Political News

Trump points to mental health after shootings, but action has been minimal

Posted November 6, 2017 12:34 p.m. EST

— President Donald Trump, asked about the deadly shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, labeled the incident a "mental health problem at the highest level," not a "guns situation."

It's the same point he raised in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas last month. But he has yet to suggest any legislative or policy changes that could have curbed the shootings.

He's also moved to make it easier for people with mental health issues to gain access to weapons.

In February, Trump signed a measure that got rid of a regulation that aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of people who were either receiving full disability benefits because of a mental illness and couldn't work or people who were unable to manage their own Social Security benefits and needed the help of a third party.

Using the Congressional Review Act, Republican majorities in the House and Senate voted to revoke the rule enacted by former President Barack Obama as part of a series of efforts to curb gun violence after similar measures failed to pass through Congress.

Trump signed the bill in private, without his typical public signing ceremony meant to draw attention and fanfare.

There is no evidence that the rule would have stopped the shooter in Texas from getting a gun, and getting rid of measure was backed by both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association.

But the decision to cut such a rule is at odds with his public pronouncements after the mass shootings in Texas and Las Vegas.

Multiple White House official failed to respond to CNN's questions about how Trump plans to address gun violence and mental health in the wake of the Texas shooting.

During a visit with first responders after meeting with hospital staff following the Vegas shooting, Trump questioned the shooter's mental capacity, saying he was a "sick, demented man" whose "wires are screwed up."

In the immediate aftermath of the October rampage, Trump and his aides told reporters repeatedly that it was not the right time to talk about gun control.

The argument was buffeted by Trump's top spokespeople, including White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who told reporters after the shooting that "there is a time and place for political debate but now is a time to unite as a country."

Eventually, Republicans on Capitol Hill and the Trump administration got behind banning bump-fire stocks, devices that allow a shooter to alter an AR-15 rifle to shoot in rapid succession like an automatic weapon.

"We're certainly open to that moving forward, but we want to be part of that conversation as it takes place in the coming days and weeks," Sanders said.

Action, though, has been minimal.

Over a month since the shooting in Las Vegas, bump stocks remain legal and Congress and the Trump administration have done nothing to stop their sale.

Democrats and gun control advocates worry the same pattern will follow the shooting in Texas, where lawmakers will respond in disgust, suggest a change and then fail to follow through.

"The paralysis you feel right now -- the impotent helplessness that washes over you as news of another mass slaughter scrolls across the television screen -- isn't real," Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy said in response to the shooting. "It's a fiction created and methodically cultivated by the gun lobby, designed to assure that no laws are passed to make America safer, because those laws would cut into their profits."

Republicans, however, have responded by noting that the rule Trump cut in February and other gun control bills wouldn't have stopped this shooter.

"This isn't a time to be debating somebody's political agenda," Rep. Steve Saclise told Fox News, himself a shooting victim after a gunman opened fire on lawmakers playing baseball earlier this year. "A lot of those gun control bills we've seen floating around congress wouldn't have prevented a horrific shooting like this. It would make it harder for law-abiding citizens."