Donald Trump on Thursday said in a rambling interview that gun laws aren’t to blame for the deaths of two young journalists on live television just a day earlier, appearing eager to shift back to issues more in his comfort zone as he struggled to offer any substantive answers.
“This isn’t a gun problem, this is a mental problem,” the GOP presidential candidate said in an interview on CNN, adding that he wouldn’t change gun laws to try and prevent deaths. “He snuck up on them, whether it was a gun or a knife, he would have had something.”
Trump echoed a number of Republican talking points in the CNN interview without offering any firm proposals to combating gun violence, which kills 31 Americans a day and sends 151 to the emergency room, according to the Brady Campaign.
A gunman opened fire Wednesday morning on a television news reporter and photographer outside Roanoke, Virginia, ultimately killing them both before taking his own life. The gunman, a former employee of the station, injured a third person who survived. The shooting is just the latest in a string of violent episodes around the country in recent years, and has positioned gun violence as a critical issue amidst an already-tense presidential election cycle.
Trump on “New Day” said he was “very into the Second Amendment” and “a big Second Amendment person.”
The Republican front-runner said stricter gun control won’t work because “the bad guys will have them,” and said Baltimore and Chicago are proof that gun laws don’t work because there’s still violence despite strict city laws. (More relaxed gun laws in neighboring areas have long under cut city restrictions, though Trump’s home city of New York has seen some success with limiting gun violence through strict laws.) “Many of them are illegal immigrants, by the way,” he added, touching on his top campaign issue.
Trump also said limited mental health infrastructure was in part to blame and should be fixed, spending much of the interview portraying gun violence and mental health as a “complex” and “tough” issue.
“It’s life and this is the world and I’m sure this has been happening for thousands of years, you have sick people, hard to detect, sometimes you can detect them and you don’t do anything about it,” Trump said. “I’ve seen plenty of people who look pretty sick frankly and nothing over the years nothing has happened with those people. It’s a very hard thing to determine.”
Eventually, CNN directed the interview back to polls, where Trump was far more comfortable and took off on a tear about “making America great again.” A recent Quinnipiac University national survey found Trump at 28%, up from 20% a month ago – the highest tally and widest margin for and Republican in the 2016 election to date.