Trump says Texas shooting due to 'mental health problem,' not a gun issue

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, Japan, November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said the mass shooting in a Texas church that left at least 26 people dead was due to a “mental health problem” and wasn’t “a guns situation.”

Asked what policies he might support in response to the shooting at a press conference in Tokyo, Trump said that based on preliminary reports, the gunman was “a very deranged individual, a lot of problems.”

“We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries. But this isn’t a guns situation,” he said. “Fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction.

“This is a mental health problem at the highest level,” he said. “It’s a very, very sad event.”

The lone gunman carrying an assault rifle opened fire Sunday after entering First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, about 65 km (40 miles) east of San Antonio, killing worshippers ranging in age from 5 to 72.

After the shooting, the suspect, described as a white man in his 20s, was fired on by a local resident. He fled in his vehicle and was later found dead in a neighboring county.

It was not immediately clear if the suspect killed himself or he was hit by gunfire by the resident, authorities said.

Trump is in Japan for the start of a 12-day trip through five Asian nations.

Reporting by Malcolm Foster; Editing by Nick Macfie