Donald Trump has said the recent shootings in American schools are a reason to arm law-abiding citizens, not disarm them.

The former US president was a guest speaker at the National Rifle Association, which held its annual meeting in Houston on Friday.

The event came three days after the shooting of 19 children and two adults at a school in Ovaldi, and highlighted America’s deep divisions over gun control.

As demonstrations intensified in Houston, congressional attendees — including Trump — continued to deny that guns were the problem and prioritized school safety and mental health.

He told the conference: “The existence of evil in our world is no reason to disarm law-abiding citizens. The existence of evil is one of the best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens.”

Trump accused Democrats of exploiting the tragedy and demonizing gun owners.

He said, “Anytime a crazy or insane person commits a heinous crime, there is always a heinous effort by some in our society to further their extremist political agenda.”

Demanding school security reform and a national approach to mental health, Trump told the group that every school building should have a single entry point, strong fences, metal detectors, and reinforced classroom doors, and that every school should have a police officer or armed guard on duty at all times.

He also called again for trained teachers to be able to carry hidden weapons in the classroom.

He and other speakers ignored the security improvements already in place at the elementary school and failed to stop the gunman who entered the building through an open back door.

In accordance with the District Safety Plan, Ovaldi Schools have a wide range of safety measures in place. The district had four police officers and four counselors, according to the plan, which appears to date back to the 2019-20 school year. It also has software to monitor social media for threats and software to check school attendance.

The meeting was the first for the faltering organization since 2019 after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization attempted to regroup after a period of serious legal and financial turmoil that included a failed bankruptcy attempt, a class action lawsuit, and a fraud investigation by the New York attorney general.

“When Joe Biden accused the gun lobby, he was talking about Americans like you,” Trump said, referring to the president’s emotional plea in a national address with the question, “When in the name of God will we stand against the gun lobby?”