Donald Trump has a cycle after a mass shooting: First he pretends he might embrace some new gun safety laws, and then he backs away. After El Paso and Dayton and Gilroy, we’ve now reached the backing-away stage, and it’s a doozy.
Sure, “We’re looking at the whole gun situation,” Trump told reporters Thursday, before pivoting quickly. “I do want people to remember the words ‘mental illness.’ These people are mentally ill. . . . I think we have to start building institutions again because, you know, if you look at the ’60s and ’70s, so many of these institutions were closed.”
As about every third person on the entire internet has pointed out, other countries have mentally ill people without having mass shootings at anywhere near the rate of the U.S. It’s very clear that mental illness is not the issue here. But Trump is happy to scapegoat and stigmatize people with mental illness who are not, and are not likely to become, mass shooters—anything but tackling the real problem.
Trump also moved to blame Democrats for the upcoming Republican refusal to pass new gun laws, saying, “Well, I’m afraid that if we came up with a good bill, I think the Democrats then might up it and then do things that can’t be done and that the public wouldn’t want done.” Yet for some mysterious reason Trump and Republicans have opposed a straightforward background checks bill already passed in the House—even though, far from a situation where “the public wouldn’t want it done,” background checks are wildly popular with the public. Like I say, mysterious.