During a news conference alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Seoul on Tuesday, President Trump was asked if would consider subjecting prospective gun buyers to the sort of “extreme vetting” he wants for immigrants.
Trump indicated he was offended by the question. He admonished the reporter who asked it that “you’re bringing up a situation that probably shouldn’t be discussed too much right now.”
“We could let a little time go by, but it’s okay if you feel like that’s an appropriate question,” Trump continued. “Even though we’re in the heart of South Korea, I will certainly answer your question.”
Trump was asked about gun control hours after the Air Force announced that Devin Kelley — the gunman who killed 26 people with a military-style firearm in a church in Texas on Sunday — should have been prohibited from purchasing guns, but wasn’t because officials failed to enter his domestic violence offense into the National Criminal Information Center.
While Kelly’s story seems to represent a clear instance where something could’ve been done to prevent a dangerous person from obtaining a firearm, Trump told the reporter that “if you did what you’re suggesting, there would have been no difference three days ago.”
Trump then praised the armed bystander who shot Kelley with a rifle as he exited the church, before he drove away from the scene. (Kelley was found dead in his car after he crashed following a chase. His body had three gunshot wounds, including a head wound the medical examiner determined to be consistent with a self-inflicted shot.)
“And you might not have had that very brave person who happened to have a gun or a rifle in his truck, go out and shoot him and hit him and neutralize him,” Trump said. “And I can only say this — if he didn’t have a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would’ve had hundreds of more dead. So that’s the way I feel about it.”
Trump’s claims are misleading at best. The carnage in the church had already ended by the time the bystander shot Kelley, and the First Baptist Church has an average attendance of just 180 parishioners.
As the reporter tried to follow-up on her question, Trump cut her off and took aim at Chicago.
“You look at the city with the strongest gun laws in our nation in Chicago, and Chicago is a disaster — a total disaster,” Trump said. “Just remember — if this man didn’t have a gun or rifle, you’d be talking about a much worse situation in the great state of Texas.”
What Trump and other gun activists who use Chicago as a talking point fail to mention is that the majority of the guns recovered by law enforcement agents in the city come from nearby states — Indiana foremost among them — that have more lax gun laws.
Trump’s comments in Seoul came a day after he characterized the mass shooting in Texas as “a mental health problem at the highest level” instead of “a guns situation” during a news conference in Japan. But shortly after Trump took office, his administration repealed an Obama-era regulation that prevented elderly people with mental health conditions from buying firearms.