More intensive screening of gun buyers is “not going to help” prevent mass shootings, President Donald Trump said Tuesday, adding that there would have been “hundreds more dead” at the small Texas church earlier this week if a heroic civilian had not used his own firearm to help subdue the gunman.
Stephen Willeford had heard Sunday’s rapid gunfire from his home, grabbed his rifle from a gun safe, rushed to the scene and wounded gunman Devin Patrick Kelley. Willeford and another civilian, Johnnie Langendorff, gave chase to Kelley in Langendorff’s truck. Willeford gave an account to KHBS-TV.
Kelley’s rampage killed 26 as they worshipped at a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church.
He fired 450 rounds of ammunition, according to authorities.
Trump was asked in Seoul, South Korea, if he will advocate for “extreme vetting” of those who seek to purchase firearms, akin to his call in the immediate aftermath of last week’s deadly Manhattan attack for stepped-up screening of those who seek to immigrate to the United States.
“If you did what you’re suggesting, there would have been no difference three days ago,” Trump told the reporter. “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 was speaking alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in. He is in the midst of a 12-day trip to Asia.
“And I can only say this: If he didn’t have a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead,” Trump continued. “So that’s the way I feel about it. Not going to help.”
The president appeared to chastise the reporter for asking about policy so soon after Sunday’s massacre.
“Well, 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 OK,” he told her. “If you feel that that’s an appropriate question, even though we’re in the heart of South Korea, I will certainly answer your question.”
Trump said that Chicago, despite its stringent firearms laws, is a “total disaster.”
A day earlier in Tokyo with Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, Trump called the Texas shooting a “mental health problem at the highest level” rather than a “guns situation.”
On the night of the Oct. 31 attack in Manhattan by an ISIS-inspired Uzbek immigrant, Trump tweeted: “I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!”