Caitlin Gallagher
November 07, 2017 2:26 pm
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

A day after saying that the Sutherland Springs, Texas mass shooting was not a gun control issue but a mental health issue, Donald Trump has doubled down on his stance. During a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, Trump said gun control wouldn’t have stopped the shooting at the First Baptist Church on November 5th. Instead, he believes more people would have died if there were stricter gun control laws.

At the Seoul press conference, NBC’s Ali Vitali asked Trump if he would consider “extreme vetting” for anyone trying to buy a gun — citing that Trump believes in “extreme vetting” for people trying to enter the U.S. The president met the question with thinly veiled contempt as he said, “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 that that’s an appropriate question even though we’re in the heart of South Korea.”

Trump did answer the question by stating that he didn’t think more gun regulations would have helped — in fact, he said they would have made the situation worse:

He wrapped up the question by repeating, “Just remember if this man didn’t have a gun or a rifle, you’d be talking about a much worse situation in the great state of Texas.”

Trump is referencing the armed citizen Stephen Willeford, who is credited with stopping the shooter Devin Kelley. Willeford was at home when his daughter informed him of the shooting, which left at least 26 people dead and 20 injured. Willeford said he grabbed his rifle from his safe and ran to the church barefoot. Once there, he shot and hit Kelley, who then fled in his car. Willeford flagged down a stranger in a pickup truck, Johnnie Langendorff, and the pair of strangers pursued the shooter. As HuffPost reported in its story about Willeford, Kelley eventually drove off the road and was found with three gunshot wounds, two presumably from Willeford and one self-inflicted to the head.

Willeford is a hero for taking action against Kelley. But that doesn’t mean that having more thorough vetting for gun purchases would have led to a more deadly massacre. As NPR reported, Kelley was convicted of assaulting his wife and stepson while he was in the Air Force. This conviction meant Kelley could not legally own a gun, but that information was never entered into the National Criminal Information Center database. This oversight allowed Kelley to purchase guns, which he used to kill churchgoers in Sutherland Springs.

Newsweek also criticized Trump’s logic, writing:

In the wake of another gun-related massacre, don’t expect the current American president to consider reforming gun control laws. Instead, Trump continues to use fear and evasive rhetoric to imply that gun control would have made Kelley’s attack more deadly. Trump’s flawed thinking is disrespectful to all Americans, but particularly to the victims of these mass shootings.

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