“They have nothing to fear.”
That’s what President Trump said Friday when asked if he had any advice for students who are returning to class for the 2019-2020 school year and are afraid because of recent gun violence.
His response came as he was answering questions from reporters on the White House lawn before departing for the Hamptons in New York, where he was expected to attend a high-priced fundraiser. He answered queries about gun-control legislation — saying he wanted “very meaningful” checks to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people — and other issues, including immigration raids in Mississippi and the trade war with China.
More than halfway through the nearly 35-minute exchange, a reporter asked the president if he had advice for children going to school amid fear of gun violence following recent mass shootings in California, Texas and Ohio. This is what he said:
My message to young children going back to school is to go and really study hard and maybe be president of the United States or do something else that’s fantastic. They have nothing to fear, nothing to worry about.
In addition, we are in constant contact with states, with state government. They are really doing a great job. We have this so much better than it was two and a half years ago. Two and a half years ago, it was really not a good situation. I think we have a very, very good system right now.
That doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be some crazy person. But that’s what we want to do. We want to take the guns out of the hands of crazy, demented sick people."
He did not specify, and was not asked, what he meant about being in touch with state governments that are doing a great job, or about what situation has improved since he became president in 2017.
The Washington Post keeps a database of gun violence in the United States. It has found that more than 228,000 K-12 students have experienced gun violence at school since the Columbine High shootings in Colorado in 1999.
More than 4 million K-12 students experienced lockdowns because of a shooter or fear of one in the 2017 school year, in the latest data available. And millions more participate in lockdown drills in anticipation of an event each year.
CNN, using its own criteria, reported last month that there have been 22 shootings at U.S. schools this year — from elementary to college — resulting in death or injury. CNN included shootings anywhere on school property as well as accidental gun discharges, except when law enforcement or a security officer was the only person firing. It also included BB guns, which have been labeled potentially lethal by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The recent violence — including mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, that together left 31 dead — has prompted Amnesty International and several countries to issue travel advisories for the United States, warning of high levels of gun violence. Amnesty International called it “a human rights crisis.”
And a poll by Reuters/Ipsos found that nearly half of Americans believe it is highly likely there will be another mass shooting in the next three months.
Trump conceded to reporters that past efforts to beef up background checks “went nowhere.” But, he said, “There’s never been a president like President Trump.”
He got that right.