US president says mental health of perpetrator, not gun ownership, to blame for mass shooting in which 26 people died
This article titled “‘This isn’t a guns situation,’ says Trump after Texas church shooting” was written by Justin McCurry in Tokyo and Lois Beckett and Tom Dart in Sutherland Springs, for The Guardian on Monday 6th November 2017 08.21 UTC
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, the president 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 dead ranged in age from five to 72 years old.
Flanked by the Japanese prime minister, Shinzō Abe, Trump paid tribute to the community of Sutherland Springs, a small town 30 miles (48km) south-east of San Antonio.
“Beautiful area … so sad … Sutherland Springs, Texas, such a beautiful, wonderful area with incredible people. Who would ever think a thing like this could every happen? So I want to send my condolences, the condolences of our first lady.
“In tragic times, Americans always pull together, we are always strongest when we are unified. To the wounded and the families of the victims all of America is praying for you, supporting you and grieving alongside you.”
Law enforcement officials in Sutherland Springs did not name the gunman, though his name was reported elsewhere as Devin Patrick Kelley.
The US Air Force said Kelley, 26, served from 2010 to 2014, when he left following a court martial. He received a bad conduct discharge for assaulting his wife and child. Kelley lived in the town of New Braunfels, about 35 miles from Sutherland Springs. On Sunday night police were at the property.
The killing is the worst mass shooting in modern Texas history and one of the worst such gun rampages in recent years. The lone shooter was found dead after he was chased by locals and police across county lines.
Trump’s defence of the retaliatory use of use of guns echoed comments made earlier by the Texas attorney general.
American churches should be “arming some of the parishioners” or hiring “professional security”, Republican Ken Paxton told Fox News in an interview hours after the shootings at Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church. “It’s going to happen again.”
If more churchgoers were armed “there’s always the opportunity that the gunman will be taken out before he has the opportunity to kill very many people”, Paxton said.
The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, said on Sunday: “There are so many families who have lost family members, and it occurred in a church, in a place of worship. That’s where these people were mown down. We mourn their loss.”
Two years ago, Abbott lamented that the state’s population were not buying enough guns. “I’m EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let’s pick up the pace Texans @NRA,” he tweeted in October 2015.
The lone suspect, dressed in black tactical gear and a ballistic vest, drove up to the church during Sunday morning services and started firing inside.
He kept shooting once he entered, according to law enforcement officials. Among the dead was the 14-year-old daughter of Pastor Frank Pomeroy, the family told several television stations.
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