Washington: Two months before he makes a controversial trip to London, US President Donald Trump compared a hospital in the UK capital to a “war zone," suggesting the country’s anti-gun culture is contributing to a surge in stabbings there.

“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," Trump told the annual gathering of National Rifle Association in Dallas on Friday, without identifying the source of his information. The hospital, which he didn’t name, had “blood all over the floors" from knife crime, he said.

“They say it’s as bad as a military war-zone hospital," Trump told the US pro-gun rights’ group. “Knives, knives, knives. London hasn’t been used to that. They’re getting used to it. It’s pretty tough."

Trump is scheduled to visit the city on 13 July after several stop-starts since his inauguration. In January, he said he had “canceled" a trip to formally open the new US embassy in London because he thought the building was “a bad deal."

British media suggested Trump was referring to comments by Martin Griffiths, lead surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust in east London, who said in a radio interview in early April that knife and gun wounds that once were a “niche" part of his job now took up a quarter of the workload in surgery.

Lethal guns

“Some of my military colleagues have described their practice here as similar to being at Bastion," Griffiths told BBC Radio 4, referring to the former UK base in Afghanistan.

Karim Brohi, a trauma surgeon at the Royal London Hospital and director of London’s major trauma system, agreed knife violence is a serious threat, but dismissed Trump’s comments.

“There is more we can all do to combat this violence, but to suggest guns are part of the solution is ridiculous," Brohi said in a statement released by NHS Barts Health. “Gunshot wounds are at least twice as lethal as knife injuries and more difficult to repair."

Public anger

The president’s latest comments add to the verbal derision that has stoked public anger in the UK after he lambasted the government’s response to terrorist attacks, criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan and re-tweeted propaganda by a fringe far-right UK political group. He also reprimanded Prime Minister Theresa May for condemning his re-tweets of Britain First, saying she should mind her own business.

In February, he took aim at the country’s much-venerated National Health Service, saying it’s “going broke and not working."

London has experienced a surge in violent crime this year, with 52 people killed in the first 100 days of 2018, according to the BBC. Murders in the city rose to 153 in the year to the end of March, from 101 the previous year, according to the Metropolitan Police.

But the magnitude of violent crime is still well below that of the US, where there were an estimated 17,250 murders in 2016, according to data compiled by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. In New York City that year, the bureau and the New York Police Department reported 335 homicides.

From March 2015 to March 2016, there were 571 homicides in England and Wales, according to Britain’s Office for National Statistics.

Trump’s speech in Dallas was his fourth in a row to the group’s annual convention. The NRA spent $30 million in support of Trump’s 2016 campaign, lending him credibility with some conservatives. Bloomberg

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