President Donald J. Trump, speaking at a joint press conference in Japan on Monday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was asked if he would consider pressing for gun control measures after a gunman killed 26 people in a Texas church on Sunday. The president dismissed the notion that guns are the root of the problem, noting that a legal gun owner ended the massacre and stating that the shooter had mental health problems.
“This isn’t a ‘guns’ situation. We could go into it, but it’s a little bit too soon,” he said, adding, “Fortunately, somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it would have been much worse.”
“It’s a very, very sad event. These are great people,” he said. “But that’s the way I view it.”
The president attributed the shooter’s actions to mental instability.
“I think that mental health is the problem here,” he said. “This is a very, based on preliminary reports, a very deranged individual. He had a lot of problems over a long period of time.”
The president surmised, “This is a mental health problem at the highest level.”
President Trump then commented on the state of mental health in the world. “We have a lot of mental health problems in the our country, as do other countries,” he said.
The American Psychological Association (APA) hotly criticized President Trump for his comment about the shooter’s “mental health” problems. While the president said it was not yet the appropriate time to discuss gun control, APA President Antonio E. Puente accused the president of diverting attention away from conversations about gun legislation.
“Calling this shooting a ‘mental health problem’ distracts our nation’s leaders from developing policies and legislation that would focus on preventing gun violence through a scientific, public health approach,” said Puente, in a statement Monday.
According to Puente, the majority of people with mental illness are not violent. Yet he believes violence can be prevented if guns are kept out of the reach of high-risk groups.
“A complex combination of risk factors, including a history of domestic violence, violent misdemeanor crimes and substance use disorders, increases the likelihood of people using a firearm against themselves or others,” the statement said.
On Sunday, the U.S. Air Force confirmed the shooter, Devin P. Kelley, was a former member of the USAF who was court-martialed in 2012 for assaulting his spouse and child. He was discharged for bad conduct.
“Firearm prohibitions for these high-risk groups have been shown to reduce gun violence,” Puente said in the statement. He says that Kelley showed “several of these red flags.”
“Gun violence is a serious public health problem that requires attention to these risk factors, as well as more research to inform the development and implementation of empirically based prevention and threat assessment strategies,” Puente added.
In contradiction to Puente’s statement, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told “CBS This Morning” that Kelley was already not legally eligible to buy firearms and had been denied a state gun permit.
“Current law, as it exists right now, should have prevented him from being able to get a gun. I can tell you that before he made this purchase, he tried to get a gun permit in the state of Texas and was denied that permit,” Abbott said.
You may watch the president’s full press conference below. The comments about the shooter and his mental health begin at minute mark 25:00.
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