Reason Roundup

Trump Says Mental Illness 'Pulls the Trigger' in Mass Shootings

Plus: Monday market swings spark freakout, Hong Kong "now a revolution," and more...


We've moved on to the phase of a post-shooting news cycle where folks come together to agree that mental illness is the real problem. "Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun," said President Donald Trump on Monday. Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) set to work on re-introducing a bill concerning mental illness and law enforcement.

On one level, addressing mental health in the wake of mass shootings is better than blaming video games, internet forums, or immigration policy for violence. But because this is government we're talking about, the idea that random people can snap and do crazy, terrible things isn't enough. If mental illness is the problem, we need to do! something! big! about mental illness.

Of course, what we do is never remove the regulatory barriers to better, more widespread mental health care. Instead, we subject any and all people with "mental illness"—a category that can range from complete psychosis and other extreme conditions to conditions like depression and anxiety that are shared by tons of Americans—to increased monitoring, restrictions, and stigmatizing presumptions. Frequently, it also involves subjecting everyone to increased surveillance in order to allegedly spot signs of dangerous mental illness.

AdAge notes that "President Donald Trump said he ordered federal officials to work with the companies to try and identify people whose social-media postings indicate they may commit mass murder before they act. While Trump did not call for any specific regulations, the companies have been facing increasing scrutiny over how they police the content users post online and their power to influence public discourse."

When Trump was talking about recent mass shootings, he kept coming back to mental illness, noted Jonathan Chait, suggesting that "mental illness is the concept Republicans have grasped onto to absolve Trump and his allies of any ideological kinship with white nationalist terrorists. 'Crazy' is a kind of metaphysical demarcation between conservatism and terrorism."

Graham and Blumenthal's bill would give more money to police departments to "hire and consult with mental health professionals," Graham said in a statement. It would also strengthen red flag laws, which allow police and courts to temporarily suspend people's ability to purchase guns. Graham and Blumenthal previously introduced a similar bill in March 2018.


Flights in and out of Hong Kong are being stalled and canceled as protests continue to roil the city. How are things going? A short selection of recent headlines should give you the picture:


Monday market swings spark freakout. In the past week, President Trump announced more major tariffs on Chinese goods, the Chinese government elected to let its currency value relative to the dollar drop, and the U.S. responded by officially designating China as a currency manipulator. And just like that, stock and bond markets both dropped enough to cause alarm.

"The swings in financial markets Monday are hard to justify in narrow terms," writes Neil Irwin at The New York Times. "A slightly cheaper Chinese currency shouldn't have huge consequences for the global economy. Rather, investors are coming to grips with the reality that the trade war is escalating and spreading into the global currency market." Irwin suggests that this may be the start of a feared point of no return in the U.S.-China trade war that could "create dangerous ripple effects for the world economy."

Meanwhile, in Trumpland:


  • Rethinking paper straws? McDonald's in the U.K. shifted to paper straws as part of the popular tilt away from their plastic counterparts. The company called it part of its plans to help "protect the environment." The plastic straws were recyclable. The paper ones are not.
  • Awkward…

  • A San Diego police sergeant facing arrest for soliciting sex from a minor has apparently committed suicide.
  • Singer R. Kelly, who was recently arrested on federal criminal charges, was also just charged in Minnesota with soliciting sex from a minor.
  • Who could have predicted?