President Joe Biden highlighted what he called the “mental health crisis” in the United States, while urging Congress to take action on weapons following the recent mass shootings.
The president called for a ban on assault weapons in a speech Thursday, but it also appears to reflect a general Republican view of the role of mental health in shootings such as that at Rob Elementary School in Uwalde, Texas.
“We need to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” Biden said. “And if we can’t ban weapons of attack, then we need to raise the age of purchase from 18 to 21. Tighten past checks.”
“Take safekeeping laws and red flag laws. Abolish the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability. Tackle the mental health crisis that is deepening the trauma of gun violence and the consequences of that violence,” he added.
Biden went on to say that there is “a serious crisis in the mental health of young people in this country and we need to do something about it.”
After the mass shooting in Uwalde that killed 19 children and two teachers, several Republicans cited mental health problems as the main cause of the incident.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, said the alleged shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, had a “mental health challenge” and that Texas needed to “do a better job of mental health.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, also suggested focusing on mental illness as part of any response to the Uwalde shootings, while former President Donald Trump noted the same note in a speech at the National Weapons Association (NRA) event in Houston on May 27. . .
“We need to drastically change our approach to mental health,” Trump said.
However, linking mass shootings to a mental health crisis is a common response from Republicans to tragedies like Uwalde. Some Democrats may not be convinced by the connection.
Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, criticized Republicans for blaming the mass shootings for mental illness in comments to reporters on May 25 after his death in Uwalde.
“Save me the mental illness,” Murphy said. “We have no more mental illnesses than any other country in the world. You can’t explain this through the prism of mental illness, because we are not extraordinary when it comes to mental illness. “
“We are extraordinary when it comes to access to firearms and the ability of criminals and very sick people to get hold of firearms. That makes America different,” the senator continued.
Murphy is considered a close ally of President Biden, and he is leading Democrats’ efforts to reach an agreement with Republicans on a “basic framework” for weapons legislation proposals.
Representative Eric Swwell, a Democrat from the 15th District of California who was also outspoken about gun reform, seems skeptical of a mental health approach without new restrictions on firearms.
“If we assume that our schools are not well protected, that not all police officers are trained to respond to mass shootings, and that we have a severe mental health crisis in America, then why the hell would we want to easily add access to this mix?” to assault rifles? ”Swwell tweeted on May 27.
The president’s position appears to be more nuanced than some of his fellow Democrats, and he may be hoping to find common ground with Republicans. The administration also probably believes that a ban on assault weapons is not possible in an evenly divided Senate.
Newsweek asked the White House for comment.