Trump To Address Nation After US Shootings Leave 29 Dead

People hold up their phones in lieu of candles at an interfaith vigil for victims of a mass shooting, which left at least 20 people dead, on August 4, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. A 21-year-old male suspect was taken into custody in the city which sits along the U.S.-Mexico border. At least 26 people were wounded. Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP

US President Donald Trump will address the nation on Monday after two shootings left 29 people dead and sparked accusations that his rhetoric was part of the problem.

The rampages turned innocent snippets of everyday life into nightmares of bloodshed: 20 people were shot dead while shopping at a crowded Walmart in El Paso, Texas on Saturday morning, and nine more outside a bar in a popular nightlife district in Dayton, Ohio just 13 hours later.

Trump will again find himself in the role of consoler-in-chief after a tragedy — which he has struggled with in the past — when he speaks at 10:00 am (1400 GMT).

Following the shootings, Trump said “hate has no place in our country,” but he also blamed mental illness for the violence.

“These are really people that are very, very seriously mentally ill,” he said, despite the fact that police have not confirmed this to be the case.

“We have to get it stopped. This has been going on for years… and years in our country,” he said.

In Texas, 26 people were wounded, and 27 in Ohio, where the shooter was killed in roughly 30 seconds by police who were patrolling nearby.

100-round drum magazine

Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl told a news conference that the quick police response was “crucial,” preventing the shooter from entering a bar where “there would have been… catastrophic injury and loss of life.”

Biehl said the shooter wore a mask and a bullet-proof vest and was armed with an assault rifle fitted with a 100-round drum magazine.

Police named the gunman as a 24-year-old white man called Connor Betts and said his sister was among those killed. She had gone with him to the scene of the shootings.

Six of the nine people shot dead were black, but Biehl said Betts’ motive was still unclear.

In Texas, police said the suspect surrendered on a sidewalk near the scene of the massacre. He was described in media reports as a 21-year-old white man named Patrick Crusius.

He was believed to have posted online a manifesto denouncing a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas. El Paso, on the border with Mexico, is majority Latino.

 ‘Amplifying and condoning’ hate

Seven of the 20 people killed in the El Paso shooting were Mexican, the country’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said Sunday.

Ebrard, who will travel to El Paso Monday, said Mexico was looking at legal action which could lead to extradition of the gunman.

“For Mexico, this individual is a terrorist,” he said.

The manifesto posted shortly before the shooting also praises the killing of 51 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March.

Police said the suspected shooter has been charged with murder offenses that can carry the death penalty, and a federal official said investigators are treating the El Paso shooting as a case of domestic terrorism.

At the Walmart in El Paso, terrified shoppers cowered in aisles or ran out of the store as gunfire echoed.

Most of the victims were inside the store but some were also in the parking lot outside, police said.

“Shooting kids and women and men, to him it mostly mattered that they were Hispanic,” said Manuel Sanchez, a resident of the city.

These were the 250th and 251st mass shootings this year in the US, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an NGO that defines a mass shooting as an incident in which at least four people are wounded or killed.

Despite a string of horrific mass shootings in the US, where gun culture is deep-rooted, efforts to strengthen firearms regulations remain divisive.

The latest two shootings ended a particularly tragic week for gun violence in America: three people died in a shooting at a food festival last Sunday in California, and two more Tuesday in a shooting in a Walmart in Mississippi.

On Twitter, Trump described the El Paso attack as “an act of cowardice.”

But critics said the president’s habit of speaking in derogatory terms about immigrants is pushing hatred of foreigners into the political mainstream and encouraging white supremacism.

“To pretend that his administration and the hateful rhetoric it spreads doesn’t play a role in the kind of violence that we saw yesterday in El Paso is ignorant at best and irresponsible at worst,” said the Southern Poverty Law Center, a major civil rights group.

It cited Trump actions like calling Mexican migrants rapists and drug dealers and doing nothing when a crowd at a Trump rally chanted “send her back” in reference to a Somali-born congresswoman.

The Republican mayor of El Paso, Dee Margo, seemed to discount any race element to the Texas shooting, telling Fox News the gunman was “deranged.”

But multiple Democratic presidential hopefuls said Trump bears some of the blame for the violence.

“Our president isn’t just failing to confront and disarm these domestic terrorists, he is amplifying and condoning their hate,” Mayor Pete Buttigieg tweeted.

“Mr. President: stop your racist, hateful and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Your language creates a climate which emboldens violent extremists,” Senator Bernie Sanders wrote on Twitter.

AFP

Two Killed, One Police Officer Injured In Walmart Store

Walmart in Middletown, DE, on July 26, 2019.
JIM WATSON / AFP

 

Two people died and a police officer was wounded in a shooting early Tuesday at a Walmart in Mississippi, US media reported.

DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco told the Commercial Appeal newspaper that the suspect had been shot and wounded in the shooting in the city of Southhaven.

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The two people shot dead were believed to be Walmart employees, the sheriff said, and the suspect was an employee until Monday.

He said the suspect and wounded police officer had been taken to local hospitals.

Southhaven is a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee, which lies just to the north over the state line.

AFP

Timeline Of US Mass Shootings

This photo shows a police car behind police tape blocking a street leading to the Jacksonville Landing area in downtown Jacksonville, Florida, August 26, 2018, where three people were killed, including the gunman, and 11 others wounded.

 

In the latest mass shooting in the United States, a gunman killed 12 people Thursday in a California music bar packed with college students.

Here is a recap of some of the other most deadly shootings in the country in the past 10 years.

 Las Vegas: 58 dead 

On October 1, 2017, a heavily armed “lone wolf” gunman opens fire from a 32-floor hotel room on an open-air concert on the Las Vegas Strip.

He kills 58 people before turning the gun on himself. Around 500 are wounded.

The Islamic State (IS) group claims the 64-year-old is one of its “soldiers” but the FBI says it finds no such connection.

Florida club: 49 killed 

A 29-year-old gunman opens fire inside a gay nightclub in the Florida city of Orlando on June 12, 2016, and kills 49 people.

The shooter, who pledged allegiance to the IS group in a 911 call during the attack, is killed in a shootout when police storm the building.

 Sandy Hook: 27 killed 

A 20-year-old man kills his mother in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012 before blasting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and shooting dead 20 six- and seven-year-old children and six adults.

He commits suicide.

 Texas church: 26 dead 

A gunman opens fire with an assault rifle during a Sunday morning church service in the rural Texan community of Sutherland Springs on November 5, 2017, killing 26 people and wounding 20.

The gunman, aged 26, is found dead in his vehicle.

 Florida school: 17 dead 

A former student opens fire at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, killing 15 people on the premises with two dying in the hospital.

A 19-year-old who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons is arrested.

 California office party: 14 dead 

A newlywed radicalized Muslim couple storm a Christmas office party at a social services centre in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015, and gun down 14 people, wounding 22 others. They are shot dead by police.

Fort Hood military base: 13 dead 

On November 5, 2009 a US army psychiatrist opens fire at his military base in Killeen, Texas, killing 13 people and wounding 42, before being overpowered by police.

 New York immigrant centre: 13 dead 

A Vietnamese immigrant shoots dead 13 people at a civic centre in the city of Binghamton, New York on April 3, 2009, before killing himself.

 Navy Yard: 12 dead 

A former serviceman shoots randomly at workers at the Washington Navy Yard, a military compound in southeast Washington, on September 16, 2013, killing 12 people before he is shot dead by officers.

Colorado cinema: 12 dead 

A young man wearing body armour storms a cinema showing a late-night premiere of a Batman film in Aurora, Colorado on July 20 2012, opening fire and releasing tear gas. Twelve people are killed and 70 wounded. He is sentenced to life in prison.

Synagogue: 11 dead 

A gunman opens fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in the northeastern city of Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018, killing 11 people before being taken into custody.

He reportedly yelled “All Jews must die!” during the attack.

High school: 10 dead 

A 17-year-old student bursts into a classroom and opens fire at the Santa Fe High School, near Houston, on May 18, 2008, killing 10 people.

The Grade 11 student, who uses a shotgun and revolver legally owned by his father, is taken into custody on murder charges.

 Alabama: 10 dead 

On March 10, 2009, a heavily armed gunman goes on a shooting spree in three towns in southern Alabama, mowing down 10 people including his mother and grandmother.

The 28-year-old turns a gun on himself after being cornered by police.

AFP

‘Multiple Injuries’ In Fresh US Shooting

'Multiple Casualties' As Gunman Opens Fire At US Synagogue
Police rapid response team members respond to the site of a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood on October 27, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. JEFF SWENSEN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

 

US fire department officials reported multiple injuries in a shooting at a bar and dance hall in southern California late Wednesday.

The incident was reported at the Borderline Bar and Grill in the town of Thousand Oaks, a quiet, upscale residential suburb of Los Angeles, as it hosted an event for college students.

“Firefighters and first responders are arriving on the scene of a report of a shooting at an establishment in @CityofTO. PD is working to secure the scene. Multiple injuries reported,” the Ventura County Fire Department tweeted.

The Los Angeles Times quoted a law enforcement official as saying at least 30 shots had been fired and that there were casualties.

An unnamed witness told the newspaper that someone ran into the bar around 11:30 pm and started shooting what looked to be a black pistol.

“He shot a lot, at least 30 times. I could still hear gunshots after everyone left,” the Times quoted the man as saying.

AFP

Two Dead, Several Wounded In US Yoga Studio Shooting – Police

Emergency personnel stationed outside the HotYoga Studio after a gunman opened fire inside on November 2, ,2018 in Tallahassee, Florida. The gunman also died from what appears a self inflicted gunshot wound according to police. Seven people have been admitted to the hospital. Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images/AFP

 

A gunman killed two people and wounded five others at a yoga studio in Florida’s state capital Tallahassee before taking his own life, police said Saturday.

At approximately 5:47 pm on Friday, 40-year-old Scott Beierle “entered the business posing as a customer and began shooting patrons with a handgun without warning,” the Tallahassee Police Department said in a statement.

“Patrons fought the assailant to prevent him from harming themselves and others. The assailant then turned the gun on himself and died on scene from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

It said two women, Nancy Van Vessem and Maura Binkley, aged 61 and 21 respectively, were killed. Two other women were in “stable condition,” while two more women and a man were treated and release from hospital.

Beierle, a graduate of Florida State University with prior military service, had previously been the subject of police calls for harassing young women, according to the statement.

The investigation is ongoing, and police have yet to establish a link between the shooter and the victims and yoga business.

The gunman had posted on YouTube videos of himself giving violent racist and misogynistic speeches, according to BuzzFeed.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is running for governor of Florida and cut short a campaign event to return to the city, tweeted: “I’m deeply appreciative of law enforcement’s quick response to the shooting at the yoga facility in Tallahassee today.”

“No act of gun violence is acceptable. I’m in close communication with law enforcement officials and will be returning to Tallahassee tonight,” Gillum added.

The yoga studio’s Facebook page received dozens of messages of support, including from elsewhere in Florida, the US and abroad.

“Sending prayers, love and peace for healing the Tallahassee yoga community,” read a comment by Facebook user Melissa Gregory.

“May blessings be restored in this studio and all yogis who share this space. Namaste!”

AFP

US Synagogue Victims Remembered As Devoted Community Anchors

Tammy Hepps, Kate Rothstein and her daughter, Simone Rothstein, 16, pray from a prayer book a block away from the site of a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighbourhood on October 27, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images/AFP

 

Among the 11 people slain at a synagogue in Pittsburgh were beloved pillars of their community whose loss is being mourned by many.

Authorities have now released the identities of the victims of the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue, the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in recent US history.

Here are names and details about the victims, and how they have been remembered:

Rose Mallinger 

The oldest victim of the shooting was Rose Mallinger, 97, a former secretary who was a “lovely lady,” Robin Friedman told CNN.

She was “full of life” and had “so much energy,” Brian Schreiber, a member of the Tree of Life synagogue, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Her daughter Andrea Wedner was also at the synagogue during the attack and was wounded, Schreiber said.

 Bernice and Sylvan Simon 

Bernice Simon, 84, and Sylvan Simon, 86, were a married couple killed in the shooting.

Their neighbour Jo Stepaniak told CNN they were “the sweetest people you could imagine” and “were loving and giving and kind.”

“They wanted to give back to people and be kind,” said Stepaniak.

 Melvin Wax 

Melvin Wax was a retired accountant who was reported to have been either 87 or 88 years old.

“Mel was a quiet, simple, honest, religious, kind, generous man,” Bill Cartiff told People.

“He was just a quiet man, and he was hard of hearing and soft-spoken, so he couldn’t hear you well and it was hard to hear him. He was sweet and you maybe had to have a little bit of tolerance for his awful jokes, which he incessantly told.”

Irving Younger 

Irving Younger, 69, was remembered as a regular at Tree of Life services and a “consistent volunteer,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he saw this gunman walk into the room where the services were and his first thought was ‘Can I help this stranger get settled?’ — until he saw what the stranger was doing — because that’s the kind of thought that he would have,” former Tree of Life president Barton Schacter told the Post-Gazette.

 Jerry Rabinowitz  

Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, was a doctor who “was more than just a physician for me and my family; for over three decades he was truly a trusted confidant and healer,” Lawrence Claus told People.

“He had a truly uplifting demeanour, and as a practising physician he was among the very best,” Claus said.

Rabinowitz was Susan Blackman’s family doctor, and “he was like a member of the family, and a member of the extended family,” she told CNN.

 Joyce Fienberg 

Joyce Fienberg, 75, was a native of Toronto, Canada and a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh.

“She was a very petite woman but lit up a room with her huge personality. We weren’t just welcome in the classroom, but into their home,” Jason Connor, one of her former students, told CNN.

“Everyone says this, but she really was an enormously caring person.”

Daniel Stein 

Daniel Stein, 71, was retired and was a frequent attendee at the Tree of Life synagogue, CNN reported.

“My dad was a simple man and did not require much,” his son Joe wrote on his Facebook page.

“My mom, sister and I are absolutely devastated and crushed! Our lives now are going to have to take a different path, one that we thought would not happen for a long time,” he wrote.

“We love you dad more than you’ll ever know!”

 Richard Gottfried 

Richard Gottfried, 65 was a dentist and part of an interfaith couple.

He and his wife Margaret Durachko “embraced one another and our families in faith,” an employee at the Catholic church she attended told People.

“It was impressive how supportive they were of one another in practising their faiths,” his cousin Judy Weitzman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

 David and Cecil Rosenthal 

Brothers David Rosenthal, 54, and Cecil Rosenthal, 59, were the youngest people killed in the Tree of Life attack.

“Cecil and David had a love for life and for those around them. They loved their community. They spent a lot of time at the Tree of Life, never missing a Saturday,” Chris Schopf, who managed the home where they lived, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

They would sit in the back of the Tree of Life and greet people as they came in, Suzan Hauptman told CNN.

AFP

‘Multiple Casualties’ As Gunman Opens Fire At US Synagogue

'Multiple Casualties' As Gunman Opens Fire At US Synagogue
PITTSBURGH, PA – OCTOBER 27: Police rapid response team members respond to the site of a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood on October 27, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. JEFF SWENSEN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

A gunman opened fire at a synagogue in the US city of Pittsburgh on Saturday, reportedly killing at least four people and injuring others before being taken into custody.

Officials did not immediately confirm a motive for the attack at the synagogue, where dozens of people were understood to be celebrating Shabbat services on the Jewish Sabbath, and which comes with the United States witnessing a sharp spike in anti-Semitic incidents.

US television networks reported that at least four people had died, while the local CBS affiliate reported that eight people were dead.

“Watching the events unfolding in Pittsburgh,” tweeted US President Donald Trump. “Law enforcement on the scene. People in Squirrel Hill area should remain sheltered. Looks like multiple fatalities.”

A police spokesman addressing reporters at the scene confirmed “multiple casualties” and said three officers were shot before the shooter was taken into custody.

The condition of the officers was not immediately clear.

Police were still clearing the building, the official said.

A woman at the scene told CNN that her daughter was with others who ran down the stairs and barricaded themselves in the basement of the synagogue after hearing shots.

“They’re safe, but they kept hearing them firing and everything else,” she told the television network.

CNN broadcast footage of police cars, ambulances and a police SWAT team outside the place of worship.

The Tree of Life Synagogue is about five miles (eight kilometres) east of downtown Pittsburgh in the residential Squirrel Hill neighbourhood.

Pittsburgh’s Public Safety department, which includes the police, declared earlier that an active shooter was in the area near the synagogue, urging residents to stay away.

“There are multiple casualties,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted Police Commander Jason Lando as saying.

It is the latest shooting incident in the United States, where gunmen regularly cause mass casualties and firearms are linked to more than 30,000 deaths annually.

Michael Eisenberg, past president of the Tree of Life synagogue, told CNN that the door would typically have been open on Saturdays with religious services going on. He said police are normally deployed only on High Holy Days — the holiest annual Jewish religious holidays.

He said security was a “major concern” during his stint as president, and active shooting situations and active shooter trainings were conducted, “if something horrific like this happened.

The motive of the shooting was not immediately clear, but anti-Semitism and hate crimes have been on a rise in the United States in recent years.

On Friday, Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, published an op-ed in the Washington Post newspaper decrying a rise of anti-Semitism on college campuses.

Such episodes nearly doubled last year, reflecting a nationwide spike in anti-Semitism, when incidents increased 57 percent, to 1,986, from 1,267, according to the ADL.

Squirrel Hill has historically been the center of Jewish life in the greater Pittsburgh and is home to 26 percent of all Pittsburgh-area Jewish households, according to a study from Brandeis University.

More than 80 percent of the neighborhood’s residents said they had some concern or were very concerned about rising anti-Semitism, found the 2017 study.

The Tree of Life congregation was founded more than 150 years ago and in 2010 merged with the five-year-old Or L’Simcha congregation.

AFP

Gunman Kills Wife, Four Others In US

This photo shows a police car behind police tape blocking a street leading to the Jacksonville Landing area in downtown Jacksonville, Florida, August 26, 2018, where three people were killed, including the gunman, and 11 others wounded. Credit:AFP

 

A man went on a shooting rampage in California on Wednesday, killing five people including his wife, before taking his own life.

The shooting at multiple locations in Bakersfield in central California was possibly “a domestic violence incident,” said Lieutenant Mark King of the Kern County sheriff’s office.

Police received their first call at 5:19 pm before responding to the first location, a trucking company, where the rampage began.

Three people were killed there and the shooter, armed with a large caliber hand gun, fled.

Sheriff Donny Youngblood told reporters that the suspect first shot a man at the trucking company and then killed his own wife. He chased a person who had witnessed the shooting and killed that person, too.

He then fled and shot a couple at a house.

Police then received a call from a woman who said she had been carjacked, King told AFP.

Officers gave chase and the suspect pulled into a business, got out of the car and shot himself, he said.

King said police were investigating five scenes and interviewing some 30 witnesses to determine what triggered the rampage. The names of the victims have not been released, but they were all from the Bakersfield area, located some 90 miles north of Los Angeles, King said.

“We don’t believe anyone else was involved and the only suspect was accounted for,” he said.

Youngblood said the officer who confronted the suspect after the carjacking wore a body camera, but the footage has not been released.

“Obviously, these are not random shootings,” said Youngblood, while denouncing the fact that such mass shooting were “the new normal.”

It was the latest chapter of America’s epidemic of gun violence.

Americans make up only four percent of the global population but they own 40 percent of the world’s firearms, according to a recent study published by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

Of the 857 million guns owned by civilians, 393 million are in the United States — more than all of the firearms held by ordinary citizens in the other top 25 countries combined, according to the Small Arms Survey.

According to Gun Violence Archive, the mass shooting in Bakersfield is the third deadliest in the United States this year after a shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida, in February that left 17 people dead and one at a school in Santa Fe, Texas, in May that left 10 people dead.

The shootings have drawn impassioned pleas for stricter gun control.

Following the Parkland shooting, teenage activists, many of them friends of the victims, galvanized a movement for gun control by organizing marches and school walkouts that kept the issue in the headlines for weeks.

The outrage prompted Florida to pass the first gun control measure in the state in 20 years.

AFP

Three Killed, Seven Wounded In Fresh US Shooting

 

Police were searching Sunday for two gunmen who opened fire on a crowd outside a New Orleans bar, killing three people and wounding seven others.

Police said they responded to reports of a shooting late Saturday at a “daiquiri shop” about three miles from the southern US city’s famed French Quarter.

Detectives “determined that two unknown armed subjects believed to be wearing hooded sweatshirts allegedly approached a group of people standing outside of a business and opened fire, striking 10 of the individuals,” then fled, a police statement said.

Police superintendent Michael Harrison, speaking to reporters overnight at the scene of the crime, said one of the suspects was believed to be armed with a rifle, while the other carried a handgun.

“We believe they actually stood over one of the individuals and fired multiple rounds and then after that fled,” Harrison told local media.

“This has to be personal,” he said.

“Firing indiscriminately into a crowd? Shooting 10 people? Killing three? That’s personal, it doesn’t get more personal and we take it personally,” he said. “Whoever did this, you should know that the law enforcement takes it personally and we’re coming for you.”

The victims — two males and a female — “were pronounced dead at the scene,” police spokesman Aaron Looney said a statement.

Seven additional gunshot victims — five males and two females — were rushed to area hospitals either in private vehicles or aboard ambulances.

The local NBC affiliate said that one of the victims believed to be in critical condition underwent surgery.

The motive for the shooting was unknown.

“We will find that out during the investigation,” Harrison said. “It was very intentional but we don’t know right now that its gang related.”

AFP

US Teachers Quietly Train To Carry Guns Into School

Katie, an elementary school teacher in Jefferson County, Colorado takes part in a simulated active shooter drill during a three day firearms course for school teachers and administrators sponsored by FASTER Colorado at Flatrock Training Center in Commerce City, Colorado on June 28, 2018. 
Jason Connolly / AFP

 

When Donald Trump proposed arming teachers to deter school shooters, the overwhelming response from educators was horror. Yet teachers in Colorado are taking action to carry concealed guns to school.

The non-profit group FASTER, set up after 20 small children were killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, has trained more than 1,300 US school staff, mostly in Ohio, on how to use a handgun in the event of a school shooting.

Sixty-three of them have been trained in Colorado, home to the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. The swing state has a Democratic governor and both a Democrat and a Republican in the US Senate.

“I think it’s scary to people to bring a weapon into school,” conceded Katie, a first-grade teacher in Jefferson County, west of state capital Denver, who declined to give her second name.

“They just see the bad side, not the positive side of how guns can save people,” the 27-year-old told AFP.

She was a student this week at the three-day, $1,000 course in Commerce City outside Denver.

The United States is the only developed country in the world that suffers relentless school shootings with roughly one a week, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a group working to restrict firearms.

America’s gun violence epidemic kills around 33,000 people each year. More than 214,000 students have experienced a school shooting in the United States since 1999, according to a Washington Post database.

As shootings multiply and Congress remains paralyzed, FASTER saw an uptick in business, even before President Donald Trump supported arming teachers in the wake of a Valentine’s Day massacre in Florida.

“I had to add four additional classes to our schedule to meet demand this year, but I don’t think it was related to Trump,” Ohio director Joe Eaton said.

This week, 24 Colorado school staff, including principals, teachers and pastors, attended a three-day training led by four active duty law enforcement officers.

– Rural areas –

Colorado law prevents anyone from carrying weapons onto school grounds with the exception of school resource officers — law enforcement responsible for safety in schools — and security guards.

Many on the course are prohibited from being armed at school, but hope their training will help their districts change their minds.

The curriculum includes handgun basics, range shooting, casualty care tactics and roleplaying with an active shooter and simulated fire.

“I will definitely talk to my principal and security,” said high school physics teacher John MacFarlane, 40, seeing weaknesses in his district’s security protocol after the exercise.

Wayne, a facilities manager at a rural primary and high school, said his district estimates it would take 20 to 25 minutes for law enforcement to respond to an incident at the school, which has no SRO.

It took just 7.5 minutes for two teenage boys to kill their Columbine classmates in the library, where survivor Evan Todd told the class he was hiding. Twelve students and a teacher died in the 1999 shooting in Littleton, Colorado.

Todd, 35, said he “absolutely” believes there would have been fewer deaths if teachers had been allowed to carry a gun.

But there are plenty of critics.

“I do understand how it can be a tougher issue in our very rural areas,” said Tom Mauser, spokesman for Colorado Ceasefire, a political action committee that advocates for stricter gun laws.

“Teachers should be teachers, not SWAT members.”

Mauser’s 15-year-old son, Daniel Mauser, died at Columbine.

– ‘Ominous thing’ –

By the end of the course, 21 of the 24 participants met the Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training requirements in handgun proficiency, the same level for police officers who graduate from the academy.

Staff who receive POST qualification could be considered by their school districts to be security guards in order to legally carry concealed guns on school premises.

FASTER encourages schools to announce that they have armed staff as a deterrent for would-be shooters.

Students themselves are divided.

“I think it would be a very smart thing so you don’t have to wait and fear for your life,” said Alex Easton, 14, from Aurora, Colorado.

Andre Fouque, 16, from Louisville, Colorado, was more skeptical.

“Would police be able to differentiate who had the gun? The teacher would be the first person to get shot. We should leave that to the police,” he said.

FASTER is trying to schedule classes in Indiana and Wyoming, and see if there is enough demand to hold classes in New York state next year.

“The more people talking about it, taking classes and carrying and getting approval from districts, the more it won’t be a scary, ominous thing,” said Katie, the first-grade teacher.