US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says he will seek stricter gun control laws for people on the terrorist watch list.

Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association convention Friday, April 10, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn.
Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association convention Friday, April 10, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (TRT World and Agencies)

In a controversial tweet, Republican presumptive candidate Donald Trump said he will push for tighter gun control to prevent terrorism after 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who was previously investigated and cleared by the FBI, killed 49 people in a gun attack in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday.

The real estate mogul said he will be meeting with the National Rifle Association (NRA) "about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns."

In a separate speech on Monday, Trump also said he intends to "discuss how to ensure Americans have the means to protect themselves in this age of terror."

The NRA, which is considered as one of the most powerful lobbies in the US, endorsed Trump for president in May.

Gun rights have been one of the pillars of Trump's presidential campaign, as well as one of the main conflicts with his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Trump's latest statement suggests he has relatively backed down from his rigid stance against tighter controls on guns, but only for those who are on the terrorist watch list.

He previously claimed that guns are essential for the safety of American citizens, defying Democrat attempts to pass stricter gun control laws.

In a CNN interview on Monday, Trump said that Sunday's attack could have been prevented if people in the club had guns "with the bullets flying in the opposite direction right at him... right at his head."

However, when he was informed that Mateen was in legal possession of his firearm, Trump said: "Well, in this case, he was actually licensed, and — which is a sort of an amazing thing. He went out, he got licensed, he was fully licensed. So, he had the right to have a gun."

"So, for all of those people that want to have people got out and get licensed, here's an example of somebody that went out — you know, went out and got licensed, and he was able to get a gun."

Mateen was twice investigated and twice cleared by the FBI over suspected ties with terrorist organisations, but he still managed to legally purchase a rifle that he used to commit the deadly attack.

The Democrats have long been pushing for stricter gun control, but have failed to convince the Republicans, who hold the majority of seats in Congress.

After the deadly attack, Clinton said "We need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals."

Mass shootings and gun violence has long plagued the US. Gun Violence Archive data suggest only three of the mass shootings conducted in the last two years were defined as terrorist activity.

On the same day that 49 people were killed by Mateen in Orlando, a 20-year-old man from Indiana was also arrested on his way to allegedly attack a gay pride parade in the Los Angeles area. Police said they found guns and bomb-making chemicals in his car.

Federal law in the US requires gun dealers to check with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine whether buyers have criminal records, are charged with crimes or have mental health conditions that would bar them from owning a gun.

However, an exception that allows hobbyists and collectors to avoid necessary background checks is exploited by some gun sellers, allowing them to get around gun control procedures by selling guns at gun shows and online.

In late 2015, Hillary Clinton claimed that about 40 percent of the guns are sold at gun shows and over the Internet. United States ranks first in the gun ownership in the world.

Trump has said that Clinton "wants to take away Americans' guns, then admit the very people who want to slaughter us," referring to the Democrats' more lenient policy on taking in refugees and migrants.

US gun statistics

  • Every day, an average of 112 people are killed or injured by gun violence
  • 36 people are killed by gun violence in the US daily
  • 76 people are injured by gun violence in the US everyday
  • 213 people have been killed by gun violence in the year of 2016 so far
  • The total number of people injured by gun violence so far in 2016 is 570
Source: TRTWorld and agencies