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President Donald Trump said Tuesday that extreme vetting of U.S. gun owners would have made "no difference" to the Texas church shooting.
Speaking at a joint press conference alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Seoul, Trump was asked by a reporter whether he had considered extreme vetting for U.S. citizens seeking to buy a gun. He replied: "If you did what you are suggesting, there would have been no difference three days ago."
At least 26 people were killed and about 20 others wounded after a gunman opened fire during a Sunday service at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The victims ranged in age from five to 72-years-old.
The U.S. president also said the suspect might not have been stopped if the "very brave person" attempting to "neutralize" the assailant was without a firearm.
"I can only say this, if he didn't have a gun, instead of having 26 dead you would have had hundreds more dead... so that's the way I feel about it."
Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, was identified by authorities as the gunman. Law enforcement officials identified Kelley, who was killed hours after news first broke of the shooting at the First Baptist Church. The church's pastor and his wife lost their teenage daughter in the massacre, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Kelley was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head after a failed attempt to flee, authorities said. On leaving the church, Kelley was shot twice — in the leg and torso — by an armed resident later identified as Stephen Willeford.
While Kelley had attempted to make his getaway in a sports utility vehicle, Willeford reportedly waved down a passing motorist, Johnnie Langendorff, in a pickup truck. Reuters reported that the two men chased after the suspect at high speed, before the gunman's vehicle crashed in a ditch, authorities said.
On Monday, Trump said the Texas church shooting was caused by a "mental health problem " and was not a domestic gun laws issue.
Trump — who received political support from the National Rifle Association during his 2016 election campaign — has consistently been against implementing more rigorous domestic gun control laws. Indeed, in February Trump quietly signed a bill into law that rolled back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to buy a gun.
Senator Chris Murphy is one of several U.S. lawmakers calling for stricter gun control laws.
The Connecticut Democrat said: "As my colleagues go to sleep tonight, they need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters, and city streets.
"The terrifying fact is that no one is safe so long as Congress chooses to do absolutely nothing in the face of this epidemic. The time is now for Congress to shed its cowardly cover and do something," he said in a statement.