What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Students who support gun rights say schools safer when ‘good guys’ are armed

Judy Woodruff talks with Maddison Westcott, a Rio Salado College student, and Ian Parish, a Liberty University student, about various restrictions and other gun control measures being raised, as well the prospect of arming teachers.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    On last night's program, we heard from two high school students who took part in Wednesday's rallies to push for stronger gun control laws.

    Tonight, we're joined by two students who attended the CPAC annual meeting today outside Washington, where NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre spoke.

    Maddison Westcott is from Las Vegas, Nevada, and is a student at Rio Salado College. And Ian Parish is a sophomore at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

    And we welcome both of you to the "NewsHour."

    Ian, I'm going to start with you.

    How would you say you have been affected by the events of the last week, the shooting at that high school in Florida and all the reaction to it?

  • Ian Parish:

    So, at first, like, when I first heard about the school shooting, I actually started crying, right, and because it's a tragedy, and it's one of the worst tragedies that I think we could see happen.

    And in the days afterward, I think there's a mixture of emotions. I'm normally not someone who is very, very emotional when it comes to news events or stuff like that, but I saw some text messages that some of the students were sending their parents.

    And I was reading them to my mother, right? And that was one of those instances where I just — it broke me emotionally. So I think — I think the entire nation is really in a state of mourning when it comes to that type of thing, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Maddison, what about you? How — what have you — how has it — what has it meant to you to see this unfold and see the reactions to it?

  • Maddison Westcott:

    Right.

    I really do sympathize with the students who were at the Parkland shooting. We are in a state — a nation of mourning right now. And we all just — we need to let it settle in.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    For sure.

    There's already, though, a lot of conversation about what to do to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. The president's been talking about it, other politicians.

    Ian, one of the things that is being discussed is making — is saying you have to be older in order to buy an assault-type weapon. What do you think about that?

  • Ian Parish:

    I don't really necessarily believe in that, and I…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Because, right now, you can buy one at 18.

  • Ian Parish:

    Yes.

    So, I think, if someone is going to commit a premeditated act like this, they're going to plan out, and they're going to acquire the weapon in one way or another.

    We actually do know — I believe I saw a headline where the gunman at Parkland actually had — well, I think it was smoke grenades. In the Aurora, Colorado shooting, also, likewise, the man had full body armor.

    So, these people are going to go out of their way to get things to sort of promulgate these acts. So I don't think an age limit is very conducive to limiting gun violence in any way.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So what about — Maddison, what about any restrictions on being able to buy an assault weapon, whether it's raising the age or placing another barrier to that?

  • Maddison Westcott:

    Right.

    So I believe, if you rose the age, you would be putting people at risk between the ages of 18 and 21. Now, at 18, you're sent off into the world and you're given all these opportunities, you can fight for your country, you can vote, you can do all these other fun things that you haven't been able to do, you know, in high school or middle school or elementary school.

    And now that you're older, you have also the right to protect yourself. And when you're 18, you should be allowed to go out and buy a gun because you are on your own.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you have one?

  • Maddison Westcott:

    I do not have a gun currently, but I am a member of the NRA, and I have been for about four months now. I grew up in a household full of guns that were there to protect me, and a household full of just women. So, I learned at a pretty young age that you can protect yourself using a weapon.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But what about this background check question, Ian?

  • Ian Parish:

    So, we already actually do have background checks instituted here in the United States.

    But I think a key thing that we need to talk about and we need to reference here is, the gunman at Parkland, he committed no prior crime. So even if we increase background checks, we're not going to see — this man would still have gotten this weapon, because he does — he hasn't committed a crime.

    So he's technically legally allowed and capable of acquiring a firearm.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Unless there had been some way of monitoring his emotional and mental health, which I think has become an issue.

  • Maddison Westcott:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But what I — the other thing I want to ask both of you about, Maddison, is the suggestion that teachers should be armed. The president spoke about this today, about how it makes more sense for teachers to have guns to protect their students and themselves.

  • Maddison Westcott:

    Yes.

    So, this is something that I actually believe pretty strongly in. I would love to see more teachers armed. That doesn't necessarily mean every single teacher needs to have a firearm on them during school hours. Even if just one teacher has a firearm on them on a department — in a department scale, then that's just fine.

    My high school was set up by department, so we have the math, the science, the English. The gymnasium had their own little department. If even just one person has a — one teacher has a firearm in that department, it automatically reduces the risk of people coming in and being able to shoot others.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I have interviewed a couple of teachers on this program in the last few nights. Last night, a teacher I talked to said he think putting a gun on the body of a teacher, he said, Ian, he thinks says — basically says you have given up on school safety, and it sends a signal to students that the classroom is just not a safe environment anymore.

  • Ian Parish:

    Well, what I would say to him, with all due respect, is we — for some reason, we have a culture in this nation where we defend our airports.

    We have security at our banks. We have security at our government facilities. But, for some reason, we are not securing our most precious national treasures, which are our children.

    So I disagree with the notion that arming — somehow allowing teachers to be armed on the campus of an elementary, middle, high school somehow would increase gun violence or say that they had given up.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me — Maddison, I do want to raise, though, the question that I hear across the board.

    And that is people saying, it means more people can get hurt, too, including those children in the school.

  • Maddison Westcott:

    Right. OK.

    So, all due respect once again to that teacher who said that, I wouldn't want him as my teacher, nor would I want him to obtain — nor to have a gun, if he believes that the schools are that dangerous, that he thinks students are going to come up, just any old student would come up and just grab the gun, then there — there is a serious problem with the teachers then, if that's what they're going to say.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    I think the question was that it — it basically is sending a signal to students that the environment can't be made safe unless there are guns there. And it takes the attention away from education toward security.

  • Maddison Westcott:

    Well, there's no need for the students to know that the teacher has a gun. There is no need — there's no reason why a student should know that the teacher has a gun.

    The teacher should have — should be able to protect the students, if that was ever to happen, but there's no reason for them to know. And if you look at schools, like, in Israel, there was one mass shooting there in a school, and now they're heavily armed, and it hasn't happened since.

    Yes, there's guns around now, but you are more safe with more people — with good guys that have guns.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, it's certainly something that it's being discussed right now, and we know it is going to continue to be discussed.

    And we thank both of you for coming in to share your thoughts.

  • Ian Parish:

    Thank you. Yes, ma'am.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Maddison, Ian, thank you both.

  • Maddison Westcott:

    Yes, thank you.

  • Ian Parish:

    Thank you.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest