When President Trump suggested Thursday in a tweet that Nikolas Cruz, the alleged shooter in a mass slaying in Florida, was mentally disturbed, it was far from the first time he’s laid the blame for a mass shooting on mental illness.
But critics say Trump himself has taken steps earlier in his administration that could make it easier for mentally ill people to buy guns.
Trump said in a tweet Thursday morning, “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
Later, he pledged in televised remarks to work with state and local leaders to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”
It’s a familiar refrain from Trump.
After a mass shooting at a Texas church in November, for example, Trump was asked, in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan, whether gun control was the answer.
“I think that mental health is your problem here. This was a very — based on preliminary reports — very deranged individual,” he said. “This is a mental health problem at the highest level.”
But critics say Trump’s words haven’t matched his deeds.
In February 2017, he signed legislation cutting an Obama-era regulation that added to the national gun background check database the names of people who are receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people who are deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs.
Trump signed the bill without fanfare, NBC News reported.
The action was applauded by the NRA. “Today marks a new era for law-abiding gun owners, as we now have a president who respects and supports our right to keep and bear arms,” Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said at the time.
Gun control advocates said the action showed that Trump was a hypocrite using a play out of the gun lobby’s playbook.