As Republicans fail to offer more than thoughts and prayers to those affected by the most recent mass shooting, Donald Trump blames the massacre in Parkland, Florida not on guns, white supremacy, or a history of violence, but on mental illness:
After essentially blaming the victimized community for the actions of a terrorist on Twitter, our magnanimous leader addressed the nation and said little about policy change aside from the need to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”
Republicans have long blamed mental illness for mass shootings, generally when the shooter is a “lone wolf” white male (brown and black men, conversely, are mostly labeled terrorists). This argument is dangerous and false. The rate of mental health issues in wealthy nations across the world are similar, but mass shootings and the frequency with which they occur are a uniquely American phenomenon. The New York Times reported staggering statistics about gun violence last year, noting that “Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns,” and that “from 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American,” according to one study. According to a 2015 study in the American Journal of Medicine, 91 percent of fatal shootings of children 14 and younger in high income nations took place in America. Gun violence is directly correlated to the proliferation of guns in America, along with the lack of regulation around them.
Yet, if Republicans believe mental health is indeed the problem, this administration isn’t taking the solution very seriously. Last year, Trump signed an executive order that actually made it easier for people with severe mental health issues to buy guns, repealing Obama-era protections signed in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. NPR reports that while Trump’s 2019 budget proposal, released on Monday, adds $8.6 billion in funding for intervention programs with the Department of Veterans Affairs and increases the Children’s Mental Health Services program funds by $1 million, it slashes funding for several mental health programs. The plan cuts $665 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration and a 30 percent cut to funding the National Institute of Mental Health. The budget also proposes slashing federal school safety programs by $25 million, Politico reports, including taking $1 million from the School Emergency Response to Violence program. So even though Trump believes mental health is the true culprit for the American epidemic of mass shootings, his own record says he doesn’t really care.