Editorial: Mass shootings are both gun, mental health problems


Here we are again. Different place. Different shooter. Same result.

Is this not the definition of insanity?

On Sunday, a man dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault weapon opened fire at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, 30 miles southeast of San Antonio, killing at least 26 worshippers and injuring 20 others.In the span of 35 days, we have now experienced two of the five worst mass shootings in modern American history.

RELATED: ‘Domestic situation’ may have sparked Texas church shooting

Among the more sobering facts: The dead range in age from 18 months to 77 years old. Twelve of them are children, including the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter. Half of those killed were from just two families.

The shooter, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, who was court-martialed in the U.S. Air Force for assaulting his wife and child in 2012, is also dead, either by his own hand or that of two citizens who chased him from the church.

We are left, just as we were after last month’s tragic Las Vegas shooting, with numerous questions about the shooter’s motivation. But they all lead to one: Why did this terrible tragedy have to happen?

This time, the usual pro-gun chorus of “It’s too soon to politicize such a tragedy” is adding a refrain about the shooter’s mental health. In addition to Kelley’s court-martial, he also had an animal cruelty arrest and a habit of harassing ex-girlfriends. Authorities noted that his mother-in-law, who attended the church, had been threatened by him as well.

Still, Kelley was able to buy the Ruger AR-556 rifle he allegedly used in the shooting from a store in San Antonio last year. There was apparently no disqualifying information in the background check conducted as required for the purchase.

Gov. Gregg Abbott said that at one point Kelley tried to get a license to carry a gun in Texas, but was denied. “So how was it that he was able to get a gun? By all the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun,” Abbott said. “So how did this happen?”

President Donald Trump said he believes the shooting was a “mental health problem,” not a gun-law problem. “Based on preliminary reports,” the shooter was “a very deranged individual,” Trump said.

Yet earlier this year, Trump signed into a law a measure that repealed a regulation implemented under President Barack Obama that made it harder for those with histories of mental health problems to buy guns.

“This isn’t a guns situation,” Trump added. “We have a mental health problem in our country.”

Yes, but the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Continuing to ignore that fact means not only questioning the mental health of the shooter but our own.




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