This morning, President Donald Trump tweeted the following in response to Wednesday’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left seventeen people dead:
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2018
Trump seems to be advocating a citizen alert system whereby people who think someone they know is getting squirrely should report that person’s behavior to the “authorities.” He doesn’t say which “authorities” should receive such reports. He doesn’t explain which law would grant the “authorities” power to act. We’ll explore that in a moment.
First, though, what’s confusing here is that almost exactly one year ago, Trump signed a bill wiping away regulations from the era of President Barack Obama which made it harder for people with mental illnesses to get guns. That bill, which was announced by being buried at the bottom of this press release, wiped away an Obama response to the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The bill passed the House and the Senate along a mostly party-line vote.
Trump’s 2017 legislative act could itself be seen as a contradiction of an even earlier statement about the shootings of two journalists on live television in Roanoke, Virginia, in which Trump said the shooting “isn’t a gun problem, this is a mental problem,” according to an interview with CNN at the time. Back then, Trump said the Virginia shooter should have been “institutionalized” and that “people close to him should have seen” that violence would possibly erupt.
“I guarantee you there are a couple of people that knew this man that did the killing yesterday that probably said, ‘Wow he’s really got problems I mean he really should be institutionalized,'” Trump told CNN.
In the same interview, and with reference to the Virginia shooting, Trump told CNN that “so many things” can be done about mental health issues. Legislating something surrounding guns, apparently, isn’t one of them, as he said he was a “very strong Second Amendment” person and told CNN that changing the nation’s gun laws should not be a response to the Virginia shooting.
Trump’s statements on the Florida shooting are shaping up to be consistent, almost word-for-word, with his statements on the Virginia shooting. Legislatively, his critics could accuse him of saying one thing and legislating another, but that might be a result of miscommunication rather than a flat-out flip-flop by the president.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.