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Remarks on the Shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and an Exchange With Reporters at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland

October 27, 2018

The President. So we've been following very closely the events of Squirrel Hill. And I'll be speaking—making a statement at the Farmers of America. You see what we're doing. The Future Farmers—they have the big conference, and we'll be going there. I guess some of you will be going with me, and 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.

But it looks like the results are coming in, and they're far more devastating than anybody originally thought in the morning. In the morning, they thought that it was a shooter, but they had the shooter, or 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 and to see this, for so many years, so much of it is absolutely a shame.

Do you have any questions?

Shooting in Pittsburgh, PA/Gun Control

Q. Mr. President, do you think you need to revisit gun laws? You talked about this earlier this year.

The President. I can't—talk up a little bit.

Q. Gun laws.

Q. Gun laws, Mr. President.

The President. 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. But if they had some kind of a 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. And as you know, numerous police were badly injured.

But again, law enforcement did a fantastic job. But we're going to have a very complete statement for you. We—the 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 with the Governor. I spoke to the mayor. And to see this happening again and again and again is just a shame.

Gun Violence/Death Penalty Q. Mr. President, do you think there's anything you can do—you said it happens again and again—to end this kind of violence?

The President. Well, it's a violence that's—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, we should stiffen up our laws in terms of the death penalty. When people do this, they should get the death penalty, and they shouldn't have to wait years and years.

Now, the lawyers will get involved, and everybody is going to get involved, and we'll be 10 years down the line. And I think they should stiffen up laws, and I think they should very much bring the death penalty into vogue. Anybody that does a thing like this to innocent people that are in temple or in church—we had the—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. But this has to stop.

So we're going to have a statement at our stop with the young farmers.

Shooting in Pittsburgh, PA/Gun Control

Q. Mr. President, towards the beginning of your Presidency, you met with the NRA. You said maybe you were the President who could help solve this. Do you see that now as a possibility?

The President. Well, this is a case where—and again, nobody knows exactly what took place yet. It's too soon. But this is a case where if they had an armed guard inside, they might have been able to stop him immediately. So this would be a case for, if there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him. Maybe there would have been nobody killed, except for him, frankly.

Q. Do you think that's——

The President. So it's a very, very difficult situation. And when you look at it, we can look at it two ways.

But again, if they had somebody to protect people. Now, isn't a shame that you even have to speak that way? Isn't it a shame that we even have to think of that inside of a temple or inside of a church? But certainly, the results might have been far better.

Gun Violence

Q. That's what I'd like to follow up with you on. Do you think that all churches and synagogues should have armed guards?

The President. I hate to think of it that way, I will say that. I hate to think of it that way.

So we'll see you with the Future Farmers.

Q. But is that what you are saying, sir?

Q. But is that what you're suggesting though?

The President. No, it's certainly an option. 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, and you could say, frankly, for many centuries. I mean, you look at what goes on. But certainly, you want protection, and they didn't have any protection. They had a maniac walk in, and they didn't have any protection. And that is just so sad to see. So sad to see. The results could have been much better. It is a very, very—it's a very difficult thing. For me to stand as President and to watch any of this go—you know, before I ran for office, and I'd watch instances like this with churches and other things, I'd say: "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. A lot of them are out there.

National Rifle Association

Q. Do you think there's anything you can do with the NRA? [Inaudible]stand up to the NRA?

The President. We're always talking to them. We're always talking to them.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:34 p.m. In his remarks, he referred to Robert D. Bowers, suspected gunman in the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, on October 27; Gov. Thomas W. Wolf of Pennsylvania; and Mayor William M. Peduto of Pittsburgh.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks on the Shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and an Exchange With Reporters at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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