A white gunman eliminated 22 hispanic shoppers at an El Paso Walmart Saturday and also injured an ext than 2 dozen more. Abbott and also President Donald trumped were quick to to mark mental health issues.

by Jolie McCullough, The Texas Tribune, and Alain Stephens, The trace Aug. 8, 201912 AM main


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A mrs holds a sign after a quiet march to las Americas Immigrant Advocacy center for the victim of the Walmart shootings in El Paso respectable 4, 2019. Credit: Michael Chow/The Republic via REUTERS

El Paso shooting

More 보다 20 civilization were killed in one Aug. 3, 2019, shooting rampage at a Walmart in El Paso. The gunman was arrested and also charged with funding murder for the shoot in El Paso, i beg your pardon is recovering from what federal regulation enforcement has actually classified as an plot of residential terrorism.

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Hours after ~ a white gunman walked right into an El Paso Walmart top top Saturday and also killed virtually two dozen spain shoppers, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott handle a room complete of reporters in the border city and also expressed grief and support because that the community.

As high-profile mass shootings continue to erupt throughout the country — 3 of which occurred in Texas in the last 2 years — a reporter inquiry the governor what that planned on doing to ensure one doesn’t take place again.

Abbott, a Republican, hesitated, climate spoke in ~ length about how the state Legislature reaction to the 2018 high school shooting in Santa Fe, ultimately focusing ~ above what he said was the most agreed-upon need: addressing mental health and wellness issues.

“Bottom heat is mental health is a big contributor come any type of violence or shooting violence, and also the state that Texas this previous session pass a lot of law and detailed funding for the state to much better address the challenge,” he concluded, referring to receipt aimed at boosting children’s mental health and wellness care.


Behind him, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat indigenous El Paso, visibly stiffened, shaking she head slightly as Abbott associated mental disease to what appears to it is in an action of domestic terrorism fueled by a white supremacist ideology.

The next day, prior to a downtown El Paso vigil because that the victims, she put right into words what had actually been evident on her face.

“I would likewise call ~ above those who usage mental disease as an excuse to you re welcome stop. You re welcome stop,” Escobar called reporters, to light applause indigenous those start to arrive because that the service. “It additional stigmatizes those that truly endure from psychological illness, and also the reality of the issue is civilization with mental illness are far more likely come be victim of violent crime, not perpetrators.”

“This tragedy is no in vain if us can finally have a reckoning in this country regarding what is really going on,” she added.


Abbott’s emphasis on mental disease is a usual reaction amongst Republican lawmakers immediately after fixed shootings, regularly mirroring windy sentiment. However such focus comes to the dismay that mental health experts and also Democrats, who argue that automatically pinning together horrors top top mental condition is a way to avoid talking around issues surrounding gun violence and the rising importance of white supremacy in the united States. In reality, the intersection in between mental health and also mass shootings is complicated.


In 2013, a Gallup poll discovered that 48% of americans blamed the mental wellness system for failing to determine potential perpetrators of total violence v that id trumping other reasons such as drug use or easy accessibility to guns. In a similar CBS poll indigenous 2017, 68% thought far better mental health and wellness screenings could prevent total violence. And also multiple high-profile shootings with ties to mental health worries have more cemented the link into the minds of lawmakers and also Americans — perhaps many notably through the Sandy Hook shooting, wherein the gunman eliminated 20 elementary college children and six college employees.

But research study on massive killings and serious mental disease doesn’t usually back this notion, though outcomes vary relying on how attacks and mental condition are classified.

A 2015 study of around 230 massive homicides because 1913 uncovered that just 22% of the killers might be considered mentally ill. Evaluating only the killings native this millennium, however, the author, a forensic psychiatrist, taken into consideration 32% of the killers holy spirit ill. A 2016 study discovered only 15% had a psychotic disorder and 11% had actually paranoid schizophrenia. Yet smaller, much more recent government reports indicate higher levels — a U.S. Secret Service report the 27 mass attacks in 2018 discovered that 44% of attackers had actually been treated because that or diagnosed v a mental illness.


The rates of psychological illness amongst mass murderers in current studies perform not surprise Greg Hansch, the executive director the Texas’ branch of the nationwide Alliance on mental Illness. He doesn’t negate the mental disease is sometimes a factor in large-scale attacks, but argues that even then it is no the sole cause and is often quickly used together a scapegoat for gun violence.

“We shouldn’t immediately jump to blaming psychological illness, since one, it’s impossible to make that determination without having actually facts to ago that increase and, two, there are regularly other causative/aggravating factors that need to be explored,” he said. “Certainly in the situation of El Paso, that seems prefer it to be a dislike crime.”

There has actually been no information released concerning the mental health and wellness of the suspected gunman in Saturday’s massacre. The 21-year-old accused did, however, i announced a racialism manifesto before the shooting in i m sorry he explained the assault as a “response come the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Still, Abbott and Republicans nationwide again pointed to mental illness instantly after back-to-back shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. Chairman Donald Trump said reporters on Sunday “these are human being who space very, very seriously holy spirit ill.” In a White House resolve the following day, he said the country must reform mental health and wellness laws “to better identify holy ghost disturbed people who may commit action of violence.”


“Mental illness and hatred traction the trigger, no the gun,” the said.

That hatred urged the El Paso gunman no being debated in the wake up of the shooting. Yet Texas democrats say zeroing in on psychological illness permits Republicans to ignore gun safety measures and also racism.

“Let’s use our collective voice to keep the focus where it must be – that’s on the double problem that lax pistol laws and also the white nationalist see that have actually been sustained by president Trump,” wrote the leader the the Texas House autonomous Caucus, state Rep. Chris Turner, in a memo come his colleagues. “We should not enable Republicans to shot and adjust the topic to psychological health, video clip games, prayer in institution or anything else.”

Quickly after ~ the Santa Fe shooting, which killed 10 people and also left end a dozen wounded, Abbott brought together students, institution officials, law enforcement, mental wellness experts, and also advocates top top both sides of the gun dispute to propose law aimed at avoiding future college shootings. He likewise created committees to study the worry while lawgiver were no in conference to come up v proposals for the 2019 Legislature.


At the time, mental health professionals cautioned Texas policymakers versus using mental condition as the end-all-be-all equipment to college shootings. The Senate committee sought the end the very question the what propels fixed shooters. ~ assembling an military of specialists to testify, the committee exit a 2018 report that showed mental health experts had warned the federal government of a possibly flawed logic.

Dr. Andy Keller, CEO that the meadows Mental health and wellness Policy Institute, said senators that mental disease alone is “not a risk variable for violent acts” and also that there is “no factor to think focusing specifically on this population will stop future events,” follow to the report. Another expert, Dr. Jeff Temple, the director of behavioral health and research at the university of Texas medical Branch, testified that “mental illness is no a driving factor of violence,” adding that those suffering space “more most likely to hurt themselves or it is in hurt by someone else 보다 to harm an additional individual.”

As the 2019 state legislative session began in January, mental health and wellness concerns and also school-hardening measures, like raising police presence and installing metal detectors, to be still the top priorities for Republican lawmakers, who organize majorities in both the state House and also Senate. By the time lawmakers went residence in so late May, the Legislature pass sweeping legislation aimed at enhancing mental health care for students, arming much more school employees and also "hardening" schools.

Bills tied to gun manage efforts go nowhere. Gun constraints were, in fact, loosened in part ways, consisting of a measure that forbids landlords from requiring tenants or guest not bring firearms.


“Nobody wants to talk around gun violence avoidance measures. Nobody wants to talk around the reality that we need to do miscellaneous … about the raising racism in this country,” state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, said prior to a Sunday vigil and silent march in El Paso. “On the various other hand, I desire to call you the there to be a entirety slew the bills the were championed by the state management … that now allow, because that example, weapons in your churches, that allow more guns ~ above campuses.”

Abbott said reporters on Saturday ~ his initial press conference that it was too shortly to talk around politics.

In Ohio, just two work after the Dayton massive shooting, the Republican branch proposed a “red flag” regulation that would allow authorities come remove weapons from human being a court deems dangerous. President Trump has referred to as for a similar policy at the federal level. Such a proposal dropped flat at the feet that Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick ~ the Santa Fe shooting.

In the wake up of El Paso, Abbott said Wednesday the the gunman didn’t appear to exhibit any type of red flags, but announced there would be a new set that roundtable discussions this month to resolve potential solutions.


At Sunday’s vigil, El Pasoans verified they are ready for change. People filled the roads the night after their city to be attacked, moving handmade signs that express pain, but additionally frustration v the politics neighboring such tragedies that were now all too genuine for them.

Among numerous grieving neighborhood members marching in quiet downtown, one woman held up a authorize written in bold, red marker: “Racism is not psychological illness.”

Alexa Ura added reporting.

Disclosure: The university of Texas clinical Branch and the grasslands Mental health Policy Institute have been financial pendant of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in component by donations native members, foundations and also corporate sponsors. Financial pendant play no role in the Tribune"s journalism. Find a finish list of them here.


This story was published in partnership through The Trace, a nonprofit newsroom covering firearms in America.

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