AP FACT CHECK: Trump distorting his record on gun control

Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump speaks about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

AP FACT CHECK: Trump is distorting his record when it comes to gun control and a commitment to mental health treatment

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is distorting his record when it comes to gun control.

Speaking out this week against two mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, Trump asserted that his accomplishments in stemming gun violence stand out compared with previous presidents. He also suggested an unwavering commitment to improving mental health treatment.

In both cases, his words haven't matched reality.

A look at the claims:

TRUMP: "We have done much more than most administrations. ...We've done, actually, a lot." — remarks Sunday to reporters.

THE FACTS: Trump's record on gun control is not groundbreaking.

Congress has proven unable to pass substantial gun violence legislation, despite the frequency of mass shootings, in large part because of resistance from Republicans, particularly in the GOP-controlled Senate. That political dynamic seems difficult to change.

It's true that after other mass shootings Trump called for strengthening the federal background check system, and in 2018 he signed legislation to increase federal agency data sharing into the system. In December 2018, the Trump administration also banned bump stocks, the attachments that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns and were used during the October 2017 shooting massacre in Las Vegas.

But he has rolled back some restrictions, reneged on pledges and resisted Democratic calls to toughen other gun control laws.

Within weeks of taking office, Trump scrapped a federal rule imposed by President Barack Obama that could have made it harder for some mentally ill people to own guns. Under the rule, the Social Security Administration was supposed to provide information to the gun-buying background check system on recipients with a mental disorder so severe they cannot work or handle their own benefit checks. The rule didn't make certain people ineligible to buy a firearm, but was designed to ensure the background check system was comprehensive. Republican lawmakers and gun advocates criticized the regulation for reinforcing a stereotype that people with a mental disorder are dangerous.

In February, the House approved bipartisan legislation to require federal background checks for all gun sales and transfers and approved legislation to allow a review period of up to 10 days for background checks on firearms purchases. The White House threatened a presidential veto if those measures passed Congress.

At a February meeting with survivors and family members of the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting in which 17 people died, Trump promised to be "very strong on background checks." Trump claimed he would stand up to the gun lobby and finally get results in quelling gun violence. But he later retreated, expressing support for modest changes to the federal background check system and for arming teachers.

Some Democrats have called for even stronger measures such as renewing a federal ban on assault weapons, which was put in place during the Clinton administration before it expired under President George W. Bush. Trump has shown no interest in taking up that issue.

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TRUMP: "We must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people not only get treatment, but, when necessary, involuntary confinement." — remarks Monday.

THE FACTS: His words don't match his past actions.

Trump's budgets would have slashed the federal-state Medicaid program, which provides health insurance for more than 70 million low-income and disabled people and is also the major source of public funds for mental health treatment.

Such proposals failed to advance in Congress, even when both chambers were under Republican control.

The president's 2020 budget does call for some spending increases on smaller mental health programs, including an increase of $15 million, for a total of $107 million, to expand school-based programs. The Parkland shootings last year at a Florida high school heightened sensitivity to the mental health needs of students.

But such increases for specific programs pale in comparison to the impact of Medicaid cuts. This year Trump again proposed to turn the program over to the states, limiting future federal financing. That would have led to a cut of about $1.4 trillion over 10 years from currently projected levels of federal spending.

The administration says that's not really a cut, since spending would have continued to grow, just more slowly. But limits on federal financing would have forced states to confront hard choices over competing priorities like mental health or addiction treatment, nursing home costs or prenatal care for low-income women.

In 2017, Medicaid covered 2.9 million low-income adults under 65 with serious mental illness, or 28% of nearly 11 million Americans with serious mental illness, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of the latest government data available. People with serious mental illness covered by Medicaid were more likely to receive any mental health treatment than those with private insurance dealing with similar conditions. With deep Medicaid cuts, it's possible that many more mentally ill people would have been uninsured.

As a candidate, Trump had originally promised that he would not cut Medicaid.

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Pane reported from Boise, Idaho. Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report.

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