- The sound of gongs accompanied former Donald Trump's reading of the names of Uvalde shooting victims Friday.
- NRA meeting attendees applauded when Trump said the gunman will "be eternally damned to burn in the fires of hell."
- Gun control policies "being pushed by the left" would not have prevented the tragedy, he said.
Former President Donald Trump read the names of the 19 children and two teachers who were killed in Uvalde, Texas, to the sound of gongs on Friday while speaking at the National Rifle Association annual meeting.
It was a bizarre performance that some on social media who were watching described as a "ghoulish" spectacle, creepy, and "repulsive."
"This is just gross. They have Trump trying to pronounce and read the names of the dead children while the NRA rings a bell. Disgusting," wrote Ron Filipowski, a former Marine and prosecutor who's dedicated much of his time to following the Trump base's online activities.
The shooting at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday was a "savage and barbaric atrocity that shocks the conscience of every single American," Trump said, and the shooter, who died at the scene, "is pure evil, pure cruelty, pure hatred, absolute pure hatred."
"And while those he slaughtered are now with God in Heaven he will be eternally damned to burn in the fires of hell," he said to applause.
Police said the gunman was carrying a handgun, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and high-capacity magazines.
—Acyn (@Acyn) May 27, 2022
Trump told NRA attendees that "cynical politicians" now seek to "exploit the tears of sobbing families" to take away 2nd Amendment rights and to shift blame from criminals to law-abiding citizens who belong to organizations "such as our wonderful NRA."
It's a common refrain among conservatives in response to calls for gun safety reforms that follow every high-profile shooting. Much like the aftermath of other shootings, there is no clear path for legislation to reduce the high number of gun violence incidents in the US.
Democrats and gun reform advocates have repeatedly argued that the failure among Republicans to act is because they're beholden to the powerful NRA that donates generously to conservative lawmakers.
Trump on Friday called out President Joe Biden for blaming the gun lobby, and said Biden was talking about "Americans like you."
"As always, in the wake of these tragedies, the various gun control policies being pushed by the left would have done nothing to prevent the horror that took place. Absolutely nothing," he said.
Rather than gun safety measures, Trump called for making it "far easier to confine the violent and mentally deranged into mental institutions," expanded funding for police training, overhauling school security, and putting a police or armed resource officer in every school.
The American Psychological Association says people with serious mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of gun violence than perpetrators.
At the NRA meeting in Houston on Friday, the gong sounds came during a moment of silence for the victims.