President Donald Trump has asserted that stricter gun laws would have been counterproductive in preventing a mass shooting at a Texas church that left 26 people dead. The president pointed out that the gunman was shot twice by a bystander before taking his own life.
On Nov. 7, Trump took questions at a press conference in Seoul, South Korea. One journalist queried the U.S. president on whether or not he would consider enforcing extreme vetting procedures for gun purchases after proposing similar measures for foreigners traveling into America, CBS News reports.
"If you did what you're suggesting, there would have been no difference three days ago and you might not have had that very brave person who happens to have a gun or a rifle in his trunk," Trump responded.
On Nov. 5, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley methodically shot over 50 parishioners attending the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, killing 26. The victims ranged in age from 17 months to 77 years old. Among the slain were a pregnant woman and her three young children, according to CNN.
When Kelley exited the church, he was shot twice by local resident Stephen Willeford. Both Willeford and fellow bystander Johnnie Langendorff chased after the wounded gunman as he drove away in his vehicle. Kelley ultimately shot himself after his vehicle crashed into a ditch. His rampage was the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history.
Trump asserted that if Willeford had not had his rifle on the scene, then "instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead ... So that's the way I feel about it."
On Nov. 6, Trump responded to the mass shooting during a press conference in Japan by focusing on Kelley's mental state: "I think that mental health is the problem here ... But, this isn't a guns situation, we could go into it, but it's a little too soon to go into it," Trump said, according to CBS News.
That same day, the U.S. Air Force disclosed that Kelley had been court-martialed in 2012 for domestic violence while serving as an airman. He had assaulted both his wife and his stepson. Kelley would not have been able to pass a background check if the offense was on his record.
"Initial information indicates that Kelley's domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations," the Air Force said in a statement.
On Nov. 7, it was revealed that Kelley had temporarily escaped from the Peak Behavioral Health Services clinic in New Mexico while detained for his domestic violence offense. A local police report at the time stated that Kelley had made death threats against military officers, according to ABC News.
Democratic lawmakers have blasted their GOP peers for dismissing calls for stricter gun laws following Kelley's rampage. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who became a vocal advocate for gun laws following the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Massachusetts, released a statement accusing his Republican colleagues of being subservient to the National Rifle Association, Business Insider reports.
"As my colleagues sleep tonight, they need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters, and city streets," Murphy said.
The Connecticut senator added: "The terrifying fact is that no one is safe so long as Congress chooses to do absolutely nothing in the face of this epidemic."