President Trump said in Seoul today that further gun-control measures are “not going to help” after Sunday’s church massacre in which the assailant shouldn’t have been able to buy his weapon.
Devin Kelley, who killed 26 people at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs before being pursued by an armed neighbor and killing himself, was convicted in a 2012 court-martial of multiple incidents of assaulting his wife at the time and fracturing his infant stepson’s skull. He was sentenced to 12 months at the Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar and was released from service in 2014 under a Bad Conduct Discharge.
Under federal law, Kelley, who bought an Ruger AR-556 in April 2016 from a San Antonio sporting goods store, should have been banned from buying firearms. But the Air Force said Kelley’s domestic violence “was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations.”
After being discharged from the Air Force, Kelley was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty in Colorado for beating a dog. The following year, a protective order was taken out against him in Colorado.
At today’s press conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump was asked by NBC reporter Ali Vitali, “You’ve talked about wanting to put extreme vetting on people trying to come into the United States, but I wonder if you would consider extreme vetting for people trying to buy a gun.”
“Well, you’re bringing up a situation that probably shouldn’t be discussed too much right now,” Trump responded. “We could let a little time go by, but it’s OK. 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.”
“If you did what you’re suggesting, there would have been no difference three days ago, 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. And I can only say this: If he didn’t have a gone, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead. So that’s the way I feel about it. Not going to help,” he said.
Stephen Willeford, a neighbor of the church and former NRA instructor, said he was at home when his daughter came into his bedroom and told him she heard shots at the church. He told local media that he fetched a rifle from his home safe, loaded the magazine, ran across the street barefoot and engaged Kelley.
Asked if he’s “considering any kind of gun-control policy going forward,” Trump interjected: “I mean, you look at the city with the strongest gun laws in our nation, is Chicago, and Chicago is a disaster. It’s a total disaster. Just remember, if this man didn’t have a gun or rifle, you’d be talking about a much worse situation in the great state of Texas.”
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) told CNN this morning that “we’ve got find out how the current laws aren’t working.”
“I mean, we saw this case here. We’ve also seen other incidents,” he said, referring to the Charleston church massacre more than two years ago.
When asked if he would ban AR-15s, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) told MSNBC he’s got “a problem with banning a weapon because of its appearance.”
“I’m from a state where we have one of the highest gun ownership rates in the country. And yet we have one of the lowest rates of gun crime,” King said. “…I think there are other issues, for example magazine size, that maybe we do need to have a discussion about.”
“One is we can continue to refine and improve the background check. We found a gap in it in this case. Let’s fix that with the military. Secondly, we need to fix the loopholes that are in the background check system such as gun show, the so-called gun show loophole or buying guns online,” the senator suggested.
“The trafficking in guns across state lines are all things that we can talk about. This is Manchin-Toomey Amendment that we voted on and passed but not by quite enough votes in 2013. Bump stocks, this thing that converts a semi-automatic to essentially an automatic, ought to be banned. Should have been. ATF should not have allowed them back in whatever it was, 2012 I think. So that we can take care of.”