White House press secretary Sarah Sanders extended her daily briefing on Wednesday so she could upbraid a reporter for pointedly complaining that President Donald Trump has ignored the epidemic of American school-related shootings.
The first 23 days of 2018 have seen 11 such gun attacks, including two suicides and one that involved a pellet gun. The most recent assailant, a 15-year-old boy who opened fire with a handgun at a western Kentucky high school, killed two students and injured 18 others.
An NBC News reporter asked Sanders what Trump has done to prevent such bloodbaths since she declared in the wake of an October 1 Las Vegas massacre that there would be ‘a time and place for a political debate.’
On Wednesday she linked school shootings with the broader categories of violent crime and narco-trafficking gangs, ultimately accusing the journalist of laying the blame for the slain teens at Trump’s feet.
She also said Trump’s Justice Department had been busily attacking a crime wave whose genesis was during the Obama years.
‘I think they’re part of a crime wave, absolutely,’ she said of the sthool shootings. ‘I don’t think you can completely separate the two. They are part of domestic violence.’
Sarah Sanders extended Wednesday’s press briefing to scold a reporter who pointedly asked what the president is doing to prevent school shootings
A teen gunman killed fellow students Bailey Holt (left) and Preston Cope (right) at a Kentucky high school on Tuesday, the 11th such school shooting in 2018
Sanders told the journalists that Trump’s federal prosecutors have ‘charged more defendants with violent crime offenses than in any year in decades. They’ve charged the most federal firearm prosecutions in a decade.’
Police took the unidentified suspect into custody on Tuesday; he will be tried as an adult
‘And they’ve convicted 1,200 gang members and took down numerous drug trafficking organizations, all in an attempt to help create safer and better communities – and certainly safer schools.’
Most school shootings are carried out by loners and mentally unstable adolescents who have access to weapons – but shouldn’t.
Many other mass-casualty assailants have been attributed to undiagnosed or untreated mental health problems.
Trump has framed mass shootings as a mental health crisis in the past, deflecting Democrats’ demands for a fresh look at gun control measures.
Responding to November’s carnage at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the president said during a Tokyo press conference that the shooter was ‘a very deranged individual.’
‘This isn’t a guns situation,’ Trump declared. ‘This is a mental health problem at the highest level.’
A day later in Seoul he downplayed the usefulness of legal restrictions on gun ownership, saying ‘the city with the strongest gun laws in our nation is Chicago.’
‘And Chicago is a disaster. It’s a total disaster.’
Sanders said President Donald Trump has presided over law enforcement crackdowns since his inauguration, blaming a ‘crime wave’ on the Obama administration and saying isolated school shootings are part of it
Trump’s first comment about Tuesday’s shooting came on Twitter, after Sanders’ contentious exchange with an NBC News correspondent
Chicago recorded 2,785 shooting incidents and 3,457 shooting victims in 2017.
The Texas shooter was allowed to purchase his firearm because an Air Force officer failed to enter his domestic violence court-martial into a national database.
Sanders turned away from her podium at one point on Wednesday, but came back to lob a rhetorical grenade at her final questioner of the afternoon.
‘Let me be very clear on this,’ she scolded. ‘The fact that you’re basically accusing the presidnet of being complicit in a school shooting is outrageous.’
Reminded that a Trump campaign ad this week accused Democrats of being ‘complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants,’ Sanders shot back: ‘Ignoring the fact of the safety and security of our borders is very different.’
Twenty-five minutes after Sanders left the White House briefing room, Trump’s Twitter feed carried his first public comment about the deadly Kentucky shooting.
Trump said during a November press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that a recent gun massacre was the product of ‘a very deranged individual,’ putting it in the mental health category rather than linking it to other violent crime
‘Earlier today, I spoke with @GovMattBevin of Kentucky regarding yesterday’s shooting at Marshall County High School,’ he wrote.
‘My thoughts and prayers are with Bailey Holt, Preston Cope, their families, and all of the wounded victims who are in recovery. We are with you!’
Police have not yet identified the gunman or released any information about what motivated Tuesday morning’s handgun attack.
Prosecutors said Wednesday that he would be tried as an adult.
Kentucky State Police say they believe the assailant acted alone.
‘A tragedy beyond words occurred in our community today,’ school superintendent Trent Lovett said in a statement late Tuesday. ‘As parents, our greatest fear is something happening to our children, and today that fear became a reality.’