At a joint news conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan today, President Trump said the Texas church mass shooting “isn’t a guns situation” but a question of mental health.
Devin Kelley, 26, opened fire Sunday morning on the congregation at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 before being stopped by an armed neighbor. Authorities said he had multiple firearms and was wearing tactical gear.
Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 on charges of assaulting his wife and child. That marriage ended in divorce. He received a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force in 2014, the same year that he remarried.
Two of Kelley’s ex-girlfriends told NBC News that he became violent or stalked them after they broke off the relationship.
“Devin Kelley sought to get a license to carry a gun in the state of Texas, but the State of Texas denied him the ability to get a gun,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. “By all the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun. So how did this happen?”
Trump was asked at his Tokyo press conference what policies he would “support to reduce these violent actions” and whether gun control is “the answer.”
“I think that mental health is your problem here. This was a very — based on preliminary reports — very deranged individual. A lot of problems over a long period of time. We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries,” he replied. “But this isn’t a guns situation. I mean, we could go into it, but it’s a little bit soon to go into it. But, fortunately, somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it would have been — as bad it was, it would have been much worse.”
“But this is a mental health problem at the highest level,” he added. “It’s a very, very sad event. These are great people, and a very, very sad event. But that’s the way I view it.”
In separate remarks to U.S. and Japanese business leaders, Trump said he had just spoken with Abbott and “we offer our thanks to the first responders, the FBI, all of the many people involved, both federal and otherwise.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of today’s horrible and murderous attack. This act of evil occurred as the victims and their families were in their place of sacred worship. We cannot put into words the pain and grief we all feel, and we cannot begin to imagine the suffering of those who lost the ones they so dearly loved,” Trump said.
“Our hearts are broken, but in dark times — and these are dark times — such as these, Americans do what they do best: We pull together. We join hands, we lock arms, and through the tears and through the sadness, we stand strong — oh, so strong.”