Trump walks back his suggestion that armed clubgoers could have stopped the Pulse nightclub massacre (w/video)

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally last week in Atlanta. [New York Times]
Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally last week in Atlanta. [New York Times]
Published June 20, 2016

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday walked back his repeated assertion that the mass shooting at an LGBT Orlando nightclub earlier this month could have been prevented if more people had been equipped with firearms.

The claim, which Trump has made on the campaign trail and in television interviews, has been heavily criticized by gun safety advocates and also drew a striking rebuke from the National Rifle Association on Sunday.

"When I said that if, within the Orlando club, you had some people with guns, I was obviously talking about additional guards or employees," Trump tweeted Monday morning, seeking to clarify and qualify his earlier comments.

The real estate mogul's initial comments did not initially focus on arming additional security personnel.

"If in that club, you had some people — not a lot of people, 'cause you don't need a lot of people — but if you had somebody with a gun strapped onto their hip, somebody with a gun strapped onto their ankle and you had bullets going in the opposite direction, right at this animal who did this, you would have had a very, very different result, believe me, folks," Trump said Saturday during a campaign rally in Phoenix.

"If one of the people in the room happened to have a gun and goes 'Boom! Boom!' — you know what? That would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight, folks," Trump said Friday in Texas.

An armed guard at Pulse nightclub on the night of the shooting did in fact exchange gunfire with the shooter.

Trump's attempts to soften his claims come after the executive director of the NRA's lobbying arm disavowed the suggestion that armed clubgoers would have guaranteed safety at Pulse nightclub.

"No one thinks that people should go into a nightclub drinking and carrying firearms," Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's lobbying arm, told ABC's This Week. "That defies common sense. It also defies the law. That's not what we're talking about here."

Those comments closely mirrored remarks by President Barack Obama, a vocal critic of the NRA, who has accused Trump of loose talk on gun safety and terrorism.

"The notion that the answer to this tragedy would be to make sure that more people in a nightclub are similarly armed to the killer defies common sense," Obama said while paying his respects in Orlando on Thursday.

Trump has called in recent days for individuals on the terror watch list to be barred from purchasing firearms.

On Sunday, Trump also expressed concern about restrictions on the Second Amendment, suggesting on several instances that he believes many people on the terror watch list should not be on it. It was not clear how he would reconcile those differences.

"We have to make sure that people that are terrorists or have even an inclination toward terrorism," Trump said. But, "you know, a lot of people are on the list that really maybe shouldn't be on the list. And, you know, their rights are being taken away. So I understand that.

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He added that, in the case of Orlando, there was a failure by authorities to act decisively to prevent the massacre. "The authorities didn't act. And I think it's very unusual. And I'm a big fan of the FBI, but they had a little bit of a bad day."