Donald Trump’s remarks that Sunday’s mass shooting in central Texas was a “mental health problem at the highest level” and “isn’t a guns situation” is yet another sign that he’s perfectly willing to sacrifice Americans’ safety and well-being to promote the NRA’s profit-mad agenda.
The first indication came in February, when he did the NRA’s bidding by dialing back an Obama-era regulation making it more difficult for mentally ill people to buy firearms.
The NRA and its supporters have long wanted Americans to believe that the solution to gun violence lies anywhere but gun control — fixing the mental health system, toning down violence in movies and video games, anything as long as it doesn’t involve making it more difficult for Americans to buy guns and accessories.
So Trump’s reaction should earn him a nice pat on the head from the NRA and its extremist supporters.
For Americans, though, it’s a deeply troubling development.
That’s because the shooting most definitely was a “guns situation.” It was a result of a mental health problem, no doubt, but the shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, didn’t walk up to the church with a handful of rocks and a slingshot. He approached with a couple of pistols and a Ruger AR-15 style assault-style rifle. The rifle, a semiautomatic, allowed Kelley to fire high-velocity rounds of ammo as fast as he could pull the trigger.
He also was armed with some 15 30-round magazines. Fully loaded, the magazines would have carried 450 bullets.
That’s a staggering amount of lethal force.
What argument could be made for a civilian need for an assault-style weapon and all of those high-capacity magazines? Home protection? Not unless the equivalent of nine platoons of U.S. soldiers is breaking in to steal your TV. Hunting? Please. Guarding against government oppression? Good luck fighting off those B-52s and cruise missiles.
The only legitimate rationale would be the fun and convenience of shooting a semiautomatic weapon with magazines that didn’t have to be changed out very often. But weighed against the danger the weapons pose to public safety in the wrong hands, “convenience and fun” are not defensible reasons for them.
The Second Amendment doesn’t provide guarantees for convenience and doesn’t guarantee the capabilities for mass killings. The people who argue against sane and reasonable concerns about guns defile the Second Amendment.
Keep in mind, most gun control advocates don’t demand that all guns should be rounded up and destroyed. Reasonable controls mean there should be measures to limit firepower and keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. That would include banning bump stocks, the aftermarket accessories that allowed Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock to fire his semiautomatic rifles virtually like machine guns, and conducting background checks for all weapons sales and not just for those involving licensed sellers. A ban on high-capacity magazines also is needed.
Trump and the NRA want the pro-gun crowd to think that such measures are a slippery slope that will quickly lead to the loss of Second Amendment rights, but that’s not the case. Let’s be clear: No reasonable person is suggesting that law-abiding, responsible Americans should be barred from having guns.
Suggesting otherwise is a longtime NRA tactic to stoke paranoia among gun owners and, in turn, attract new members, keep them politically engaged and drive sales of guns, ammunition and accessories.
It’s an increasingly disgusting campaign in a nation where lives and communities are being shattered by daily gun violence and a heartbreakingly frequent string of mass shootings.
Is mental health part of the solution? Absolutely. But Americans can examine mental health and gun control at the same time. This isn’t an either-or matter. And it’s worth noting that Trump’s health care and budget proposals intend to gut mental health care.
Progress lies in urging members of Congress to resist Trump’s NRA-friendly agenda, and in working at the state level for adoption of initiatives like limiting firepower and the universal background check ballot measure that Nevada voters approved in 2016.
Trump obviously isn’t going to lead the way. It’s up to us to demand actions that will protect us — and each other.