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Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas attributed the rise in mass shootings, in part, to mental-health issues.
Abbott previously said the suspect in Tuesday's attack did not have a known mental illness.
"Is there a difference between a mental-health challenge that can be addressed and evil?" he said.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas attributed the rise in mass shootings to mental-health challenges, despite previously saying that the shooting suspect in a Tuesday elementary-school attack that left 21 people dead did not have a known history of mental illness.
In a Wednesday press conference, Abbott provided updated information on the gunman who fatally shot 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday.
"The gunman was 18 years old and reportedly a high-school dropout. Reportedly, there has been no criminal history identified yet," Abbott said. "He may have had a juvenile record, but that is yet to be determined."
He added: "There is no known mental-health history of the gunman."
But minutes later, when asked a question about the role that Texas gun laws might have played in the gunman's ability to purchase the weapons he used in the massacre, Abbott pivoted the conversation away from guns and back to mental health.
The Republican governor began by emphasizing that the ability of an 18-year-old to purchase a long gun had been a Texas law for more than 60 years.
"Why is it for the majority of those 60 years, we did not have school shootings? And why is it that we do now?" Abbott said.
Despite acknowledging that he didn't have any easy answers, Abbott continued, offering an explanation.
"What I do know, in talking to the leaders here, as well as leaders around the state, one thing that has substantially changed is the status of mental health in our communities," he said. "We, as a state, we, as a society, need to do a better job with mental health."
He added: "Anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental-health challenge, period."
Later in the press conference, Abbott doubled down on the importance of mental health.
The governor said the Uvalde area is part of region in Texas with no mental-health hospital and that it's facing a shortage of beds for mental-health crises. People who are suicidal or facing mental-health challenges often have to travel as far as San Antonio, which is approximately 85 miles east of Uvalde, to get help, he said.
"We, as a government, need to find a way to target the mental-health challenge and do something about it," Abbott said, adding that there was a need for a physical mental-health-care facility in the region.
Facing a follow-up question on the role of the shooter's mental health, Abbott backtracked a bit, saying someone "demented" enough to kill children went beyond "a mental-health issue." He called the gunman the "sheer face of evil itself."
"I'm not a doctor. I can't classify these things, and I don't know the extent that mental health would be able to address someone who has challenges," Abbott said. "There could have been a time earlier in his life where there was a more typical mental-health issue that could have been addressed."
He added: "Is there a difference between a mental-health challenge that can be addressed and evil? I don't know."
Despite his calls for greater mental health support, Abbott just last month cut $211 million from the Texas state department that oversees mental health programs, NBC News reported. The state also ranked dead last for overall access to mental health care in State of Mental Health in America's 2021 report.
The governor went on to push back against gun-related questions, saying that tougher gun laws were not a "real solution" to the epidemic of mass shootings in the US.
Read the original article on Insider