Donald Trump has said the recent US school shooting is a reason to arm law-abiding citizens, not disarm them.
The former US president was a guest speaker at the National Rifle Association (NRA), which held its annual convention in Houston on Friday.
The event was held three days after 19 children and two adults were shot dead at a school in Uvalde and put in stark relief America’s deep divisions on gun control.
As demonstrations swelled in Houston, attenders inside the convention – including Trump – continued to deny that guns were the problem and put the emphasis on school safety and mental health.
He told the conference: “The existence of evil in our world is not a reason to disarm law-abiding citizens. The existence of evil is one of the very best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens.”
Trump accused the Democrats of trying to exploit the tragedy and demonise gun owners.
He said: “Every time a disturbed or demented person commits a hideous crime there is always a grotesque effort by some in our society to advance their own extreme political agenda.”
Trump called for the overhauling of school security and the nation’s approach to mental health, telling the group every school building should have a single point of entry, strong exterior fencing, metal detectors and hardened classroom doors, and every school should have a police officer or armed guard on duty at all times.
He also called yet again for trained teachers to be able to carry concealed weapons in the classroom.
He and other speakers overlooked the security upgrades that were already in place at the elementary school and did not stop the gunman, who entered the building through a backdoor that had been propped open.
According to a district safety plan, Uvalde schools have a wide range of safety measures in place. The district had four police officers and four support counsellors, according to the plan, which appears to be dated from the 2019-20 school year. It also had software to monitor social media for threats and software to screen school visitors.
The meeting was the first for the troubled organisation since 2019, after a two-year hiatus because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The organisation has been trying to regroup after a period of serious legal and financial turmoil that included a failed bankruptcy effort, a class-action lawsuit and a fraud investigation by New York’s attorney general.