A mass shooting a week ago today in a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church has flamed the debate on what is at the root of these tragedies. President Donald Trump said Monday that he believes the Texas church shooting was caused by a "mental health problem," not an issue with gun laws in the United States.
"Mental health is your problem here," Trump said, noting that "based on preliminary reports" the shooter was "a very deranged individual." "This isn't a guns situation," Trump said. "This is a mental health problem at the highest level. It's a very, very sad event."
I agree with him to some extent. The problem is that Trump’s budget cuts $400 million from mental health programs, according to news reports. It is estimated that 1.2 million people with serious mental health and substance abuse issues will lose their health insurance with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). And in February, Trump signed a bill into law rolling back an regulation from President Obama's administration that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun.
If mental health is to blame, why aren't we doing more — or at least, something, to address the problem? I shared the link to Trump's comments on social media and asked what people thought. Here are some of the comments from people across South Arkansas:
From a White Hall resident: "Could political correctness have gotten in the way of sensible gun ownership? If mental illness is the issue, we only find out after the shooting. That’s too late. Has HIPPA (or something else) prevented the U.S. from 'Scarlet Lettering' these people? Do we need a 'medical background check' as part of regular background check to purchase gun legally? Would this prevent mentally ill from obtaining a gun? My answer would be no as any person wanting a weapon could get one on the street. This medical check would put responsible gun owners' medical info at risk of being misused. Anyway, if criminal wants a gun, they normally don’t use legal channels. They can be purchased on the street."
From a Camden resident: "If mental health issues are the majority of the reasons behind these types of senseless tragedies, what's the next step to improve the availability of help for those who might b suffering from mental health issues?"
From a former El Dorado resident: "As someone who works in the healthcare world, I can attest that mental health services are among the first to face the axe when states start trimming budgets. The other half of the problem is that there is very little integration between physical and mental health services, even though there is a documented correlation between the two. Most people who need mental health services don't have access to them, and are left to go through their physical health providers for aid, and all too often, physical health providers are not trained to recognize, diagnose or treat serious mental health conditions, so those conditions are never properly documented or reported. I read a great study not long ago that suggested that more than half of current state inmates suffer from mental conditions that have never been treated, and that lack of treatment is at the root of their incarceration, and that those inmates represent the largest percentage of inmates who return to prison after release. Yet mental health services continue to be cut in every state. Vicious cycle."
From an El Dorado resident: "Take a good hard look at Australia. They’ve got some crazy people too. But after one incident they implemented laws that seemed to strike at the heart of the problem. And, by the way, they have a very comprehensive national health service and, just guessing, that includes mental health. Since my first visit to Australia I’ve said they’re just like Texans with a different accent."
From a Bearden resident: "Personally, I don't see the point in automatic weapons being in the hands of the average Joe. It's as pointless as a car that will run 120 mph. Can't think of anywhere one would need that capability."
From a former Pine Bluff resident: "With this guy, it was illegal for him to possess a gun. So any new law will not change this. Mental health facilities could help if people with problems were kept there until the problem is corrected. There is not a state that has facilities for long term care."
Former Camden resident: "What some people don't understand: Criminals don't care how many gun laws there are. Criminals are going to get guns anyway. All these gun laws do is affect the good people who obey the laws and it makes them a victim. I was raised with guns in my homes all my life and I'm a retired Criminal Investigator. I have taken so many guns from people who should have never been able to get guns. Back when I was in high school, we all had guns in our trucks and guns on the gun racks on the rear windows, so we could go hunting after school. We didn't have kids shooting up schools or mass shootings. It's not the guns that changed since then, it's the people that are not raised right. Parents don't teach them values anymore. They just pass their kids to the side and this is what we have is a group of individuals basically 13 to 35 with serious mental issues from not having a stable childhood with stable parents."
From a Camden resident: "It is not mental health ... it is their worldview and they act accordingly. He was mentally aware of what he was doing and he was mentally capable of executing it. Its not complicated."
From a Bearden resident: "Don't understand ever time a white man goes off and kills people, it's a mental health problem but when it is people of color, they are animals. Also, why would you cut mental health funding? Or just maybe 45 is stirring the pot of division! The majority of mental illness people harm themselves. These people are simply evil no matter what color you are. People with mental illnesses don't plan it out and don't go out and get body armor."
"From a Camden resident: "This sort of mental health issue does not manifest without the assault rifle. Would there still be killings? Sure, but not of this magnitude."
From an El Dorado resident: "Hell, they can opt for bombs, lot more damage with just one shot so to speak! Where there is a will, there is a way! Cliche I know!"
From a Little Rock resident, formerly of El Dorado: "This is much more about the lack of regard for humanity . And that, more than anything else, is the biggest problem in this nation. There are a lot of people who don't plan to kill anybody, but they also have no respect for humanity. Basically, too often we as people marginalize the ills of any individual who doesn't think, or look just as we do. And when you don't care about the plight of another person, then you turn a blind-eye to their situation until you can no longer afford to ignore it. So I think as a whole, we as Americans need to begin to treat one another much better than we do. In other words, at the root of the gun violence problem in this nation is how we typically don't 'truly' care about an issue until it affects us personally. Our lack of love, respect for one another is ripping this society apart; and many of our politicians are astutely taking advantage of that as a means to enhance their political careers."
From a Bearden resident: "I used to want nothing to do with guns. Times have changed and so have I. We have so many drug heads stealing. I even take my gun with me when I'm mowing the yard. I want the option to buy more. I think that is my right. The thugs don't care about regulations they have all sorts of guns they have bought and stolen. Mental health ... well that is a fine line of definition,isn't it? Of course no one with a demented mental illness/personality should have a gun. Hard to decide on who fits that description .... too many problems and solutions to this problem. Taking away my right to legally buy what I want is not one of them."
From a Sheridan resident: "It's not the gun, it's the person and their brain that reacts. I have had guns all my life. There are many people who get on my nerves but I don't shoot them. I knew this would be another reason for people to go to the 'gun issue' and the 'WHITE MAN ISSUE.' A very sad situation happened and people should be praying for these families, not throwing up the gun issue."
From an El Dorado resident: "Tougher gun laws wouldn't have stopped this one. The Air Force didn't report his criminal record, which would have stopped him from buying this gun. In Las Vegas, the guy was squeaky clean. Tougher gun laws wouldn't have stopped that either. We have a big mental health problem in this country. But we have strict privacy laws. How do we open u medical records so the government can have access to mental health diagnoses? We can't. The Supreme Court already ruled in that the government can't have that kind of access to our medical records. And even if that changes, how do we decide how crazy is too crazy?"
From an El Dorado resident: "So approximately one in five, about 40 million Americans, have mental health issues. Proportionately practically none of them are involved in mass shootings. If we are going to have 'guns for all,' as we apparently do, it would be pretty difficult intellectually to deny those folks guns. Can it be narrowed down a bit? Possibly. The most recent (I'm writing this on Nov. 8 so who knows what might happen latter tonight) involved a guy with clear cut anger issues. Maybe that's a place to start. A better place to start would be to admit that the gun culture has resulted in a first world nation with the highest firearm injury and death in the civilized world. 35,000 per year die. Maybe it's time to rethink the relativism of the Second Amendment."
Shea Wilson is the former managing editor of the El Dorado News-Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SheaWilson7.