President Donald Trump stayed out of the spotlight for much of Sunday, and when he did appear in public, he only spoke to reporters for a few minutes on a tarmac in New Jersey after spending the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster. During his remarks, Trump blamed “mental illness” for the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend.
Trump made the reference to mental illness when he was asked by a reporter how he would prevent mass shootings in the future. He was also asked about white nationalism, but he either ignored or didn’t hear the question. “We have done much more than most administrations, not talked about very much but we have done actually a lot,” Trump said. “But perhaps more has to be done.” He went on to say that “this is also a mental illness problem” without offering any details. “If you look at both of these cases, this is mental illness. These are really people that are very seriously mentally ill,” he said.
The president said “hate has no place in our country” and seemed to try to distance his administration from responsibility for the shootings by saying that “this has been going on for years and we have to get it stopped.” Trump also expressed his condolences “to the people of El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, incredible people who have been through a lot.” He praised local law enforcement for responding quickly. “It was horrible, but it could have been so much worse,” Trump said. The president said he would be making a statement on the shootings on Monday morning.
By blaming “mental illness,” Trump echoed comments that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made Saturday after the gunman opened fire in El Paso and killed 20 people at a Walmart. “Mental health is a large contributor to any type of violence or shooting violence,” Abbot said.
Earlier Sunday, Trump tweeted, “God bless the people of El Paso, Texas. God bless the people of Dayton, Ohio.” He also ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff at federal government buildings “in honor of the victims of the tragedies.”