On Friday, the president and first lady left for a weekend trip to France to celebrate Armistice Day. While on the White House lawn, the president answered questions from reporters. During the press gaggle, the president discussed the tragic shooting that took place at a bar in southern California, claiming the lives of 12 people this week.
The man who entered the bar and opened fire, murdering 12 people, Ian David Long, died in the shooting. He was a Marine who served 7 months in Afghanistan. He did not ever seek treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Friday morning, the president suggested that Long’s military service led to PTSD that may have caused him to kill people in the bar. The president’s statement is raising concern with veterans’ groups who are concerned that attributing terroristic mass violence to PTSD that results from military service will serve to stigmatize soldiers and hinder their ability to receive treatment.
The President said Friday, “He was a war veteran, he was a Marine, he was in the war. He served time, he saw some pretty bad things. And a lot of people say he had the PTSD.” Trump continued, “It’s a big problem. People come back, that’s why it’s a horrible thing. They come back, they’re never the same.”
Veterans groups have worked for years to remove the stigma associated with mental health treatment for soldiers, especially those returning from combat. Joe Chenelly is the national director of AMVETS. He said of the president’s comments, “The president’s remarks were troubling. We reached out this morning to White House staff we regularly work with on veterans issues, making it clear the president’s remarks were counterproductive to what we are all trying to accomplish in mental health and veterans health care.”
The national commander of the American Legion, Brett Reistad, called the shooting “tragic beyond words.” He said that the tragedy should not distract from necessary work with veterans. He said, “The overwhelming majority of combat veterans, with or without PTSD, adjust well and continue to be responsible citizens as they transition back to civilian society.” He added, “It would be extremely unfair to associate them with such an evil act.”
Asked about the Thousand Oaks shooting, Trump frames the whole thing as "a mental health issue," swats down a question about gun control pic.twitter.com/Z3S8xNwSw7
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 9, 2018