“We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries. But this isn’t a guns situation. I mean, we could go into it, but it’s a little bit soon to go into it. But fortunately, somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it would have been — as bad as it was — it would have been much worse. But this is a mental health problem at the highest level.”

This is a quote from President Donald Trump at the recent press conference during his trip to Japan. Let’s unpack it a little bit.

The quote is addressing the mental state of the individual who committed a mass shooting at a rural church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where he brutally murdered 26 individuals with a military-style assault rifle, and was later killed. The shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, had served in the United States Air Force but was court-martialed in 2012 due to charges of domestic abuse.

Immediately, Trump is being hypocritical. Just weeks into his presidency, Trump quietly signed a bill rolling back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for those with mental illnesses to get guns. This regulation placed those who were receiving social security checks for aid with mental illness on the list of those deemed unfit to purchase a gun on the national background check database. If Trump is concerned with the mental health side of the debate, he should not have rolled back that regulation.  

The second line indicates that it is “too soon” to get into whether or not this is a gun issue. It is not too soon — it is already too late. According to CNN, there have already been 307 mass shootings in 2017. Does this still seem too soon? It should not take more shootings, violence and deaths to realize that right now is the time that we should be “getting into” gun issues.

Trump addressed the fact that a neighbor of the church reportedly shot back at Kelley, and hit him, before Kelley got in his vehicle and attempted to drive away. He indicates in his speech that without this other gun, there may have been more violence. While this is true, stricter gun laws may not have prevented the neighbor from owning a gun, and he might have been able to justly use his rifle to return fire at the attacker, as he did. However, stricter gun laws would have prevented the killer from ever obtaining a gun in the first place because he was mentally ill, and was charged with assaulting his own wife and child.

Trump decided to defend the gun in the situation. Instead of focusing on why this man was allowed access to a gun, he shifted the narrative onto mental health. The president has an incredible power to point the focus of the nation onto a specific issue with a single tweet or, in this case, press release. With this release, suddenly headlines are flooded with the question: is mental health the actual problem?

Shifting the narrative from a gun control issue to a mental illness issue promotes the stigma that those who suffer from mental illness are violent. While both political parties tend to agree that those with mental illness should not be allowed to gain access to guns, it is often used as a way to shift the focus off gun control. The United States Department of Health and Human Services states that most people with mental illness are no more likely than any American to be violent. Yet the negative attitude surrounding the mental illness community can prevent legislation from passing that would enforce stricter gun control laws to prevent this too-often-occurring violence.

  • ryanrrobbins

    “Trump quietly signed a bill rolling back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for those with mental illnesses to get guns. This regulation placed those who were receiving social security checks for aid with mental illness on the list of those deemed unfit to purchase a gun on the national background check database.”

    First, the regulation never took effect.

    Second, the writer glosses over what the Obama regulation would have done. It would have automatically deemed people receiving disability for a mental illness from being able to own a gun if they were deemed unable to manage their finances. This would have been a gross violation of due process rights for those affected. You cannot summarily prohibit a class of citizens from exercising a constitutional right. The truth of the matter is millions of people have a diagnosable mental illness and they are not dangerous to anybody. In fact, people with a mental illness are no more likely than people without a mental illness to be violent.

  • tom2

    Placing responsibility with whatever’s immediately visible is convenient balm for this burn but we’re only inching toward a solution. Seems to me we first need to define the problem. Here are some facts they’ve not yet addressed. In the past 40 years, arguably every mass shooting has been carried out by a mentally deranged individual. Sandy Hook and Sutherland Springs were not unique. But 65 years ago, 500,000 individuals were institutionalized for psychiatric treatment. Doing the math, that’s about .003, three-tenths of one percent, of the 150 million who populated the U.S. at that time. Today, only about 50,000 from our population of 326 million are institutionalized. That’s about .00001, one one-thousandths of one percent. Saying it another way, that’s a colossal reduction of 99.7 percent. Usually, these nuts are now and were then known to the psychiatric community and only politely discussed. Regardless of this phenomenal decline, mental health remains — a problem — not the problem.

    My point is simple. About fifty years ago, we suffered a “cuckoo’s nest” phenomenon, caused by an anti-establishment crowd who whined but did nothing about institutional horrors. And the movement occurred without so much as a whimper from the psychiatric community. Consequently, the government emptied out the mental institutions along with parts of the prisons and as expected, some of these nuts began doing what nuts do. Ironically, the crime rate since then has declined by about 80 percent while ownership of firearms has more than tripled. But inexplicably, leftists continue to rail about firearms, hoping to garner votes, with scant serious discussion about mental health treatment. Little wonder that firearms now are used a million times a year for personal protection — almost never in school, church, theater or military base shootings. Against whom you ask? It’s used against the nuts allowed to roam the streets by those who set them free in the first place. Leftists need to admit this is a violent world where self-protection is a civil right. And confiscating firearms from lawful citizens won’t make anyone safer. And when leftists indignantly protest that it isn’t a violent world, I always wonder what they’re beefing about.

    By comparison, Norway, Finland, Slovakia and Switzerland all have higher numbers of mass shootings per capita despite having fewer guns and stricter regulations. Additionally, the Congressional Research Service study entitled “Mass Murder with Firearms…1999-2013,” found that mass shootings continue to be rare and the annual incidence is flat. Criminologist James Alan Fox found no solid trend in the numbers. Fact is, mass shootings account for only .004 percent of all deaths and about .66 percent of all murders. James Alan Fox clarified the data by pointing out the chance against a person being killed in a mass shooting would be about one in three million. I’m thinking the political screech is about ordinary crime that’s common in big cities, e.g., armed robbery, burglary, muggings & whatnot. The ending conclusion is leftists are illogical and immoral to force defenselessness on others because of a gun control theory devoid of factual evidence. Regardless, it seems bizarre they’d believe disarming victims is rational.