Five years after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the White House downplayed efforts to prevent mass shootings, insisting there was no single solution to increasingly deadly violence.
President Donald Trump’s press secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday she wasn’t aware of any step that would have prevented the Newtown massacre or subsequent acts of violence, such as the Las Vegas attack in October.
“I’m not aware of what that would be,” Sanders said during a daily news briefing. “But we want to look for every opportunity, every way possible, that we can to protect American lives. And we are going to continue doing that.”
Gun control groups and Democrats maintain that a ban on so-called assault weapons and tighter controls on background checks could prevent deadly weapons being used to massacre Americans. Efforts to pass those items through Congress have failed, however.
Pressed on efforts underway within the administration to curb gun violence, Sanders cast doubt on the efficacy of legislation that would make it harder to obtain firearms.
“I don’t think there is any one thing you could do that could have prevented those instances, horrible, horrible tragedies,” she said. “If you could name a single thing that would have prevented both of these I would love to hear it. I don’t know what that would look like.”
Pro-gun control groups, such as Everytown for Gun Safety, insist that closing loopholes that allow some guns to be purchased without a background check or limiting powerful assault weapons could help prevent some gun deaths. In many instances, however, the perpetrators of mass shootings obtain their weapons legally and pass the required checks.
Instead, Sanders said the Trump administration would focus on efforts to secure the border and vet people coming into the United States — though the perpetrators of the Newtown and Las Vegas shootings were both American citizens.
Sanders’ remarks underscored the frozen state of legislative efforts to tamp down on gun violence, despite mass shootings that are growing deadlier under Trump’s watch.
Since the beginning of October, Trump has witnessed two of the five deadliest shootings in modern US history as President, the attack in Nevada that killed 58 people and a shooting at a rural church in Texas that killed 25 people and one unborn child.
The White House expressed openness to discussing limits on so-called bump stocks following the Las Vegas incident, but the conversation never amounted to much. Trump did not hold meetings on the topic and lawmakers have not brought such a measure for a vote in either the House or Senate.
After the Sandy Hook shooting, Washington policy makers pushed for new restrictions on guns, but efforts on Capitol Hill to tighten background check regulations ultimately failed.
Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, approved dozens of executive actions meant to tighten access to guns, but even he conceded that major gun control efforts would need to be accomplished in Congress. He called the inability to approve new gun control laws — despite overwhelming support from the public — one of the biggest disappointments of his presidency.
A ban on assault weapons introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, also failed to gain traction among lawmakers after the National Rifle Association lobbied aggressively against it.
Since then, major efforts to restrict access to guns have gone largely by the wayside.
As President, Trump has cast himself as pro-gun rights. Speaking at this year’s annual NRA meeting, he declared an “eight-year assault on the Second Amendment is over.”