Shanmugam says mental health cannot be blamed for mass shootings

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K. Shanmugam, minister of foreign affairs of Singapore, addresses in a meeting Reuters

Singapore's Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam, while commenting on Florida mass shooting, said in a Facebook post on Sunday that mental health issues are not to be blamed for the proliferation of mass shootings in the United States. He noted that the US is "a great country that cannot protect its most innocent – young children in school".

He said: "More Americans have died from gunshots in the last 50 years than in all of the wars in American history.

"It's wrong to blame mental health. There are people with mental health issues in every country, including Singapore. America is not alone in having such people," the minister wrote.

This statement comes days after a 19-year-old shooter Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at a Florida high school in the deadliest mass shooting at a US high school on Wednesday. Reports said that the shooter was armed with an assault rifle.

The mass murderer was arrested at Coral Springs, a neighbouring city, about an hour after fleeing the crime scene. He had slipped out of the building by mixing in with crowds of panicky students.

US President Donald Trump along with other leaders in Congress have linked mental illness to this latest mass killing incident. They suggested that it was the public's responsibility to warn officials of such dangers.

Shanmugam said that there have been eight school shootings and at least 30 mass shootings in the US within the seven weeks since the year started. He added that he has met mentally unstable people at meet-the-people sessions who were "full of anger, wanting to hit out at someone".

"If they had access to assault rifles, which can mow down dozens in a minute, I can imagine what might happen," the Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC wrote on Facebook.

The minister also said that though the majority of Americans want gun control, a strong lobby for those who want free access to guns have channelled money to congressmen and other influential persons. In this way, they have had more power than the majority in the country.

"They can block any legislation that seeks to control people from buying assault rifles," Shanmugam wrote. "It baffles me that people are freely allowed to buy submachine guns, in an urban environment."