President Trump said “extreme gun vetting” would not have prevented the mass shooting at a Texas church over the weekend.
Trump made the statement during a press conference Tuesday in Seoul after NBC reporter Ali Vitali questioned if the president would consider applying “extreme vetting” to potential gun owners — an obvious reference to Trump’s immediate response to the country’s immigration policies after a radicalized Muslim mowed people down on a New York running path.
“If you did what you’re suggesting, there would have been no difference three days ago,” Trump said. “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.”
Investigators say the accused gunman dropped a rifle in front of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas after an armed neighbor confronted him, ending the attack Sunday that killed 26 people and wounded 20 others. Police later found the gunman inside his car a few miles away from the church, dead from a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head.
“I can only say this,” Trump said. “If he (neighbor) didn’t have a gun, instead of having 26 dead, we would have had hundreds more dead. So that’s the way I feel about it. Not going to help.”
The shooter, a former airman, spent a year in military prison for a 2012 assault on his wife and stepson. He received a demotion in rank and a bad conduct discharge in 2014. His prior conviction barred him from owning firearms under state and federal law, but an internal oversight meant the Air Force never reported his record to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System database. Top military officials acknowledged the mistake Monday and promised a full review of Air Force databases to ensure no other critical records were missed.
State law enforcement officials say an ongoing domestic dispute may have led the gunman to the church where his mother-in-law sometimes attended service. Authorities confirmed Monday she had received threatening text messages from the shooter, but wasn’t present during the attack.
“We know there was conflict between the families and whether it was revenge or not, that would just be speculation,” said Freeman Martin, regional director with the Texas Department of Public Safety, during a press conference with reporters Monday evening. When pressed further, Martin said the gunman didn’t need to need to bring “15 loaded magazines and an assault rifle to a church” just to kill his mother-in-law. “I think he came here with a purpose and a mission,” he added.
Trump said Tuesday stricter regulations won’t prevent tragedies like the Texas shooting, citing the failure of existing gun control policies to stifle Chicago’s rising murder rate.
“Chicago is a disaster. A total disaster,” he said. “Just remember, if this man didn’t have a gun or a rifle, we would be talking about a much worse situation in the great state of Texas.”