Former President Donald Trump rejected tighter gun control after a Texas school shooter killed 19 children and two teachers, telling a National Rifle Association meeting that solutions include mental-health care and training teachers to carry concealed weapons.
“The existence of evil in our world is not a reason to disarm law-abiding citizens who know how to use their weapon,” Trump said in a speech in Houston. “The existence of evil is one of the very best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens.”
He also took swipes at Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a fellow Republican, for dropping out of the NRA convention and Democratic mayors whose cities are suffering from gun crime.
Trump’s stance meshed with the defiant mood of the meeting, held days after the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that has renewed anger and political recriminations over Washington’s paralysis on gun control.
Several hundred protesters rallied outside the meeting venue earlier Friday.
While President Joe Biden suggested after Tuesday’s shooting that Americans should “stand up to the gun lobby, Trump said he’d keep his commitment to the NRA, one of his major supporters.
The group was the largest outside financial backer of his 2016 campaign, spending $31 million to help elect him, and it spent $16.6 million on his re-election campaign in 2020, according to OpenSecrets.
Measures suggested by Trump included early vigilance over young people’s mental health, dealing with “broken families, single points of entry at schools and to let trained teachers “conceal carry.
“Our schools should be the single hardest target country in our country,” Trump said.
Read More: India top court recognizes sex work as a ‘profession’
But one of the biggest cheers came when he said that if the US spends some $40 billion to arm Ukraine, it should also “do whatever it takes to keep American children safe.”
Convention speakers, including Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, and NRA head Wayne LaPierre, cast the Uvalde shooting as the act of an individual “monster.”
Gun-control laws across the US haven’t stopped “madmen from carrying out evil acts,” Abbott said in a video message.
That didn’t prevent Trump from taking a dig at Abbott for canceling his in-person appearance to give a news conference in Uvalde, where he voiced anger about the bungled police response at Uvalde.
“Unlike some I didn’t disappoint you by not showing up,” Trump said.
Earlier in the day, a festive mood reigned on the exhibit floor where NRA members browsed among vendors hawking everything from silencers and high-capacity rifle magazines to switchblades and do-it-yourself gun kits.
Even so, firearms, accessories and knives weren’t permitted in the hall because the US Secret Service was handling the event with Trump speaking.
Trump spoke at the last NRA convention in 2019, held before a two-year break in meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He’s a vocal supporter of gun rights and often mentions in his endorsements of candidates that they back the US constitution’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.
After two mass shootings left more than 30 people dead in 2019, Trump said he wants “meaningful background checks. But he also said he’d ensure the NRA’s views are “fully represented and respected.” No legislation was enacted.
The former president has been endorsing candidates running in this year’s midterm elections and has teased plans to run for president again in 2024 – and he did so again Friday in Houston.
He hasn’t made a formal announcement, citing campaign finance restrictions once he does.