President Trump on Saturday responded to a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that left multiple people dead by suggesting it should have had armed security to protect its members.
“[Gun laws have] little do do with it,” he said. “If you take a look, if they had protection inside, the results would have been far better. This is a dispute that will always exist, I suspect, but if they had some kind of a protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a very much different situation. They didn’t. [The gunman] was able to do things that unfortunately he shouldn’t have been able to do.”
President Trump, asked about gun laws, says the Pittsburgh synagogue should have had armed security at the bris and the gunman wouldn’t be able to do what he did pic.twitter.com/y9Cq59wPM5
— Justin Fenton (@justin_fenton) October 27, 2018
The president also praised the “outstanding” law enforcement response.
Pressed on his initial comments, Trump doubled down, saying it’s a “violent world,” and describing the gunman as a “whacko.”
“The world is a violent world, and you think when you’re over it, that this sort of goes away, but then it comes back in the form of a madman, a whacko.”
The president also suggested that the United States should “stiffen up” its laws “in terms of the death penalty,” saying mass shooters should “pay the ultimate price.”
“When people do this they should get the death penalty, they shouldn’t have to wait years and years,” he said. “The lawyers get involved and everybody’s going to get involved and we’ll be 10 years down the line,” Trump said, adding “anybody who does something like this, innocent people in temple or in church, so many incidents with churches, they should be–they should really suffer the ultimate price.”
Trump has a long-running relationship with the National Rifle Association which has helped mold the majority of his policy decisions on firearms. Despite claiming earlier this year that the NRA had less power over him than lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the president has largely deferred to the NRA on matters like raising the minimum age for gun purchases and flooding schools and gun-free zones with more firearms, in an attempt to prevent shootings.
During the 2016 election, the NRA dropped more than $11 million on independent expenditures to support Trump’s presidential bid, and an additional $20 million to attack his opponent, former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Asked Saturday about his meetings with NRA officials and his promises to solve gun violence, Trump dodged, deferring back to his earlier argument that armed guards would have stopped the synagogue shooter and admitting he didn’t know any of the details of the attack itself.
“It’s a case, again, nobody knows exactly what took place yet,” he said. “But this is a case where if they had an armed guard inside, that they might have been able to stop him immediately. … If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him, maybe there would have been nobody killed except for him, frankly.”
Asked whether he thought all churches and synagogues should have armed guards, Trump shrugged. “I hate to think of it that way, so we’ll see…. Certainly an option,” he said.
— Lori Houy (@WPXI_Lori) October 27, 2018
At least eight people were killed in Saturday’s shooting, which occurred during a service where a bris, or infant circumcision ceremony, was also taking place. Several others, including three police officers, were shot although the extent of their injuries is as of yet unknown.
Little is known about the gunman, who police said used an AR-15 style rifle and multiple handguns to carry out the attack. Early witnesses called the shooting an anti-Semitic hate crime and claimed the gunman had yelled about killing Jews during the attack.
The shooter, allegedly a white male in his 40s, reportedly had an account on Gab, a social media site similar to Twitter that is favored by white supremacists and far-right extremists.