As the seemingly endless debate on gun control rages in the country in the wake of yet another mass shooting, GOP front-runner Donald Trump took the stage in Franklin, Tennessee, on Saturday and made his thoughts clear in front of a raucous crowd.
Trump said he was a staunch advocate of the Second Amendment and that any gun legislation that emerges as a result of mass shootings in the U.S. should be limited to addressing mental health.
He went as far as to imply that if teachers were armed at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College, where nine people were killed on Thursday, the campus “would have been a hell of a lot better off.”
“The Second Amendment of our Constitution is clear,” Trump said, reading from his second policy paper on gun rights. “Every time something happens, they don’t blame mental illness, that our mental healthcare is out of whack and all of the other problems. And by the way, it was a gun-free zone. I will tell you, if you had a couple of the teachers or somebody with guns in that room, you would have been a hell of a lot better off.”
2016 presidential candidates are handling the latest mass shooting under a familiar microscope – and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush may have stumbled in South Carolina. Trump criticized Bush for his “ stuff happens” comment, where Bush was referring to how governments should respond to crises.
On Friday, Bush said, “I had this challenge as governor, ’cause we had look, stuff happens, there’s always a crisis. And the impulse is always to do something and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”
“I thought it was a very bad word,” Trump said. “He used the words ‘stuff happens’ – I thought it was a very bad phrase to use. I actually was watching that and I thought, ‘Wow, he certainly has taken heat.’ I thought it was certainly an inappropriate phrase.”
However, later in the press conference, Trump expressed similar sentiments when asked how mass gun shootings could be stopped.
“No matter what you do you will always have problems,” Trump said. “That’s why people are watching the news. There’s always going to be problems. There’s always going to be horrible things happening. And that’s not necessarily politically correct. There will be problems in the world – that’s the way it is. I think we can make a big dent with mental health. If we can solve a big chunk of the mental health problem in this country, that would be so fantastic.”
The speech also featured the color verbiage that his rallies have become synonymous with. When discussing foreign policy, Trump said Iraq had become the “Harvard University for terrorists.” For the first time, Trump endorsed a safe zone in Syria for migrants but once again reiterated that they shouldn’t be allowed in the United States. He went on to say the migrants could be a “Trojan horse” for ISIS.
The latest Trump rally took place at The Factory at Franklin, which was built in 1929 for manufacturing. At one point, it made high-end mattresses and sofas before sitting dormant for seven years. It was eventually refurbished into a cultural touchstone, serving as the concert venue, theater and a vibrant farmer’s market it is today.
The rally was packed with supporters, as chants of “America loves Trump!” rang out from the audience of about 1,500. Hundreds more waited outside in the rain even though they couldn’t get inside. Trump briefly addressed the overflow crowd afterwards to loud applause.
“Donald Trump is my hero so I’d do anything for Donald Trump,” said 26-year-old firefighter Bradley Herring. Herring drove nearly ten hours from Raleigh, North Carolina to see Trump.
“He’s a businessman, he’s rich,” Herring said. “If he can build a billionaire empire, he can build a rich country. ”
Before Trump took the stage, conservative stalwart Rep. Marsha Blackburn took the stage, making her the second high-profile elected official to speak at a Trump rally. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions briefly spoke at Trump’s event in Mobile, Alabama. Blackburn railed against illegal immigration and Planned Parenthood before welcoming Trump to Tennessee.