Mental health, guns are both the issue.


A President Donald Trump got it half-right when he said this week, following yet another mass shooting, that the focus should be on mental health, not gun control.

Certainly, there were snakes in the brain of Devin Patrick Kelley, as there are in all mass killers. Only a terribly sick individual could enter a church and kill innocent men, women and children.

And only a sick individual would have years earlier cracked his toddler stepson’s skull and assaulted his wife — offenses that got him court-martialed from the Air Force and imprisoned for a year. And only a sick individual would have left a trail of reports of abuse against other women and even a puppy.

Give a person access to guns who is mentally unhinged and prone to violence, and it’s a massacre waiting to happen.

Kelley should have never been able to legally purchase firearms, and wouldn’t have been if the Air Force had followed regulations and entered his name in the federal gun-check database following his court-martial.

Certainly, this nation needs to do a better job of identifying those whose mental illness poses a serious risk to others and get them into treatment, or, if they refuse, have them committed.

There were in Kelley’s case lots of people who had warning signs of what he might be capable: the military, law enforcement in several communities where he lived, his neighbors, the women with whom he was involved and their family members.

If there were attempts at intervention by mental-health professionals, that’s not been reported yet. But even if there were, clearly it wasn’t enough.

There is, however, another point that Trump, once a gun-control advocate before changing his mind to run for president as a Republican, incorrectly dismisses: namely, that sensible restrictions on assault-style weapons and ammunition magazines could reduce the carnage.

Kelley was armed with an AR-15, a semiautomatic weapon that can be very effective in killing a lot of people very quickly.

Authorities say that he fired at least 450 rounds of ammunition at worshippers, killing or wounding everyone inside the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church.

Yet, Trump and other gun-rights defenders will argue that it took an AR-15, and the bravery of a couple of men in the small Texas community, to keep the death toll from being more than 26.

The man who confronted and shot Kelley, Stephen Willeford, was also so armed.

But if that argument were right — namely that the best preventative to gun crime is the arming of more law-abiding civilians with firepower equal to the killers — it would be producing better results. Instead, mass killings — not to mention the much more prevalent murders that occur every day — are on the upswing.

Homicide rates, after a two-decade decline, increased by about 20 percent over the past two years in the United States.

We’ve got a domestic arms race going on, and it’s not making this country safer.

Would Kelley have killed others had he not been shot and pursued by civilians?


But also possibly some of the people in that church could have escaped death or injury had it not been so easy in this country to acquire military-style firepower.