Trump says gun-control laws would have led to ‘hundreds more dead’ in Texas shooting

President Donald Trump in Japan delivering remarks on the Texas shooting.

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President Donald Trump in Japan delivering remarks on the Texas shooting.
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Thomson Reuters

President Donald Trump still doesn’t support additional gun-control measures after a gunman killed 26 people at a small church in Texas, and on Tuesday he suggested added restrictions might even exacerbate the problem.

Trump, who praised an armed civilian who shot the gunman, rebuffed suggestions from a reporter at a news conference in South Korea that “extreme vetting” for prospective gun owners could help.

He said: “If you did what you’re suggesting, there would have been no difference three days ago,” referring to the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Trump then shifted to talking about Stephen Willeford, a man who lived near the church and, as he later told reporters, came out of his home armed after his daughter heard gunshots. He exchanged fire with the gunman after the shooter left the church, where at least 46 people had already been shot. After a high-speed car chase, the gunman was found dead in his car; officials said he had shot himself in the head.

“I can only say this. If [Willeford] didn’t have a gun, instead of 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead,” Trump said. “So that’s the way I feel about it, not going to help.”

On Monday, Trump blamed the shooting on “mental health,” calling the gunman a “deranged individual” and dismissing the idea that the shooting was a “guns issue.”

“This is a mental-health issue at the highest level, and it’s very very sad,” Trump said. “That’s the way I view it.”

The US has more mass shootings than any other developed country and looser gun-control laws than other nations with similar demographics.

The gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, should not have been able to buy a gun because of a conviction equivalent to a felony during his time with the US Air Force, but the existing gun-control laws failed to work as the Pentagon had not released Kelley’s military record to background-checking agencies.

Kelley reportedly was able to purchase four guns after being convicted of assaulting his wife and child. Kelley, who remarried, killed the grandmother of his second wife in Sunday’s attack at the church.