Does President Trump really not know why shootings in our country occur?

Does President Trump really not know why shootings in our country occur?
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First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpStatue of Melania Trump set on fire in Slovenia The Memo: Trump gambles on school push The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook- Schools weigh reopening options MORE recently hosted a dinner for influential evangelical figures at the White House. During his remarks, President TrumpDonald John TrumpKimberly Guilfoyle reports being asymptomatic and 'feeling really pretty good' after COVID-19 diagnosis Biden says he will rejoin WHO on his first day in office Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad MORE briefly referenced the recent shooting at a gaming tournament in Jacksonville, Florida. A gunman with a history of mental illness killed two people and wounded 11 others. After expressing condolences to those affected, Trump said dismissively, “how it happens, nobody really knows.”

We must wonder why the Commander-in-Chief of the United States, who is charged with running the most complex operations of government — not to mention its nuclear arsenal — finds an event like the one in Jacksonville so mystifying. After all, it is his responsibility to oversee federal departments that conduct mandatory background checks on purchasers of firearms — and one disqualifying criterion for would-be buyers is a history of mental illness.

The president was careful to remind evangelicals, “I have given you a lot. Just about everything I promised.” If there’s one axiom that describes Trump’s political modus operandi, it would be: You scratch my back, I scratch yours. While he’s delivered on his campaign promises to conservative evangelicals, he has yet to deliver on his much more consequential promise to the nation made in his 2016 GOP nomination acceptance speech. I was there in Cleveland and heard him say emphatically, “I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored. The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens. Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead.”


The terrifying gun violence that plagues our nation has not come to an end, and the horror that recently took place in Jacksonville has become all too familiar for Americans. The last two years have been marked by gun violence and mass shootings — shattering families and whole communities. There are, once again, family members, friends, and too many others in unspeakable anguish after this most recent gun slaughter. Trump needs to be reminded by faith leaders that every single human life matters — not just the ones on a political promise list. It is time for the president to take this moral mandate seriously and do everything possible to ensure the mentally unstable do not have access to firearms. The Trump administration needs to push congress to tighten up federal law and allocate necessary resources to states to enforce such restrictions and to punish states that fail to do so.

Finally, because our government is “of the people, by the people, for the people,” it is also every American’s responsibility to elect those who “defend the lives of its own citizens” as more than simply campaign hype — but as a sacred duty that must be performed and for which they must be held accountable. It’s time to elect members of Congress and other representatives at all levels of government who will hold this president accountable and craft legislation that keeps firearms out of the hands of those who present a grave danger to the public.

The Christian leaders at the White House dinner, who heaped praise on Trump for giving them everything they’ve demanded of him, surely know that there is an explanation for the murder and mayhem in Jacksonville — and Parkland — and Las Vegas — and Sutherland Springs and in the many dreadfully similar episodes of murder, injury and trauma that preceded his presidency. Simply put, mental illness and access to deadly firearms should not go together. Let’s put that on our list of demands for the president — and make sure that there are those in Washington who will make sure he delivers on them—not just for we evangelicals, but for all of the American people.

Rev. Rob Schenck, Ph.D., is an ordained evangelical minister and president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute, located in Washington, DC. He is the author of Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister’s Rediscovery of Faith, Hope, and Love (Harper Collins, June 5, 2018). Rev. Schenck is also a member of the leadership team for Survivor Sunday, a nationwide day of remembrance for the 30,000 lives lost annually to gun violence sponsored by Prayers & Action.