazy because there’s smoke all over. All he’s going to do is shoot endlessly. He’s going to go nuts. This is another plan; this is a new one, I’m sure, put out by some company that wants to make a lot of money: “Smoke is going to fill the room and fills the hallways.” That’s not going to help. And then law enforcement is going to go and fight through the smoke. They’re not going to know what they’re shooting. This is a serious plan. And I think I talked that particular person out of it.
But I really — I do — when you talk about hardening. The other thing is this: Harden. You harden. The cost to your schools, and your communities, and the federal government, will be astronomical. When you start putting in main doors, closing other doors, changing hallways around, changing — you’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars. And you can do it for nothing.
As you, and myself, and our great Governor from Texas and others — I think there are nine states that do it that way, and they’re thrilled. They’re thrilled. And you know what it says? “Come on in, folks. Come on in.” But they’re not coming in, because they don’t want to get shot.
Look at this guy, Cruz. He leaves with the students. He tried to sneak away. And I’ll tell you, one policeman who did a good job was the one that caught him a couple of communities away. It wasn’t even, Rick, in that community. I know all those communities. But it wasn’t in that community. It’s sort of far away.
And he said, “That’s the guy, I think, that maybe did it, based on a description.” And he went out and he got him. Now, they would have gotten him anyway, I guess, but who knows how much more damage would have been inflicted? So he did a great job.
Look, law enforcement is great. But we all learn something when we saw Peterson standing outside of that school. He wanted no part of it. He heard the power, and he heard, probably, the screaming and the bullets, and he wanted no part of it. And then three other guys came to help. They wanted no part of it. That was a terrible, terrible job. The only worse job is that they didn’t nab this guy earlier, because you had 39 red flags. That was a worse job.
So we — I think we learned a lot. But if you don’t have retribution, if you’re not going to do something very serious to these guys when they walk in, they’re going to keep walking in. You’re going to have this all the time. You’re going to have it — they have to know, they walk in, they’re going to probably end up dead. And if they know they’re going to end up dead, they’re not going into that school.
Question? Yes, Matt?
GOVERNOR BEVIN: I don’t beg to differ with most of what has been said here. But most of what we’re talking about are things that are costly — have monetary cost.
I do think it’s important for us to start, at every level, with your office, with our respective offices as well, to seize the bully pulpits that we have to talk about the culture in this society. And I would challenge those in the media who would want to mock and ridicule this, and would want to say that anybody who advocates for this, to find some fault in that person as a reason why that person should not be the one advocating for a higher level of moral authority or higher mores, to think twice, because these are your children and grandchildren as well.
And when we mock and ridicule the very foundational principles that this nation was built upon, where you treat people the way you’d want to be treated, where you respect human life, where you respect the dignity of women and of children and of people who we have increasingly degraded in our society. This culture of death is becoming pervasive.
And if it’s not addressed by all the imperfect people in this room, with a sense of purpose and a sense of aspiration, I think we’re going to see a continued trajectory that’s not good.
Many things have not changed. There have always been guns. And there were fewer restrictions. There have always been guns in homes and fewer rules. It isn’t to say that these rules and these restrictions are necessarily bad.
But what has changed is what we do or don’t do as it relates to acknowledging the value and the dignity of every human life. And when you couple that with the number of psychiatric drugs that are increasingly systemic, and that have very severe warnings associated with them related to depression and suicidal thoughts — you put all these things in a mess, and no one among us is bold enough or willing to step up and challenge the fact that this is a problem? This is why it goes unchecked.
And I would call on you, sir, as I’m calling on my fellow governors and myself, to seize the opportunities we have to call America to higher action as it relates to our mores.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
GOVERNOR BEVIN: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Matt. And that’s why we’re here. And I think — you know, I don’t know if it’s going to be mentioned, but you have to also look at videos. They’re vicious. You look at some of these videos. I mean, I don’t know what this does to a young kid’s mind. Somebody growing up and forming and looking at videos where people are just being blown away left and right.
The Internet, movies — you look at these movies that are out today. I see, just by a commercial, the level of craziness and viciousness in the movies. I think we have to look at that, too. Maybe we have to put a rating system on that. They have a rating system for other subjects. Maybe we have to do a rating system for that.
But it has to have an impact on — it just doesn’t — it doesn’t take many minds. If it was 1 percent or less, that’s a lot. It’s all it takes. It just takes one person to do tremendous damage. So I think it’s something we have to look at, also.
Question? Yes, Governor.
GOVERNOR BULLOCK: Mr. President, again, thank you for having us. I approach this, certainly, as a governor. I approach it as a gun owner; that 11-year-old got his first deer —
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right.
GOVERNOR BULLOCK: — this past fall.
THE PRESIDENT: He’s a good boy.
GOVERNOR BULLOCK: I approach it as a victim. I had a nephew, shot and killed — an 11-year-old — on a playground. I approach it as a parent with three young kids, saying, just like every other parent and grandparent, we need to do everything we can to keep our kids safe.
I think parenthetically, sometimes the language that we use can help define some things that certainly understand the idea of hardening schools. But that seems like we’re hardening potential military targets. I think we, as leaders, need to be saying we’re going to do everything we can to make that school safe for the kids.
I think that there are steps, and many of them you begin to reference, that we could take that could make a difference. If we can look at this as a public health issue. You mentioned the NICS system. We can improve the instant check system. And we also know about a quarter of the guns that are sold don’t even get into that system. So a universal background check. We know that 10 percent of our homicides each year are in intimate relationships. So the orders of protection, the domestic violence, making sure that’s in NICS.
As Governor Scott mentioned, red-flag laws. Making sure that law enforcement and families have a way, still using due process, to actually remove guns from people that might be that imminent threat.
I applaud you on bump stocks. That’s one of those things that there is no other reason. And we could certainly look at the higher magazine capacity as well. It’s one of those things that you probably don’t need.
And I encourage you, as you go on the path of looking at what you can do in schools — I used to be attorney general and ran the law enforcement academy, too, and would graduate these police officers each and every year. I want to make sure, if somebody is armed in a school, that they have that training; that we know that he or she — it’s much more, as I think you recognize, than just carrying concealed — that they have that training that I, as a parent, can say that this person, under pressure, will know what to do with a firearm before we start introducing the firearms into our schools.
I think we’re at a unique — hopefully, we’re at a unique moment — where, certainly, as I said — you know, 43 times since I’ve been governor, I’ve been asked to lower the flags. Twelve of them have been for mass shootings in the last five years.
It’s almost, on the one hand, to the point that we’re getting desensitized, but other hand, here is a moment where everybody is talking, where we can hopefully start saying, “What could actually meaningfully impact this, not just for today, but for the future?”
So, thank you so much.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Governor.
GOVERNOR BULLOCK: And I hope that those areas, you’ll certainly take both the bully pulpit and the leadership in Congress.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Great points. It was great being with you last night.
You mentioned two words: under pressure. And a lot of people never really know what that means, because, you know, they train a whole life. Look at Peterson. Look what he did in Broward, where he thought he was probably a brave guy, but he wasn’t a brave guy under pressure. He choked. And other people choked. I mean, a lot of people choked in that case.
And we have to have people trained. We have to — you know, you have to have some kind of a budget where it works. When many of the governors happen to, you know, like the idea of trained people within schools, but the press has to get the word out honestly.
For instance, I went through a very detailed — it could be 10 percent, it could be 5 percent, could be 20 percent — these are really gun-adept people. Very few people would qualify. On top of being gun adept, they have to go to school and they have to learn, and, you know, maybe there will a bonus given to those people, and maybe there should be, frankly. Because they should go, on a yearly basis, to school. They start with training and then they have additional training every year. And I think they should get a bonus. But it’s a very small amount of money compared to what it would cost. I think it would be very effective.
But when the press covered it, the headline was, “Trump wants all teachers to have guns.” “Trump wants teachers to have guns.” I don’t want teachers to have guns. I want highly trained people that have a natural talent, like hitting a baseball, or hitting a golf ball, or putting. How come some people always make the four-footer, and some people, under pressure, can’t even take their club back? Right? Some people can’t take their club back.
And you don’t know what it is. You know, those words are hard to train for, but you want to have the number of people where people know they’re going to be — the bad guy has to understand that there’s a big price to pay when they mess around with our students. You can’t just say, “Oh, we’re going to harden our schools. We’re going to blow smoke into the rooms. We’re going to do all this stuff that is not going to work.” You have to let people know that they’re going to suffer the ultimate price.
And you know what? And I said it before — you’re not going to have incidents, they’re not going to do it, because they’re innately cowards. But I love what you said. I agree very much with what you said.
Question? Governor — Phil.
GOVERNOR BRYANT: Mr. President, October the 1st of 1997, Luke Woodham, a 16-year-old student, came into Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi after he had bludgeoned his mother to death that morning with a 30-30 lever-action rifle, killed two students, and began to shoot at others. A vice principal, who was an Army Reserve officer, went to his vehicle, retrieved his 1911 .45, and stopped that shooter before he could kill other children in Pearl, Mississippi.
When I heard you speak of your idea, that was the concept I believed in. Find that Army Reserve vice principal, give him the training he necessarily needs, arm him, and stop this madness.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Phil.
GOVERNOR BRYANT: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, many of these people are teachers too. They’re retired. They’re 20 years in the Marines. They can handle a weapon, world-class. They don’t even need the training, but they should get it anyway. Everybody should have very strong training.
But, you know, you have many — like General Kelly, standing back there. I wouldn’t mind if he was a teacher. I’d like him to be our teacher. And if he happened to be concealed — carrying concealed — I’d feel very good about that. That, to me, is better.
And he’s on the site. Don’t forget — the other thing, Phil, they’re on the site. They’re not outside. They’re not 20 minutes away in a police station where an alarm rings, and they go, and by the time they get there, they don’t know the school, they don’t know the floors. These people know everything intimately. I think it works.
Look, I’ve been watching this for — I’ve only been doing this for two-and-a-half years. After that, I was a civilian. And I had a nice life. I had a very easy, nice, beautiful life. I actually got great press. I was the king of getting good press, Governor. You know that? It was only when I did this that I got bad press. (Laughter.)
But you know what? I’ve been watching this, folks, from a different slant. Many of you, most of you, have been politicians for a long time. I’ve been watching you, I’ve been watching everybody — for 30 years I’ve been watching this situation. Nothing is done. It’s the same thing. Nothing is done.
They have a meeting. They all go home. Two weeks later, it’s a little bit — sadly — and I hate to say it — other than the parents who are so devastated, and the families that are so badly affected, and the people that were hit. You know, nobody ever talks about the wounded. They talk about the 17 dead. But I’ve — you know, I saw people that were so — Rick — so seriously wounded. Nobody ever talks.
The maniac on the West Side Highway that ran over eight people — they keep saying, “He killed eight people.” He just took — it’s, essentially, a park. It’s like a beautiful stretch along the Hudson River that I know so well.
He’s going down 80 miles an hour, down the West Side Highway, and he said, “Hey, look at those people. I’m going to turn it.” And he killed eight people. What they don’t talk about are the 14 people that were devastated. They go to put themselves in shape and to work out, and they’re very proud, and they end up missing a leg and missing an arm, or missing two legs and an arm.
And nobody ever talks about those people. They talk about the people, obviously, that died. They don’t talk about the people that are so devastated. And you have that — you have many people. I saw a lot of those people. Hopefully, they’re going to be okay after a long time in rehab. But a lot of them won’t be, and we got to remember them, too. Those people are great people. Got to remember them, too.
Okay. How about one or two more. Yes, Governor.
GOVERNOR HERBERT: Again, thank you. I’ve enjoyed hearing from my fellow colleagues of what’s going on in their respective states. And it reminds me this is a very complex issue. There is no simple solution, unfortunately, for us. I think there’s roles to play for the federal government — some of the things you’re proposing.
But I think most of the solutions are going to come from the states. We have some states that are doing things with arming personnel inside the school system that they seem to think is working well. I know I’m working with my legislature, as recently as last night, in talking about what is the cost for education. What is the cost — you’re a businessman — to do business.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right. That’s right.
GOVERNOR HERBERT: Some of this is, in fact, embedding law enforcement, trained personnel in whatever form or fashion you want is going to be at additional cost. That’s the result of society today. How we’ve got to this kind of society — Governor Bevin — and some of the things that are desensitizing our children, the challenges of life today, and its complexities — who knows?
But I do believe this: Each state is going to have to find their own way, based on their own culture, based on their own politics, based on their own unique demographics. And we’ll learn from each other. We’ll find what works, and we’ll homogenize, probably, together.
But the states, these little pilot programs, that’s the beauty of our concept of federalism. And these states, out there finding solutions to the problems that ail the people.
This is the problem of today: safety in our schools. I look to learn from all of you, as we tried our own way in Utah to find a solution to this very critical and timely issue.
Thanks for your leadership.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Governor. I appreciate it. And you said something very important. The states can do these various programs without the federal government also.
And we’re there to help, and we’ll help monetarily — which is very important, because a lot of the school budgets, especially, they don’t have the money. I mean, where are they going to get the money to put 100 guards into the school in Parkland? I mean, it’s very tough. It’s a tough situation.
But the federal government can help out.
But a lot of these solutions that we talk about — whether you agree with me or you agree with somebody else — you can do them pretty much by yourselves within your state. Like our great governor of Texas, Greg — we have an attitude on retribution. Because I say the only way you stop it is retribution. I don’t think you’re going to stop it by being kind. I don’t think you’re going to stop it at all. You’re going to have problems.
But if a state feels that way, I say you have to go and you have to do what you have to do. I guess we have nine states that are doing what you’re doing, Greg — at least nine. And some are coming, and they’re coming fast. But the states can do a lot of this work themselves. They can do most of it.
And we’ll back you up, regardless of what you want to do. If you agree or disagree with the state of Texas and other states that do it differently, I think that’s fine. Just go and do it yourself. We will be there to help you no matter what your solution is.
But this is largely a state issue, in terms of that school’s security. And, in many cases, it’s a local issue. You know, in many cases, you don’t even need approval from the state. You can go in as a school district and do what you have to do for the safety of your children. So my attitude is: Get it done, and get it done properly.
It is an honor to be with you. So many friends. And we’re going to see you a little bit later. But I think this was a really great meeting. And, Brian, I want to thank you very much. Fantastic job, thank you.
I appreciate it very much. I’ll see you in a little while. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)