FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Saturday channeled 1970s action star Charles Bronson in defending Second Amendment rights in the aftermath of the shooting at an Oregon community college that left nine dead.
Trump said in a rally in suburban Nashville that he has a handgun carry permit in New York. He added that any attacker will be "shocked" if he tries to assault him, and that he would emulate Bronson in the vigilante film "Death Wish."
"Can you imagine with Trump, somebody says, 'Ohhh, all these big monsters aren't around, he's easy pickins, and then ... pu-ching!" Trump said to laughter and applause. "So this is about self-defense, plain and simple."
Trump criticized "gun-free zones," saying that the Oregon shootings could have been limited if instructors or students had been armed. He said better mental health care would help curb future shootings.
"Many states and many cities are closing their mental health facilities and closing them down, and they're closing them because they don't have the funding," he said. "And we have to start looking much stronger into mental health."
While Trump warned that "no matter what you do, you will always have problems," he argued that it doesn't make sense to limit access to firearms.
"It's not the guns," Trump said during his hourlong speech. "It's the people, it's these sick people."
He also criticized President Barack Obama's comments in response to the shootings as "divisive."
Trump's positions on gun control have evolved significantly over the years. While he now touts the National Rifle Association line, he once backed the ban on assault weapons and longer waiting periods for gun purchases.
"I'm a very, very big Second Amendment person," Trump said on Saturday.
Trump reminisced about Bronson's "Death Wish" and got people in the crowd to shout out the title of the 1974 film in unison. In the movie, an affluent, liberal architect embarks on a vigilante mission after his life is shattered by thugs who kill his wife and rape his daughter.
"Today you can't make that movie because it's not politically correct," Trump said.
Saturday marked the second time Trump had spoken in the Nashville area in five weeks. Tennessee is among the states holding their primaries on March 1, also called Super Tuesday, and he noted that his comments brought a strong response from the overflow crowd in gun-friendly Tennessee.
"As soon as I mentioned it the place went absolutely wild," he said.