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Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said Thursday that gun violence in America is actually a result of a massive mental health problem, rather than a gun problem.
“Mental illness is a massive problem,” Trump told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day” on Thursday morning, one day after a Virginia reporter and her cameraman were shot and killed on air by a disgruntled former co-worker.
“This isn’t a gun problem, this is a mental problem,” Trump continued, reiterating that he is opposed to tightening gun laws. “You’re not going to get rid of all guns. If you try to do it, the bad guys would have them.”
On Wednesday morning during a live broadcast in Roanoke, Virginia, former WDBJ7 reporter Vester Lee Flanagan, 41, shot and killed two former colleagues, television reporter Alison Parker, 24, and 27-year-old cameraman Adam Ward. The women they were interviewing, Vicki Gardner, 62, was also shot and is being treated for non-life threatening injuries. Flanagan later shot and killed himself after releasing a racist manifesto and leading police on a car chase.
The billionaire real estate mogul argued Thursday that Flanagan was likely suffering from severe and untreated mental illness which pushed him overboard.
“There was tremendous hatred, tremendous animosity. This gentleman was a disaster to the public,” Trump said, according to The Hill. “He was definitely borderline and would have been and should have been institutionalized at some point. I wish people closest to him would have seen it, but people are being released now because they don’t have any money … this was a very sick man.”
“And it’s just too bad that we can’t figure these things out beforehand. I mean, everybody sees the signals but nobody thinks a thing like this could happen,” he added.
One in four adults – approximately 61.5 million (26.2 percent) Americans over the age of 18 – suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But Trump said he’s still conflicted on how to help mentally ill people.
“What are you going to do, put them in jail for the rest of their life? There were lawsuits and litigation on all sorts of things with him. And he just blew up. He knew he was going to blow up, too, based on his memos and notes,” he said.
Despite Trump’s disgust, he said that tighter gun laws probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference, as Flanagan was determined to carry out his attack in one way or another.
“He snuck up on them, whether it was a gun or a knife or whatever it would have been, it would have been something,” Trump said.
He pointed to Chicago’s tough gun laws that have failed to prevent an uptick of gun violence in the city. “I’m a very much 2nd Amendment person, and I know the arguments both ways very well, but I’m very much into the 2nd Amendment. You need protection. It’s a very complex situation.”