Donald Trumps’s defence of US gun policy and claim that a London hospital has blood-covered floors amid a spate of knife crime have been branded “ridiculous”.
Speaking at a pro-gun rally, the president described the British capital as having “unbelievably tough gun laws”, but said it is “getting used to” stabbings.
Mr Trump’s comments come ahead of a visit to the UK in July, although a trip to London has not been confirmed.
Mr Trump told the National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Dallas, Texas: “I recently read a story that in London, which has unbelievably tough gun laws, a once very prestigious hospital right in the middle is like a war zone for horrible stabbing wounds.
“Yes that’s right, they don’t have guns, they have knives. And instead there’s blood all over the floors of this hospital. They say it’s as bad as a military war zone hospital.”
Making a stabbing motion with his hand, Mr Trump then said: “Knives, knives, knives.”
He added: “London hasn’t been used to that, they’re getting used to it. It’s pretty tough.”
All of us here today are united by the same timeless values. We believe that our liberty is a gift from our creator, and that no Government can ever take it away. We believe in the rule of law - and we support the men and women of law enforcement. We have pride in our history... pic.twitter.com/eONj1Y8oju— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2018
It is not clear which specific story Mr Trump was referring to, but a London surgeon spoke out last month of the problems of both gun and knife crime, saying some of his military colleagues had likened working in the city to their time at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.
Martin Griffiths, a surgeon at the Royal London Hospital, has spoken about young victims of violence after a spate of deadly crime in the city, which meant the number of suspected murders in March was higher than that of New York.
Mr Griffiths told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme last month: “A quarter of what we see in our practice is knife and gun injury.”
Professor Karim Brohi, a trauma surgeon at the Royal London Hospital, said a suggestion that guns could be part of the solution to tackle violence is “ridiculous”.
In a statement following Mr Trump’s comments, he said: “Knife violence is a serious issue for London. We are proud of the excellent trauma care we provide and of our violence reduction programmes.
“The Royal London Hospital has cut the number of our young patients returning after further knife attacks from 45% to 1%.
“There is more we can all do to combat this violence, but to suggest guns are part of the solution is ridiculous.
“Gunshot wounds are at least twice as lethal as knife injuries and more difficult to repair.
“We are proud of our world-leading service and to serve the people of London.”
In the closest thing to an official UK Government response, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt retweeted Prof Brohi’s comment that “there are solutions” to the knife crime problem and “none of them involve guns”.
Londom has a knife violence problem which needs addressing head on, urgently and at all levels. There are solutions. None of them involve guns. https://t.co/cTitmgQIjV— Karim Brohi (@karimbrohi) May 5, 2018
As the fallout from his remarks continued the White House said on Saturday that Mr Trump had spoken to Prime Minister Theresa May.
Both leaders “reiterated they are looking forward to the President’s visit to the United Kingdom in July”, a White House statement said.
There was no reference in the statement to the president’s remarks on knife crime and Downing Street suggested the call may have been made before his speech on Friday night, although the White House indicated the call was on Saturday.
As of April 6, Scotland Yard had launched 55 investigations into suspected murders in 2018.
At least 35 of those killed were stabbed to death.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Sir Ed Davey said despite a rise in crime in the capital, Mr Trump’s remarks are “nevertheless ridiculous”.
He said: “To defend America’s shocking gun laws by revealing his ignorance of Britain should alarm even his apologists in the Conservative Party.”
He challenged Theresa May to confirm she would explain to Mr Trump during his trip here that “the UK’s strict gun laws have been key to keeping gun crime much lower than in America, and that the recent rises in knife crime have not been caused by our gun laws”.
The London Mayor’s office declined to comment on Mr Trump’s latest remarks.
Sadiq Khan has previously clashed with the US president over Mr Khan’s response to terrorism.
Mr Trump also argued during his NRA speech that the Paris terror attack, which left 130 people dead, could have been prevented if more people were armed.
Mr Trump will make a working visit to the UK on July 13, but details of his trip have not yet been confirmed.
The US ambassador to Britain, Woody Johnson, said Mr Trump would “definitely” be coming to London, despite the warnings of likely demonstrations.