Hours after the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, President Trump took a firm stance on the violence, saying that he believed it was a “mental health problem.”
"This isn't a guns situation,” Trump said. “This is a mental health problem at the highest level. It's a very, very sad event."
Mental professionals in North Texas took issue with the president’s comments.
“It’s a sad event indeed but you have to be very careful when you view mental health in conjunction with violence,” said Barb Reynolds, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Greater Dallas. “The majority of people who have mental illness truly diagnosable mental illness are not violent people.”
Reynolds said the president’s comments further stigmatizes those suffering from mental illness.
It should be noted neither Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, nor Devin Kelley, the church shooting suspect, were known to have been diagnosed with a mental illness.
“There is no direct correlation between mental illness and violence,” said Brad Schwall, president and CEO of Pastoral “Just because somebody commits violence does not mean that they struggle with mental illness.”
Often the reaction when someone becomes a mass shooter is they must be mentally ill.
“It definitely has something to do with their mental state but it doesn't necessarily mean that they are mentally ill,” Reynolds said. “This person did horrific things that we will probably never understand.”
Under federal law, a person can only be barred from buying a gun if a court has deemed them a "mental defective" or they've been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital. Some states have even tighter restrictions, barring the purchase of guns if a person has been ordered into outpatient treatment or has been voluntarily admitted to a mental hospital. Texas is not among those states.
The month after he was inaugurated, Trump signed into law legislation that overturned a Obama-era regulation that would have allowed the government to declare some Social Security recipients unfit to own guns after they’ve been found to be mentally incapable of managing their financial affairs. The rule would have added an estimated 75,000 names to the database.
The National Rifle Association pushed for the regulation to be overturned.