Donald Trump is backtracking from his contention that victims of the Orlando massacre should have been allowed to carry arms into the club where they were attacked — a stance even the NRA says is untenable.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee tweeted Monday that he was “obviously talking about additional guards or employees” of the Orlando, Florida, nightclub where Omar Mateen murdered 49 people when he spoke about the value of having more people armed to challenge the gunman.
But that’s not what Trump said previously.
A day after the attack, he told radio host Howie Carr: “It’s too bad that some of the young people that were killed over the weekend didn’t have guns, you know, attached to their hips, frankly, and you know where bullets could have flown in the opposite direction, Howie. It would have been a much different deal. I mean, it sounded like there were no guns. They had a security guard. Other than that there were no guns in the room. Had people been able to fire back, it would have been a much different outcome.”
Trump had repeated his suggestion at rallies across the country last week. In Atlanta he said the carnage would have been lessened if “some of those great people that were in that club that night had guns strapped to their waist or strapped to their ankle.”
His statements were a step too far for the National Rifle Association, a powerful lobby for armed self-defense and broad permissions to carry weapons. “No one thinks that people should go into a [club] drinking and carrying firearms,” the NRA’s chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, told ABC on Sunday. “That defies common sense. It also defies the law.”
It was the latest scuffle during a tumultuous time for the campaign. Trump, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, had achieved a fragile peace with Republicans and their allies in which they support him in exchange for Trump uniting the Republican Party and fighting his likely general election opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton. Instead, his proposals for fighting terrorism — such as by targeting Muslims and restricting assault-style weapons— have inflamed his supporters. On another front, Trump on Monday let go his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.
The dustup over guns came at an especially sensitive time, as the Senate prepared to vote Monday on expanded gun background checks and proposals to keep people on a government terrorism watch list or other suspected terrorists from buying guns. But prospects for any significant change in gun laws were dim.
Jill Colvin in New York and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.