After Texas mass shooting, Trump says mental health the problem, not guns
‘We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries. But this isn’t a guns situation’
US President Donald Trump has blamed Sunday’s deadly mass shooting at a Baptist church in Texas on the mental health of the perpetrator and claimed that gun ownership was not a factor.
Asked during a press conference in Tokyo what policies he would support to tackle mass shootings in the US, Trump said: “I think that mental health is a problem here. Based on preliminary reports, this was a very deranged individual with a lot of problems over a very long period of time.
“We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries, but this isn’t a guns situation … we could go into it but it’s a little bit soon to go into it. Fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it wouldn’t have been as bad as it was, it would have been much worse.
“This is a mental health problem at the highest level. It’s a very sad event … these are great people at a very, very sad event, but that’s the way I view it.”
Speaking at the end of a two-day visit to Japan, Trump said he sent his “thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences” to the victims of the “horrific assault”, in which 26 people died and 20 others were wounded.
The victims, who ranged in age from five to 72, were gunned down at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a rural community of some 400 people 50 kilometres southeast of San Antonio.
The gunman, widely identified as Devin Kelley, 26, was described by authorities as a young white male who was found dead in his vehicle after being confronted by a local resident.
US Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said that Kelley served 12 months’ confinement after a 2012 court martial.
He ultimately received a bad conduct discharge and reduction in rank.
Stefanek said Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge in 2014. He was responsible for moving passengers, cargo and personal property in military transport.
As Kelley left the scene Sunday, authorities said he was confronted by an armed resident who engaged the suspect, who later was found dead in his vehicle.
Trump said “fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction otherwise it (wouldn’t) have been as bad as it was. It would have been much worse.”
“But this is a mental health problem at the highest level. It’s a very, very sad event.”
The shooting comes just over a month after a gunman opened fire on an outdoor music festival on the Las Vegas Strip from the 32nd floor of a hotel-casino, killing 58 people and wounding more than 500. Trump visited Las Vegas soon after to meet with families of victims and first responders.
In the days after the Las Vegas shooting, Trump and his aides declined to discuss possible changes to gun laws, saying it was too soon after the tragedy to discuss policy.
Trump on Monday ignored shouted questions about whether the US needs to consider tightening gun laws.
The dead from the church shooting included the 14-year-old daughter of pastor Frank Pomeroy, the church leader told ABC News.
Annabelle Renee Pomeroy “was one very beautiful, special child,” her father said.
Frank Pomeroy had been in the neighbouring state of Oklahoma at the time of the shooting, and was driving back to Texas after the tragedy.
Other victims, some of whom were evacuated by helicopter, included a six-year-old boy named Rylan who was in surgery after being shot four times, his uncle told CBS News. A two-year-old was also shot and wounded, The Dallas Morning News reported.
A spokeswoman for Connally Memorial Medical Centre in nearby Floresville said the hospital received
Multiple weapons were found in the car, which was processed by bomb technicians.
“There’s so many families who have lost family members. Fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters,” Governor Greg Abbott said, warning the toll could rise.
“The tragedy, of course, is worsened by that it occurred in a church, a place of worship, where these people were innocently gunned down. We mourn their loss, but we support their family members.”
In denouncing the “act of hatred,” Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama said: “May God also grant all of us the wisdom to ask what concrete steps we can take to reduce the violence and weaponry in our midst.”
A little more than two years ago, white supremacist Dylann Roof entered a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and shot nine people to death.
Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, The Guardian