Trump's global ignorance on display: "This isn't a guns situation"

We have 13,000 gun murders a year; Japan has almost none. Trump's answer is more guns "in the opposite direction"

By Heather Digby Parton


Published November 7, 2017 8:08AM (EST)

 (Getty/Jim Watson)
(Getty/Jim Watson)

Donald Trump's excellent Asian adventure continued on Monday in Japan with more demonstrations of his impressive knowledge of world affairs. At a state banquet he spoke about his close relationship with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

He explained, “So my relationship with Shinzo got off to quite a rocky start because I never ran for office, and here I am. But I never ran, so I wasn’t very experienced and after I had won, everybody was calling me from all over the world.

"I never knew we had so many countries.”

The Japanese are a stoical people who do not often display uncontrolled emotion. One can only imagine imagine what they thought of that inane little admission. Apparently, Trump hadn't even looked at a world map before he was elected president at the age of 70.

After the news broke about the horrific church massacre in Texas on Sunday, Trump (or, more likely, a surrogate) tweeted out the usual "thoughts and prayers." But at a joint press conference, the president responded to a question about the shooting this way:

I think that mental health is your problem here. This was a very -- based on preliminary reports -- very deranged individual. A lot of problems over a long period of time. We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries.

But this isn't a guns situation. I mean, we could go into it, but it's a little bit soon to go into it. But, fortunately, somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it would have been -- as bad it was, it would have been much worse.

But this is a mental health problem at the highest level. It's a very, very sad event. These are great people, and a very, very sad event. But that's the way I view it. Thank you.

There's no doubt that Japan and all other countries have people with mental illness. It's a disease of the human species. But Trump sounded like a fool trying to compare the United States with a country like Japan in that context. The Texas killer shot more people in the course of a few minutes on Sunday than the total number of people who have been shot dead in Japan in the last five years.

As Michael Daly at the Daily Beast reported, 13,286 people were shot and killed in the United States in 2015. (That's not counting suicide, which would more than double that number.) In Japan there was one. Japan does not allow ordinary citizens to own handguns or rifles of any kind. Sports shooters can own shotguns for hunting and skeet shooting but must qualify for licensing with a four-month class in gun safety.

One can assume that the Japanese people wouldn't trade their situation for ours, and certainly not for the fatuous insistence that if someone else is "shooting in the opposite direction" it mitigates the horror of 26 innocent people being gunned down in church on a Sunday morning. The rest of the world no doubt sees the United States as primitive and irrational on this issue. Because we are.

Many people have already pointed out how differently Trump responds to mass killings depending on if the apparent perpetrator is an immigrant, a Muslim or a person of color. In this case, he once again tried to assume the lugubrious tone of all Republicans on the day of a gun massacre carried out by a white American, insisting that it's "too soon" to go into the details and expressing his "sadness" at the massive casualties. If it had been a Muslim, he would have no interest in the shooter's mental health and would have immediately called for strict policy changes to eliminate the threat.

Keep in mind that Trump has no plans to deal with mental illness, any more than he plans to deal with gun regulations or the other common thread that ties many of these shootings together: domestic violence. It's not just that he already reversed an Obama-era policy that would have prevented people who are on disability for mental illness from buying guns. He believes that mowing down dozens of innocent bystanders with semi-automatic weapons is a fact of life that will never change, so we simply must accept it.

After the shooting at a community college in Oregon two years ago that killed nine people and injured nine more, Trump gave a long disquisition on "Morning Joe" the next day when asked what he would do about these mass shootings:

First of all, you have very strong laws on the books, but you're always going to have problems. I mean, we have millions and millions of people, we have millions and millions of sick people all over the world. It can happen all over the world and it does happen all over the world, by the way. But this is sort of unique to this country, the school shootings. And you're going to have difficulty no matter what. . . .

You know, it's not politically correct to say that [people are going to slip through the cracks] but you're going to have difficulty and that would be for the next million years you're going to have difficulty. People are going to slip through the cracks. And even if you did great mental health programs people are going to slip through the cracks. . . .

I'm sure it's going to be found that this guy was probably, you know they seem to be loners, they have all sorts of difficulties, they call people and nobody wants to go out with them, you know, it's the same old story. But what are you going to do? Institutionalize everybody? You're going to have difficulties with many different things.

That's the way the world works, and that's the way the world has always worked.

Unlike his vicious response to the perceived or real threat of violence from Muslim zealots, he's very philosophical about this, isn't he? He believes the only choice we have is to accept that innocent people are going to be gunned down on a regular basis, or institutionalize anyone who is a loner or has a mental illness diagnosis. And we can't do that because some people would slip through the cracks anyway. "That's the way the world works."

Except, of course, it doesn't. It's just the way America works. And it's destroying us, one horrific bloodbath at a time.

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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