As of this morning, the death toll from yesterday's mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, stands at 26 people, with at least 19 others in nearby hospitals. According to NBC News' reporting, the ages of the victims ranged from 5 to 72, although later one bereaved family reportedly said an infant girl was among those killed. The gunman was also later found dead.
The shooting at the First Baptist Church was the fifth deadliest in American history, the deadliest in Texas' history, and comes just a month after the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
It's against this backdrop that Donald Trump delivered a predictable message this morning: this "isn't a guns issue."
President Donald Trump said Monday that Sunday's mass shooting at a Texas church "isn't a guns situation" but instead "a mental health problem at the highest level."Asked at a joint press briefing with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe if he would consider pressing for gun control measures in the wake of America's second mass shooting in a month, Trump said "mental health is your problem here," calling the shooter a "very deranged individual" with "a lot of problems over a long period of time."
At a certain level, this brings us to a very familiar place: opponents of new gun reforms respond to mass shootings by pointing to mental health, while proponents of new gun reforms point out that every country has people who suffer from mental illness, but the United States is unique in its experiences with gun violence.
But even if we look past this back-and-forth, Donald Trump's specific record in this area is problematic in ways the president doesn't seem to fully appreciate.
As regular readers know, Trump has endorsed repealing the Affordable Care Act's essential health benefits, which includes mental-health treatments. The Republican president has also supported deep cuts to Medicaid, which provides mental health treatments to many low-income Americans.
Trump also signed into law a GOP bill that expanded gun access to the mentally impaired.
Fair-minded people can have a constructive debate about possible solutions related to mental health and gun violence. If the White House and its allies believe this policy area is a piece of the puzzle, there may be some truth to that.
But whether the president understands this or not, Trump has actually taken deliberate steps to make the problem worse, not better.