Yesterday, hours after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed at least 17 people in a Florida high school, president Donald Trump was reportedly urged by White House staff to make a formal statement. Although he chose to wait until later on Feb. 15 to address the nation, he did soon tweet about the incident.
In a tweet early this morning, Trump framed the shooting it as he has done in the past, describing Cruz as a disturbed and “erratic” individual. The trouble is, Trump has made it much easier for mentally-disturbed Americans to buy guns in the United States.
In February last year, the president signed a bill to overturn Obama-era regulations that restricted people with severe mental problems from buying guns. Those restrictions had been put into place after the 2012 massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, by a young man with a history of mental illness.
Before it was repealed, the rule had required the Social Security Administration to notify the FBI of any disability insurance recipients found mentally incapable of handling their finances. The individuals would then be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)—and disqualified from buying guns. By signing the law, Trump made it easier for an estimated 75,000 mentally unstable people to buy weapons.
Through his presidency, Trump also removed more people from the NICS, effectively allowing them to buy guns: About 500,000 “fugitives from justice,” or people who have crossed state lines to avoid prosecution, were allowed to buy guns.
More recently, in his 2019 budget, the president proposed deep cuts to funding for background checks on gun purchasers.