Trump’s comments on mental health are typical of Republican response to violence. He characterized the killer as a “very deranged individual” who has a “mental health problem at the highest level.” This was also his and Representative Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) response after the Las Vegas shooting. Republicans (and some Democrats) have been making comments like this for decades. On Monday in Japan, though, Trump added, “We have a lot of mental health problems in our country—as do other countries—but this isn’t a guns situation.”
That middle clause, “as do other countries,” is quite the tell. Trump regularly runs his mouth freely, revealing the subtext that lies beneath the usual GOP talking points. Trump isn’t wrong. Many countries have not adequately met the mental-health needs of its population. But linking acts of violence to people with mental health is gross stigmatization that belies the data. People with mental illness are vastly more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it.
Still, let’s take Trump at his word here and agree that around the world other countries also have people with unmet mental-health needs. And yet among 171 nations of the world, the United States is the clear leader in mass shootings. It’s the guns. Of course it’s the guns.