President Donald Trump reacted to a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday by suggesting the congregation should have had better security and saying it was time to “bring the death penalty into vogue.”
The “results” of the incident were “more devastating than anybody thought,” Trump told reporters early Saturday afternoon before leaving for a speech in Indianapolis.
A shooter opened fire at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, killing multiple people and injuring others, including shooting three police officers.
“It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country, frankly, and all over the world,” he said. “And something has to be done.”
As to what that “something” is, it remains unclear. When asked by a reporter whether lawmakers should revisit gun laws, Trump seemed to suggest that the people inside of the synagogue should have protected themselves. “If they had some kind of protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a very much different situation,” he said.
He complimented police officers on their outstanding work and lamented that there’s “violence all over the world.” Trump said that he believes the US should “stiffen up laws in terms of the death penalty” and said shooters should pay “the ultimate price.” The shooter is currently in police custody.
He distanced himself when asked about his ties to the NRA, again seeming to blame the synagogue, suggesting that “if there were an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop” the shooter.
He said he’s “always talking” with the NRA and said such situations are especially difficult for him because he’s president. “It’s even tougher when you’re the president of the United States and you have to watch this kind of a thing happen,” he said.
This is the second incident of violence Trump has had to deal with this week: Florida man Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr. was arrested and charged on Friday with sending bombs to 13 prominent Democrats and critics of the president.
“This is a world with a lot of problems,” Trump said. “And it has been a world with a lot of problems for many years.”
Here’s a rush transcript of Trump’s remarks:
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’ll be making a major statement. It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country frankly and all over the world. And something has to be done. Something has to be done.
It looks like results are coming in, they’re more devastating than anybody thought in the morning. In the morning they thought it was the shooter but they had the shooter, they soon would, but the results are very devastating. You’re seeing the numbers come in. So we’ll be speaking to you at the conference, the future farmers of America, conference, and it’s just a shame to watch this, to see this. For so many years, so much of it, absolutely a shame.
Have any questions?
QUESTION: Mr. President do you think you need to revisit gun laws?
QUESTION: Gun laws, Mr. President. Gun laws.
TRUMP: Well, again, this has little to do with it if you take a look. If they had protection inside the results would have been far better. This is a dispute that will always exist I suspect. If they had some kind of protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a very much different situation. They didn’t. And he was able to do things that unfortunately he shouldn’t have been able to do.
I hear the police were outstanding. I hear the police did an incredible job. As you know, numerous police were badly injured. But, again, law enforcement did a fantastic job. We’re going to have a very complete statement for you. Results are coming in of what took place, how it took place. Again, law enforcement was outstanding. As always. I mean, as usual, and as always, law enforcement was really outstanding. They stepped up to the plate.
But Pittsburgh, great community, incredible people. I spoke to the governor. I spoke to the mayor. To see this happening again and again and again is just a shame.
QUESTION: Mr. President — [inaudible] Instead of seeing it happen again and again, end this kind of violence?
TRUMP: Well, it’s a violence — you look at the violence all over the world. I mean, the world has violence. The world is a violent world. And you think when you’re over it, it just sort of goes away, but then it comes back in the form of a mad man, a whacko.
I think one thing we should do is stiffen up laws in terms of the death penalty. When people do this, they should get the death penalty and shouldn’t have to wait years and years. Now the laws lawyers will get involved and everybody’s going to get involved and we’ll be 10 years down the line. I think they should stiffen up laws and I think they should very much bring the death penalty into vogue.
Anybody who does a thing like this to innocent people in temple, in church. We had so many incidents with churches. They should be — they should really suffer the ultimate price. They should pay the ultimate price. I felt that way for a long time.
Some people disagree with me. I can’t imagine why. This has to stop. We’re going to have a statement at our stop with the young farmers.
QUESTION: Towards the beginning of your presidency, you met with the NRA. You said maybe you were the president who can help solve this. Do you see that now as a possibility?
TRUMP: It’s a case where — again, nobody knows exactly what took place yet. It’s too soon. This is a case where they had an armed guard inside, they might have been able to stop him immediately. This had been a case where if there were an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop them. Maybe there would have been nobody killed except for him frankly.
So it’s a very, very — very difficult situation. When you look at it, we can look at it two ways. Again, if he had somebody to protect people. Now, isn’t it a shame you even have to speak that way? That we even have to think of that inside a temple or inside of a church? But certainly the results might have been far better.
QUESTION: Do you think all churches and synagogues should have armed guards?
TRUMP: I hate to think of it that way. I will say that. So we’ll see you with the future farmers.
QUESTION: Is that what you’re suggesting?
TRUMP: I mean, in this world, this is a world with a lot of problems. And it has been a world with a lot of problems for many years. Many, many years. You could say, frankly, for many centuries. You’re looking at what goes on, but certainly you want protection.
They didn’t have any protection. They had a maniac walk in. They didn’t have any protection. That is just so sad to see. So sad to see. Results could have been much better. It is a very, very difficult thing.
For me, as president, to watch any of this go, you know, before I ran for office, I’d watch incidents like this with churches and other things and think, what a shame, what a shame. But it’s even tougher when you’re the president of the United States and you have to watch this kind of a thing happen.
It is so sad to see. So we’ll see you at the — with the young farmers.