On a quiet Sunday morning at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas – a town with a population less than 700 – Devin Kelly, a former Air Force logistics worker, walked into the back of the church armed with a semi-automatic military-style weapon and killed 26 people.
“Department of Public Safety Spokesman Freeman Martin said Kelley moved around freely inside the church shooting worshipers,” USA Today reports (Nov. 7). “Most of the church’s about 50-member congregation was either killed or injured. He killed men, women including one who was pregnant along with children as young as 18 months old.”
When told of this latest shooting – the fifth deadliest mass shooting in American history – President Trump responded, “I think that mental health is your problem here. We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries. But this isn’t a guns situation.”
Response from New York Times readers was immediate:
“Although he is a difficult personality, I support President Trump. But when he states that the increase in large-scale murders is a ‘mental health problem,’ and not a gun problem, I say that sane people must totally disagree. It is time for us conservatives to drop our extreme interpretations of the Second Amendment. We do not allow citizens to own Sherman tanks or poison gas. In little more than a month, we have had two cases of mass murder that could not have occurred without military-style rifles that fire 30 or more bullets from a single clip. We do not need such rifles, any more than we need our own Sherman tank, and they should be banned.” – Herbert S. Caron, Parma, OH
“The subliminal message from those in power in Washington is that we have to accept that mass shootings are just another difficult part of living in America, like floods, hurricanes and wildfires. Apparently, we can’t stop them from happening. But we could create some governmental structures for dealing with the aftermath, as we do with natural disasters.” – Paul Schwartz, Upper Nyack, NY
“Once more America learned of the mass murder of children, teenagers and adults, an event that is extremely rare in other countries. Once more we are told that the root cause is a mentally ill person. It is important that the public understands that rates of mental illness in countries around the globe are essentially similar. What distinguishes the United States from other countries is the availability of weapons of mass destruction that can readily be purchased in stores, gun shows and on the internet.” – Norman Hymowitz, West Orange, NJ (a former professor of psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.)
While it is true, based on recent reporting, that Kelly, did have mental health issues and the Air Force failed to enter his name in an FBI database, Trump made — what has now become — his default statement before knowing those two facts. It is also far from a complete picture of the cause of mass shootings as reported in, What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings?
“…there is one quirk,” Max Fisher and Josh Keller write (Nov. 7), “that consistently puzzles America’s fans and critics alike. Why, they ask, does it experience so many mass shootings?
“Perhaps… it is because American society is unusually violent. Or its racial divisions have frayed the bonds of society. Or its citizens lack proper mental care under a health care system that draws frequent derision abroad.
“… Though seemingly sensible, all have been debunked by research on shootings elsewhere in the world. Instead, an ever-growing body of research consistently reaches the same conclusion.
“The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns. …
“Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, according to a 2015 study by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama.”
And what of President Trump’s, “I think that mental health is your problem here”?
“If mental health made the difference,” Fisher and Keller say, “then data would show that Americans have more mental health problems than do people in other countries with fewer mass shootings. But the mental health care spending rate in the United States, the number of mental health professionals per capita and the rate of severe mental disorders are all in line with those of other wealthy countries.
“A 2015 study estimated that only 4 percent of American gun deaths could be attributed to mental health issues. And Mr. Lankford, in an email, said countries with high suicide rates tended to have low rates of mass shootings — the opposite of what you would expect if mental health problems correlated with mass shootings.”
And I could go on and on with more numbers, but it just won’t move the needle on outrage and action by Congress.
Times reader Janet Major-Hoover from Corte Madero, California says it best:
“According to President Trump, if the killer is an American Christian, he’s deranged with severe mental problems. If the killer is a Muslim, he’s a terrorist, execute him, close the borders and disparage the justice system.
“As the past few months have shown,” Hoover adds, “we’re more likely to be killed by Americans with guns than by terrorists. Yet where does all the money and attention go? Billions are spent by the government to fight terrorism, yet this same government has failed to enact sane gun control laws and establish proactive mental health programs, which would prevent far more deaths.”
Two hard realities exist:
Reality #1: we live in a country where a segment of the population doesn’t just support The Second Amendment, they worship it. Sadly, that worship comes at an every-increasing cost of lives – young, old, black, white, brown, pregnant, makes no difference.
Reality #2: despite the fact that polls continue to show overwhelming support for common sense gun control, we have a Congress that is held hostage by The National Rifle Association, a group that has vowed to personally spend money against any politician running contrary to their agenda.
When will it stop?
Well, Sandy Hook couldn’t do it.
UPDATE: As reported by The New York Times (Nov. 8), “Two years after his 24-year-old girlfriend was shot and killed on live television, a Virginia Democrat on Tuesday defeated an opponent who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association for a seat in the State Legislature.”