Donald Trump has described the latest US school shooting as a “savage and barbaric atrocity”, but has criticized those who have called for tougher gun laws.
The former US president was a guest speaker at the Houston convention of the National Rifle Association, a firearms rights group.
The convention took place only a few days after 19 children and two teachers were shot at an elementary school in the town of Uvalde, Texas.
The school attack came 10 days after a shooting in Buffalo, New York, that left 10 people dead – the two tragedies being the latest in a long series of mass murders to escalate the debate over the laws on the fire arms.
Mr Trump said: “The horrific murder of 19 innocent children and two adult teachers, many of whom were seriously injured, was a savage and barbaric atrocity that shocks the conscience of every American so horribly.”
He then called for a “brief moment of silence while I read the names of these beautiful people”, before reciting a list of Uvalde’s victims, each name followed by the chiming of a bell.
But, like many other convention speakers, Mr. Trump refused to see a connection between their deaths and the ease with which Salvador Ramos, 18 years old was able to access the AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle that killed them.
He criticized the “now familiar parade of cynical politicians seeking to exploit the tears of sobbing families to increase their own power and deprive us of our constitutional rights” and “the grotesque effort of some in our society to use the suffering of others to advance their own extreme political agenda.”
He described their “rush to lay the blame on the wicked who commit acts of mass violence” and “to lay that blame on the shoulders of millions of peaceful, law-abiding citizens who belong to organizations such as our wonderful NRA “.
He added: “When (US President) Joe Biden blamed the gun lobby, he was talking about Americans like you. This rhetoric is very divisive and dangerous and, more importantly, it is false and wrong. has no place in our politics.”
Mr Trump also said it should be easier to confine “violent and mentally disturbed” people to institutions, despite Ramos having no criminal record or history of mental illness.
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He also pushed for the elimination of weapon-free school zones, saying these left victims with no way to defend themselves.
He said: “As the old saying goes, the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
“The existence of evil is one of the best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens.”
As he spoke, around 500 protesters stood outside the venue, some holding signs and shouting: “NRA go away” and “too bad it could be your kids today”.
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