President Donald Trump on Monday called for reforms of mental health laws following two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio that left at least 31 dead and approximately 50 injured.
"We need to reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence, and make sure those people not only get treatment but if necessary, involuntary confinement," Trump said in a televised address. "Mental illness pulls the trigger, not the gun."
A spokesperson for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for clarification about what these reforms would look like.
Rosie Phillips Davis, president of the American Psychological Association, followed quickly on the address with a repudiation of the link between the attacks and mental illness.
"Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing," Davis said. "Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. The rates of mental illness are roughly the same around the world, yet other countries are not experiencing these traumatic events as often as we face them."
One recent study published in Preventive Medicine this year examined the question of whether a person's mental health state was linked to gun violence. Instead, researchers found people with access to a gun were far more likely to have threatened others or to have carried the gun outside.
People who could get their hands on a firearm were more than 18 times more likely to use a gun as a threat, as opposed to people with "high hostility" who were 3.5 times more likely.
People with gun access were nearly 5 times more likely to have brought the gun outside their homes, as opposed to people with "high impulsivity," who were 1.9 times more likely.
In El Paso, Texas, one suspect killed 22 people and injured 24 with a semiautomatic rifle in a Walmart Saturday, in a case federal authorities are characterizing as "domestic terrorism." Approximately 13 hours later, a man in Dayton, Ohio, killed eight individuals including his sister and injured 27 more. Both guns were purchased legally, according to law enforcement officials.
Washington's major healthcare trade groups didn't comment directly on Trump's speech, but American Hospital Association CEO Rick Pollack in a statement said hospitals and health systems want to be part of policy changes to stop the violence.
"Like our nation, hospitals and health systems are increasingly looking for new ways to address the wave of violence that we are seeing," Pollack said. "As with any other public health challenge, we will remain an engaged partner in both caring for and keeping our communities safe."
Dr. Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association, condemned the attacks in a statement on Sunday where she also called on lawmakers to write policy.
"Commonsense steps, broadly supported by the American public, must be advanced by policymakers to prevent avoidable deaths and injuries caused by gun violence," Harris said. "We must also address the pathology of hatred that has too often fueled these mass murders and casualties."
Harris also acknowledged the apparent racist motives behind the El Paso shooting.
"Everyone in America, including immigrants, aspires to the ideals of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness," she said. "Those shared values—not hatred or division—are the guiding light for efforts to achieve a more perfect union."
On July 28, a shooter opened fire at a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif., killing three and wounding 15.