Biden Echoes Republicans by Connecting Mental Health to Gun Violence

President Joe Biden has highlighted what he termed a "mental health crisis" in the U.S. as he urged Congress to take action on guns following recent mass shootings.

The president called for a ban on assault weapons in a speech on Thursday but also appeared to echo a common Republican talking point about the role of mental health in shootings like the one at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

"We need to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines," Biden said. "And if we can't ban assault weapons, then we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21. Strengthen background checks."

"Enact safe storage laws and red-flag laws. Repeal the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability. Address the mental health crisis deepening the trauma of gun violence and as a consequence of that violence," the president added.

Biden went on to say that there is "a serious youth mental health crisis in this country, and we have to do something about it."

In the wake of the mass shooting in Uvalde that left 19 children and two teachers dead, several Republicans pointed to mental health issues as the underlying cause of the incident.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, said that the alleged gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, had a "mental health challenge" and that Texas had to "do a better job with mental health."

Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, also suggested focusing on mental illness as part of any response to the Uvalde shootings, while former President Donald Trump struck the same note in a speech at a National Rifle Association (NRA) event in Houston on May 27.

"We need to drastically change our approach to mental health," Trump said.

However, linking mass shootings to a mental health crisis has been a common Republican response to tragedies like Uvalde. Some Democrats may not be convinced by the link.

Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, criticized Republicans for blaming mass shootings on mental illness in comments to reporters on May 25 following the deaths in Uvalde.

"Spare me the bullshit about mental illness," Murphy said. "We don't have any more mental illness than any other country in the world. You cannot explain this through a prism of mental illness because we're not an outlier on mental illness."

"We're an outlier when it comes to access to firearms and the ability of criminals and very sick people to get their hands on firearms. That's what makes America different," the senator went on.

Murphy is considered a close ally of President Biden and he's leading Democrats' efforts to reach an agreement with Republicans on a "basic framework" for gun legislation proposals.

Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat representing California's 15th district who has also been outspoken about gun reform, has appeared skeptical of taking a mental health approach without new firearms restrictions.

"If we accept our schools are not protected well enough, that not all police are trained to respond to a mass shooter, and that we have a severe mental health crisis in America, then why on earth would we want to add into that mix easy access to assault rifles?" Swalwell tweeted on May 27.

The president's position appears to be more nuanced than some of his Democratic colleagues and he may be hoping to find common ground with Republicans. The administration is also likely to believe an assault weapons ban is not possible in the evenly divided Senate.

Newsweek has asked the White House for comment.

Joe Biden Speaks About Gun Violence
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the recent mass shootings from the White House on June 02, 2022 in Washington, DC. Biden has said there is a "youth mental health crisis" in the U.S. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images