Former US President Donald Trump rejected calls for tougher gun controls Friday after the Texas school massacre, saying decent Americans should be given the firearms they need to defend themselves against “evil.”
“The existence of evil in our world is not a reason to disarm law-abiding civilians… The existence of evil is one of the very best reasons to arm law-abiding civilians,” he told National Rifle members. association. Trump’s comments came as he headlined an NRA event in Houston, three days after a firefight at a Texas elementary school reignited the tinderbox debate over gun control in the US.
“The various gun control policies being pushed by the left would have done nothing to prevent the horror that took place. Absolutely nothing,” he said. An 18-year-old gunman with a legally purchased AR-15-style rifle killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, marking the deadliest school shooting in state history.
Trump read out the names of all 19 children, whom he described as victims of an out-of-control “crazy,” before suggesting that gun control efforts were “grotesque.” “We must all unite, Republican and Democrat — in every state and at every level of government — to finally strengthen our schools and protect our children… What we need now is a major overhaul of school security. in this country,” he added.
Multiple speakers, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, dropped out of the event after the killings, but Trump confirmed on Wednesday that he would not cancel his appearance at the NRA’s annual “Leadership Forum.” President Joe Biden, who blamed the gun lobby in the US after the shooting, will “mourn with the community” in Uvalde on Sunday along with First Lady Jill Biden, White House officials said.
The NRA is considered the most powerful gun rights organization in the country, although its influence has declined as it has become mired in legal battles over a corruption scandal. It has rejected most initiatives to prevent mass shootings, including extensive background checks on gun purchases, though it said ahead of Trump’s speech that audience members should not be allowed to carry firearms.
Republicans in Washington have suggested “hardening” schools with reinforced security — including armed guards placed at a single entry and exit point — rather than restrictions on gun ownership. They have also discussed the need to focus on mental health, although critics point out that other countries with stricter gun controls face similar problems and do not see mass shootings on a regular basis.
There have been 214 mass shootings in the United States this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. They include a racist massacre at a supermarket in a black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, just 10 days before the Texas murders.