US President Donald Trump said he believes the deadly Texas church shooting was caused by a "mental health problem", and not guns, and Twitter swiftly ripped into him for it. At least 26 people were killed on Sunday (5 November) when a lone gunman carrying an assault rifle opened fire after entering the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The victims ranged in age from 5 to 72.
The shooter was identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelly, who was dressed in black tactical gear and a ballistic vest when he began firing during the 11:00am church service. He reportedly dropped his weapon and fled when a local resident fired on him using his own gun. He was later found dead with a gunshot wound inside his vehicle in a neighbouring county.
When asked about policies he may look into in response to the latest shooting, Trump described the gunman as a "very deranged individual with a lot of problems". He added that the shooting represented a "mental health problem at the highest level".
"I think that mental health is a problem here. Based on preliminary reports, this was a very deranged individual with a lot of problems over a very long period of time," Trump said during a joint press conference with Japanese President Abe Shinzo in Japan, the first stop in his maiden tour of the Asian-Pacific region.
"We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries, but this isn't a guns situation... we could go into it but it's a little bit soon to go into it. Fortunately, somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it wouldn't have been as bad as it was, it would have been much worse.
"This is a mental health problem at the highest level. It's a very sad event... these are great people at a very, very sad event, but that's the way I view it."
The church massacre on Sunday comes a little over a month after the horrific shooting at a concert in Las Vegas – the deadliest shooting in recent US history – saw 58 people killed and many others injured.
As many social media users, including a few Democrats, renewed calls for gun reform, Twitter slammed the president's "tame" response to Sunday's shooting and for blaming it on "mental health problems" rather than guns. Many argued that "thoughts and prayers" were not enough and called on the US Congress to take action against gun violence in the country.
"Being mentally ill didn't kill those people. Bullets did," one Twitter user said, while another slammed Trump as a "spineless coward" for not talking about gun control.
"The difference in your reactions, depending on who and how they committed the crime, is absolutely disgusting," one person tweeted.
Dr Martin Luther King's daughter Bernice King tweeted, "If it would save just ONE life, isn't examining and changing our gun laws worth it? What is prayer without consciousness?"
Senator Kamala Harris wrote, "Senseless gun violence has torn apart another community – this time in a house of worship. When do we say enough is enough?"