He said that he was looking for solutions to mass shootings. Trump endorsed several policy proposals that the Republican Party generally opposes, like universal background checks and banning 18- to 20-year-olds from buying handguns.
But Trump stuck to the right’s favorite prescription for mass shootings: everyone should be armed.
“First we must harden our schools against attack,” he said, referring to arming teachers. “These include allowing people with a certified training, very talented people, to carry firearms.”
He went on to name the shooting at the Pulse nightclub, the 2016 mass shooting in an LGBT club in Orlando, Florida, where Omar Mateen killed 49 people.
“But 98 percent of all mass shootings in the United States, since 1950, have taken place in gun-free zones, where guns were not inside the school or, as an example, you take the Pulse Nightclub,” he said. “You had one person in that room that could carry a gun and knew how to use it, it wouldn’t have happened. Certainly not to the extent it did, where he was just in there shooting and shooting and shooting. And they were defenseless. Just remember that.”
First, Trump is wrong that no one at the Pulse nightclub had a gun. Adam Gruler, an off-duty Orlando Police officer was working there as a security guard. He tried to shoot Mateen, but Mateen went deep into the club and Gruler thought it was a “hostage situation.”
Gruler knew that shooting into a dark, crowded room was a bad idea.
Second, Trump is wrong when he says that “98 percent of all mass shootings in the United States, since 1950, have taken place in gun-free zones.”
Gun violence researcher Louis Klarevas of the University of Minnesota analyzed mass shootings since 1966. He found that only 13 of the 111 in which over six people died took place in gun-free zones. That’s 12%, not 98%. The vast majority of deadly shootings took place in areas where people were allowed to carry guns.
Everytown for Gun Safety also analyzed mass shootings, looking at 133 shootings between 2009 and 2015 (unlike Klarevas, they counted all shootings, not just the most deadly). They found that 17 (13%) took place in gun-free zones.
Last, it’s hard to imagine how hundreds of people – many of them intoxicated – pulling out guns in a dark nightclub would have resulted in fewer deaths.
Even if they were all sober and they were all great at shooting guns – and someone turned on the lights – how would they know who to shoot? The obvious target is the person with the gun. But if they shot the first person they saw with a gun, lots of people would have died.
Mateen wouldn’t have been able to kill 49 people if he didn’t have access to semi-automatic weapons. And he wouldn’t have wanted to kill so many LGBT people if we didn’t live in a homophobic culture.
But since the obvious solutions – banning guns that serve no purpose outside of mass shootings and opposing homophobia – are off the table, Trump made a terrible suggestion.