WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Donald Trump expressed a commitment Sunday (Monday in Manila), hours after the latest deadly mass shooting, to work with a divided Congress to “stop the menace of mass attacks.”
He said any measures must satisfy the competing goals of protecting public safety and the constitutional right to gun ownership and seemed to cast fresh doubt on the merits of instituting more thorough background checks for gun purchases.
Trump spoke shortly after the death toll in Saturday’s rampage in West Texas rose to seven, as authorities worked to understand why a man pulled over for a traffic infraction opened fire on state troopers and fled. He shot more than 20 people before he was killed by police. A motive has not been released.
The President said it would be “wonderful to say” he’d work to “eliminate” mass shootings, but acknowledged that that was unlikely.
“We want to substantially reduce the violent crime,” Trump said at the top of a briefing about Hurricane ‘Dorian’ at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington.
Trump’s commitment to gun control has been in doubt ever since 17 students and adults were killed in a shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school on Valentine’s Day in 2018. Trump came out in favor of stronger background checks after the shooting, but then quickly retreated under pressure from the National Rifle Association, the politically powerful gun owners’ lobby that strongly backed his bid to become president.
More recently, he has waffled on the merits of stronger background checks for gun purchases in the aftermath of back-to-back shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that killed more than 30 people about a month ago. Instead, Trump sought to elevate mental health issues over access to guns.
“For the most part, sadly, if you look at the last four or five [shootings] going back even five or six or seven years, for the most part, as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it,” he said. “So, it’s a big problem. It’s a mental problem. It’s a big problem.”