Donald Trump spoke on guns Tuesday night from a meeting in Vermont
The event happened at the same President Barack Obama was addressing gun control at a town hall in Virginia
Donald Trump on Thursday pledged to “get rid” of gun-free zones in school and on military bases, as President Barack Obama more than 500 miles away made his case for tightening gun control.
As Obama discussed his executive actions aimed at expanding background checks during a CNN-hosted town hall in Fairfax, Virginia, Trump berated the existence of “gun-free zones” and touted the benefits of law-abiding citizens carrying a gun.
“You know what a gun-free zone is to a sicko? That’s bait,” Trump said, before vowing to sign an order ending the practice of gun-free zones on military bases. It’s unclear whether Trump also hopes to end gun-free zones in schools in the same way, as he appeared to suggest Thursday night.
When asked by CNN after his speech to comment on Obama’s executive actions on guns – as well as a new poll showing a majority of Americans in support of those executive actions – Trump declined to respond. Instead, Trump continued to sign autographs for supporters, ignoring CNN’s questions.
Trump, who frequently touts his strong support for Second Amendment rights, has spent little time slamming Obama’s recent executive actions, simply telling his supporters that “they’re not going to take your guns away folks” even though “they’re trying.”
While Trump has said he disagrees with Obama’s move to expand background checks and increase mental health funding by executive action, he said Wednesday he believes that Obama “probably means well” and that Obama’s tears as he spoke about the victims of gun shootings earlier this week were “sincere.”
But Trump’s speech on Thursday in Burlington, Vermont – a liberal bastion and home to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – did not go uninterrupted as the Vermont senator’s supporters and other Trump opponents interrupted the Republican more than eight times during the event.
That came despite the Trump campaign’s best efforts to screen ticketholders based on their support for Trump, as thousands more supporters than could fit in the theater waited hours in line to attend.
“Are you guys Trump supporters?” a Trump staffer based in New Hampshire repeatedly asked ticketholders walking into the small 1,400-person capacity theater.
Still, Sanders supporters and other Trump opponents slipped through the cracks – some disrupting the Republican front-runner’s speech, while others simply sat in silence.
“I sacrificed my philosophical stance in that moment,” said Melissa Leimbach, a 20-year-old student at Champlain College, explaining how she claimed to be a Trump supporter despite supporting Sanders’ Democratic bid.
Supporters like Leimbach did have to endure Trump’s ridiculing of Sanders as the Republican recounted how he “lost so much respect for Bernie” when the Vermont senator allowed two Black Lives Matter protesters to take his microphone last summer during an event.
While she had no plans to disrupt the event, several of her friends began shouting during the event and Leimbach was escorted out alongside them.
Brooke Martenis, a 51-year-old Democrat from Burlington, stuck to her plans to sit and laugh at what she dubbed a “stand-up comedy show” – Trump’s speech.
But she nearly didn’t make it in.
When she told a Trump staffer at the entrance that she was not a Trump supporter, Martenis said the staffer tried to deny her entrance, calling it a “private affair,” but she was allowed in after she said she wanted to hear what Trump had to say.
In a statement provided by his spokeswoman before the event, Trump said his campaign staff was granting ticketholders entry based on their support for his campaign because of the volumes of hopeful attendees.
“I’m taking care of my people, not people who don’t want to vote for me or are undecided. They are loyal to me and I am loyal to them,” Trump said in the statement.
Trump urged voters to remember his presence in a state that attracts few Republicans come the state’s March primary.
And while he’s set his sights on fighting Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the general election, he also hinted at a taste for another battle.
“Oh, I would love to run against Bernie,” Trump said. “That would be a dream come true.”