Trump calls mass shootings 'a mental illness problem'

Kadia TubmanReporter

President Trump declared the two shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left at least 29 people dead within 24 hours a “mental illness problem.”

“We’re talking to a lot of people and a lot of things are in the works,” Trump said Sunday when asked by a reporter what he was going to do about the country’s “gun problem.” “We have done much more than most administrations … but perhaps more has to be done. But this is also a mental illness problem. If you look at both of these cases, this is mental illness. These are people that are very, very seriously mentally ill.”

Officials have not conclusively determined the motives behind the attacks or said anything about the alleged shooters’ mental states. The El Paso shooting is being investigated as a possible hate crime. An anti-immigrant “manifesto” has been connected to the alleged shooter.

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The first shooting occurred Saturday morning, when a gunman identified as Patrick Crusius, a 21-year-old from Allen, Texas, opened fire at a packed Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso with an assault rifle, killing 20 people and wounding dozens. Officials on Sunday declared the attack an act of “domestic terrorism.” Thirteen hours later, Connor Betts, 24, killed nine people, including his sister, with an AR-15-like assault rifle in less than a minute outside a bar in downtown Dayton.

The El Paso shooting was declared an act of “domestic terrorism” by the Justice Department.

President Trump at the White House on Friday. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
President Trump at the White House on Friday. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney referred to the gunmen in El Paso and Dayton “crazy people” who “should not be able to get guns.”

“Sick people who are intent on doing things like this should not be able to buy guns legally,” he said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

Mulvaney did not say how sellers could determine the mental health of customers or their intentions in buying a gun.

Other Republican officials, including Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick blamed the attacks on violent video games or the lack of prayers in school, while Democrats condemned the El Paso attack as white nationalist terrorism linked to Trump’s rhetoric.

“I challenge everyone in the Democratic primary race to join me on common sense things like gun licensing,” Sen. Cory Booker said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “In this country, you need a license to drive a car. You should need a license to buy and possess a firearm.”

Gun control proposals from Booker and other Democratic presidential candidates include universal background checks on all firearm purchases, requiring a license for all gun owners and an outright ban on assault weapons. Democratic lawmakers demanded that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reconvene Congress in light of these recent attacks to pass a background check bill.

While Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, turned his focus to “mental health” issues after the shooting in El Paso, former Republican governor of Ohio John Kasich called for “reasonable gun control legislation” to reduce gun violence after the shooting in Dayton.

“I can pray with the best of them, but prayer without action doesn’t matter,” Kasich said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And people say, well, it’s all white nationalism. OK, yes, that we should condemn it, of course. And frankly, that’s a cause for people to look at whether somebody is stable or not. But at the same time, we need reasonable gun control legislation.”

Trump, “in honor of the victims of the tragedies in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio,” said he ordered the lowering of flags to half-staff at the White House and all federal government buildings.

“These are two incredible places. We love the people,” he told reporters. “Hate has no place in our country, and we’re going to take care of it.”

The president didn’t say what he planned to do to “take care” of hate.

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