Pittsburgh mayor opposes Trump's call to arm synagogues

Michael Walsh
·Reporter

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he disagreed with President Trump’s suggestion that arming houses of worship rather than stronger gun control laws would stop mass shootings.

Peduto shared this opinion Sunday morning at a press conference about the anti-Semitic attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in the historic Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. The gunman killed 11 worshipers and wounded six others, including four police officers.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto speaks to journalists on Sunday. (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto speaks to journalists on Sunday. (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)

“I’ve heard the president’s comments about how we should arm guards in our synagogues, our churches, our mosques. I’ve heard the conversation over the past year about how we should arm security guards in our schools,” Peduto said.

He said we are dealing with irrational behavior and that there’s no way to rationalize a person walking into a synagogue during services and killing 11 people.

“We shouldn’t be trying to find ways to minimize the dangers that occur from irrational behavior. We should be working to eliminate irrational behavior and the empowerment of people who would seek to cause this kind of carnage from continuing,” Peduto said.

<span class="s1">A crowd gathers for a candlelight vigil in Saturday night in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)</span>
A crowd gathers for a candlelight vigil in Saturday night in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)

Authorities said the suspect, Robert Bowers, 46, of Baldwin, Pa., was charged late Saturday with 29 federal counts. The Anti-Defamation League said it is likely the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in American history.

According to Peduto, the United States needs to figure out how to take guns out of the hands of violent people rather than arming synagogues.

“I think the approach that we need to be looking at is how we take the guns — which is the common denominator of every mass shooting in America — out of the hands of those who are looking to express hatred through murder,” he said.

Trump’s first remarks about the shooting on Saturday was that the United States should “stiffen up” death penalty laws. When asked whether the tragedy indicates that there should be stricter gun control, Trump said that it would have been better if the synagogue had armed guards.

“If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better. If they had some kind of protection within the temple it could have been a much better situation. They didn’t,” Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

Police guard the Tree of Life synagogue after Saturday’s shooting. (Photo: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)
Police guard the Tree of Life synagogue after Saturday’s shooting. (Photo: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)

This is a point he repeated several times: “This is a case where if they had an armed guard inside they may have been able to stop him immediately, maybe there would have been nobody killed, except for him maybe.”

Trump proposed similar measures in the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed. Rather than limit access to firearms, Trump supported the idea that trained teachers and other faculty members should carry concealed weapons in schools so they could protect the students in the event of an active shooter.

This is not the first time Peduto spoke out against Trump. He’s been a vocal critic since Trump announced his intention to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement to fight climate change in June 2017.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said at the time.

Western Pennsylvania, which has a long and celebrated history of energy production for the country, has made great strides toward clean energy in recent years. Under Peduto, Pittsburgh is aiming to transition to 100 percent renewable-energy sources by 2035.

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