August 5, 2019
As the U.S. grapples with the reality that mass gun violence continues on despite politicians' "thoughts and prayers," Americans want to know what can actually be done following a weekend that clocked two headline-grabbing mass shootings, leaving at least 31 people dead.
Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) told Cheddar Monday that a focus on mental health is the answer to stop domestic-based gun violence, not gun control or background checks, although he has been an ardent supporter of a border wall, citing violence in America committed by illegal immigrants.
"There is no one magic elixir that's going to be able to stop gun violence in our country," Gaetz told Cheddar Monday. "Just like background checks wouldn't have been the answer in every circumstance, a wall would not be the answer in every circumstance, obviously, but I think marrying some of these proposals could potentially lead us to a safer community."
Gaetz, an avid Trump supporter who has the President's ear on a variety of issues, did not sign the universal background check bill that swept through the Democrat-controlled House in February. The Republican-controlled Senate has not acted upon the House's H.R. 8 bill.
During a hearing on the bill in February, Gaetz said, "H.R. 8 would not have stopped many of the circumstances I raised, but a wall — a barrier on the southern border — may have, and that's what we're fighting for."
Over Twitter on Monday, Trump broke with hard right-leaning Republicans, suggesting it was time to propose a law that would tie background checks with immigration reform.Yet nearly three hours later at a White House remarks briefing, Trump was largely silent on the issue of background checks.
Gaetz said the President laid a positive framework Monday for bipartisan solutions to curb gun violence and mass shootings in America, but does not think enacting H.R. 8 is the answer.
"I don't know what of these shootings really would have been stopped by the background check bill," Gaetz added.
2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls and sitting senators like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to end August recess early to address gun reform. However, Gaetz does not seem hopeful that any of the bills on the table will win approval, saying, "The reason nothing is getting done is because everyone's so polarized."
But Gaetz does show signs of hope that steps can be taken to curb future attacks like the ones Americans have seen play out over and over again.
Gaetz is a proponent of "red-flag laws," which his state has embraced. These laws allow authorities to take guns from people who are deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.
Earlier in the day, President Trump also showed his support for these laws. "The monster in the Parkland high school in Florida had many red flags against him, and yet nobody took decisive action. Nobody did anything. Why not?"
Gaetz said he spoke to the president after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and "saw the advice I've given the president reflected in his remarks today."
"I think that somewhere we've got to identify these mental illness challenges, have red flag laws, and ensure that we're not letting people out of mental health care and then allowing them to go back to their guns," said Gaetz.
That echoed a sentiment from the president Monday morning when he said, "Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun."
But in a statement, American Psychological Assocation President Rosie Phillips Davis, PhD. says blaming mass murder on mental illness is "unfounded and stigmatizing."
For Gaetz, the only way to find a bipartisan solution is moving on from partisan differences, and meeting in the middle.
"Maybe if we come to the middle a little bit and divorce ourselves from the fringes we'll be able to get things done."