President Donald Trump on Sunday emphasized a need for the country to focus on “a very big mental health problem” in the wake of two mass shootings in one weekend that left 32 people dead earlier this month as he appeared to defend current US gun control measures, stating “we do have a lot of background checks right now.”
“It’s the people that pull the trigger, not the gun that pulls the trigger so we have a very, very big mental health problem and Congress is working on various things and I will be looking at it,” Trump told reporters on the tarmac before heading back to Washington after a vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
The White House, Trump said, is “very much involved” in the discussions Congress is having to address gun violence and while “a lot of things are happening on the gun level” he said “the concept of mental institutions” must be addressed.
“These are people that have to be in institutions for help, I’m not talking about as a form of a prison, I’m saying for help and I think it’s something we have to really look at, the whole concept of mental institutions,” he said. “I remember growing up we had mental institutions, then they were closed – in New York, I’m talking about – they were, many of them closed. A lot of them were closed and all of those people were put out on the street.”
“So I think the concept of mental institutions has to be looked at,” he said.
Guns in America
Trump’s comments Sunday mark an increased focus from the President on mental health measures over gun control legislation to address gun violence as lawmakers remain skeptical gun control legislation could pass a divided Congress.
Trump, who has previously expressed support for tighter gun restrictions only to back off under pressure from the National Rifle Association, added Sunday that he’s “very concerned about the Second Amendment.”
Meanwhile, two gun control groups mobilized to increase the pressure on senators to pass legislation in the wake of the two mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas.
Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action held rallies across the country this weekend after announcing Thursday that they would spend nearly $1 million on ads against a handful of Republican lawmakers.
The effort from Everytown and Moms Demand comes as the NRA, its biggest adversary, has been noticeably absent from applying pressure on Capitol Hill allies to hold fast against strong forces for gun reform.
Support for background checks
The Democrat-controlled House passed a universal background check bill in February, but the measure has not been considered by the Republican-led Senate. Trump last week expressed an openness to background checks.
Speaking to a Kentucky radio station last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the Senate will put the issues of background check legislation in addition to “red flag” laws “front and center” when the body reconvenes after its summer recess, but it will not return early as Democrats are demanding.
A mid-July NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 89% of Americans considered it a “good idea” to implement background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or other private sales, with a nearly nonexistent partisan divide: 96% of Democrats, 89% of independents and 84% of Republicans called it a good idea.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.