On the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that claimed 26 lives, including 20 children, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked what President Trump had done “to try to protect the American people against a similar type of massacre.”
Her response was a disaster.
The question was a tough one for Sanders, given that the White House has done nothing to prevent a similar tragedy. So instead of trying to answer it, she immediately tried to pivot to unrelated topics like “border security” and “stronger vetting processes.”
“Look, I think that there are a number of different ways that we look to protect our citizens every single day,” Sanders began. “One of the areas that the president has been outspoken about, not necessarily to [mass shootings], but just more broadly speaking in terms of national security and protecting individuals certainly through border security, stronger vetting processes, and looking at whether or not there are other regulations we could put in place that would offer protection.”
The reporter interjected to point out that both the Sandy Hook shooter and the man responsible for the even more deadly massacre just over two months ago in Las Vegas were Americans, not immigrants. But Sanders reiterated that she was speaking “more broadly in terms of national security as a whole.”
Later, Sanders sounded a skeptical note about whether there are any regulations that could in fact do something to stop mass shootings.
“If you could name a single thing that would have prevented both of these, I would like to hear it because I don’t know what that would look like,” she said. “But we’re looking every single day at how you can protect American lives.”
Sanders’ comments on Thursday are in line with what Trump has said about gun violence. During a news conference held days after a mass shooting at a Baptist church in Texas last month, which left 26 parishioners dead, Trump rejected calls for increased gun control measures, and said he didn’t view shootings of that sort as “a guns situation.”
“We have a lot of mental health problems in our country as do others countries, but this isn’t a guns situation,” said Trump, whose presidential campaign benefited from $30 million in National Rifle Association contributions. “We could go into it, but it’s a little bit soon to get into it.”
Shortly after Trump took office, the White House actually moved to roll back a regulation meant to prevent people with severe mental illness from purchasing guns.
Trump’s solution to America’s epidemic of mass shootings seems to be to encourage more people to buy guns so that they can shoot perpetrators before they themselves are shot. But research indicates that the notion more guns will result in less gun violence is a myth.
A comprehensive study by the Violence Policy Center found guns “are rarely used to kill criminals or stop crimes.” In 2012, “for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 32 criminal homicides,” researchers concluded. Another study by the University of Pennsylvania found that someone carrying a gun is “4.46 times more likely to be shot in an assault.”