Even as the standoff that resulted in the shooting of six Philadelphia policemen on Wednesday is still on the news, gun violence has erupted in the city yet again. According to police reports, five people – including a 17-year-old – were shot in the city’s Ogontz section Thursday afternoon. As a result, Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney and other city and federal officials have joined the growing chorus of voices calling for improved gun-control laws.
As Donald Trump was leaving to attend yet another one of his campaign rallies – this time in New Hampshire – he was asked by a reporter what his administration was prepared to do to confront the scourge of gun violence. Here is what Trump had to say yesterday: “I do want people to remember the words ‘mental illness’ – these people are mentally ill.” This is Trump, once more framing the issue as a mental health problem and nothing else.
Whenever Donald Trump airs his wholly unproven theories regarding the connection between mental illness and gun violence, he is fond of using such words as “insane”, “sick”, “deranged” or “crazy” to refer to people dealing with mental health issues, casually lumping them in with “bad people” and “dangerous people” – apparently completely oblivious of how his language hurts and stigmatizes a very sizable and very varied group of predominantly non-violent people. This is simply not the kind of language you would expect to hear from a head of state.
So, what does the President of the United States plan to do to address this very serious problem that is plaguing the nation he has vowed to look after and take care of? – “I think we have to start building institutions again. … We can’t let these people be on the streets.” In other words, his plan is to simply round up the mentally ill, lock them up in institutions and throw away the key. Problem solved.
In the real world outside Donald Trump’s head, things may turn out to be a little more complicated than that. And in the world of 2019 politics, it is likely that his Republican handlers will take Trump aside and explain to him that mental health institutions actually cost money and that he will be better off funneling any available funds into the pockets of those who put him in office.
At the end of the day, it is highly unlikely that we will see the current administration take any measures to improve the mental health care system, which – needless to say – would of course have to be something other than building prison-like institutions in which people struggling with mental health problems would simply be kept under lock and key under the guise of improving public safety. As a consequence, Donald Trump’s unscripted remarks made on the way to a rendezvous with his adoring supporters will have no consequences in terms of policy, one way or another, but the ugliness of his words will probably live on in the minds of many.