President Trump endorsed the National Rifle Association’s agenda at the organization’s annual convention, but in doing to he also drew criticism and outrage in how he characterized recent tragedies.
In Friday’s speech to NRA members, the president adopted the NRA’s theme — the good guy with a gun theory — by promoting it as the solution to violence in the U.S. and abroad while also suggesting gun control has resulted in negative outcomes.
The first 20 minutes of Trump’s speech followed his typical campaign-style pattern in which he talked about his relationships, accomplishments and the crowd size before abruptly transitioning. “Let’s talk about guns,” he said and immediately launched into a description of the 2015 terror attack at a music venue in Paris where 130 people died and another 413 were injured.
“They were brutally killed by a small group of terrorists that had guns. They took their time and gunned them down one by one. Boom! Come over here. Boom! Come over here. Boom!” he said as he mimicked shooting a gun with his hands. “If you were in those rooms … if one employee or just one patron had a gun or if one person in this room had been there with a gun aimed at the opposite direction, the terrorists would have fled or been shot and it would have been a whole different story.”
Although the pro-gun solution elicited cheers from the audience, the country of France condemned Trump’s usage of the incident to promote the agenda. “France expresses its firm disapproval of President Trump’s remarks about the attacks of 13 November 2015 in Paris and calls for respect for the memory of the victims,” the country’s U.S. embassy said in a statement, which described the attack as “a series of terrorist attacks planned from abroad, coordinated and executed with weapons of war.”
In the statement, the country said it’s proud of its gun control laws and that they have had a positive effect. “The statistics of victims by firearms do not lead us to question the choice of France in the matter,” the statement said. “The free flow of arms within society does not constitute a bulwark against terrorist attacks, it can instead facilitate the planning of this type of attack.”
Trump also referenced London, England’s recent surge in knife attacks. He suggested because of city’s “unbelievably tough gun laws,” criminals have resorted to using knives, which cause scenes that look like “war zones.” In the UK there’s been a 22 percent increase in knife attacks, which are mostly attributable to London and metropolitan areas, according to government data.
“They don’t have guns. They have knives. And instead there’s blood all over the floors of this hospital. They say it’s as bad as a military war zone hospital,” he said and added “knives knives knives” while mimicking a stabbing motion.
The president was reiterating a quote by London trauma surgeon Martin Griffiths who said during a radio interview in April that his colleagues have compared injuries they saw in Afghanistan to ones they started to see in London. However, Griffiths responded to Trump’s comment on Twitter, saying “Happy to invite Mr Trump to my (prestigious) hospital to meet with our mayor and police commissioner to discuss our successes in violence reduction in London.”
Director of London’s major trauma system, Professor Karim Brohi, also dismissed Trump’s reference to knife attacks. “There is more we can all do to combat this violence, but to suggest guns are part of the solution is ridiculous,” Brohi said in a statement. “Gunshot wounds are at least twice as lethal as knife injuries and more difficult to repair. We are proud of our world-leading service and to serve the people of London.”
Trump bragged about the steps his administration has taken to prevent future violence like February’s mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, by pointing to legislation to improve the background check system, red flag laws and allocating funds for school security. His administration has also sought to expand the concept of security to include arming “highly trained teachers,” a solution most teachers oppose.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, described arming teachers as pandering to the NRA. “The president should be a cheerleader for students, parents and educators, not for the NRA and gun manufacturers,” Weingarten said in a statement. “President Trump continues to call for arming teachers and school staff with guns, but he’s been completely silent when it comes to what educators have asked to be armed with — the respect and resources they need to teach students.”
The AFT, which represent some 1.7 million educators nationwide, has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s plan and the NRA since the Parkland shooting, which left 17 people dead and 15 others injured. The organization recently cut ties with bank Wells Fargo because of its business with the gun lobby.
The president appeared alongside Vice President Mike Pence and a dozen or so other speakers during the Leadership Forum on May 4 in Dallas. The event was designed to drum up support for this year’s midterm elections.