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Trump says he would run into Parkland high school “even if I didn’t have a weapon”

It’s not the first time he’s suggested gun violence could be stopped by a would-be action hero: himself.

President Trump Holds White House Business Session With U.S. Governors Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

President Donald Trump suggested Monday that he would have run into the high school in Parkland, Florida, during the mass shooting, “even if I didn’t have a weapon.”

The president made those remarks ahead of a meeting with state governors, referencing reports that an armed sheriff’s deputy waited outside for minutes as a gunman opened fire within Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14.

“You know, I really believe — you don’t know until you test it — but I really believe I’d run in there, even if I didn’t have a weapon,” Trump said. “And I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too, because I know most of you. But the way they performed was really a disgrace.”

The president’s comments about the deputy come as he’s promoted the idea of training and arming teachers to defend against shooters, a controversial proposal to which prominent Democrats and Republicans have voiced opposition.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later modified Trump’s suggestion that he would have rushed into the school.

“I think he was stating that as a leader he would have stepped in and hopefully been able to help, as a number of the individuals that were in the school,” Sanders said. “The coach and other adults, and even a lot of the students stepped up and helped protect other students. I think the point he was making was that he would have wanted to play a role in that as well.”

This isn’t the first time Trump has alluded to his own heroics

Trump isn’t alone in his rightful criticism of the failures in responding to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. But Trump’s brash comments stand out — especially since this isn’t the first time he suggested he could face down a gunman.

In 2015, then-candidate Trump rallied a crowd at a campaign stop in Tennessee in the aftermath of a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon that left 10 people dead, including the shooter.

Trump told the crowd that, as a holder of a permit to carry a handgun in New York, an attacker would be “shocked” if he encountered him, and that he would act like Charles Bronson in the 1970s action film Death Wish. In the movie, a New York City architect exacts vigilante justice after a man murders his wife and sexually assaults his daughter.

“I have a license to carry in New York, can you believe that?” Trump said at the 2015 rally in Tennessee. “Somebody attacks me, they’re gonna be shocked.”

According to the Guardian, he egged the crowd to chant “Death Wish.” He also said, “Today you can’t make that movie because it’s not politically correct.” (There’s a reboot set to premiere this week.)

Trump also boasted about his permit to carry in New York at an early GOP debate, when responding to a question about that Oregon shooting. “I have a permit, which is very unusual in New York — a permit to carry,” he said during a CNBC debate in October 2015. “And I do carry on occasion. Sometimes, a lot. But I like to be unpredictable.”

But Trump’s promotion of the idea that “a good guy with a gun” (or without, in the case of Monday’s comments) can stop a “bad guy with a gun” is problematic. As Vox’s German Lopez explains, there’s no good research that supports this theory, particularly when it comes to arming teachers or others in schools:

The fundamental problem in the US is there are so many guns already in circulation. This makes it easier for any conflict to quickly escalate into a form of gun violence — and, as a result, the US has more shootings than its developed peers. So if more guns are added into circulation, it would very likely lead to more gun violence.

Trump’s insistence that he, or others, might be able to stop shooters pins hopes on one-off heroism, ignoring research-based solutions that could prevent mass gun deaths.

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