Photo of the peace tenet outside the White House
credit: Peace Tent protest at Lafayette Square. Photo by Gwynette Smith

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof walked into a church carrying a gun, killed nine people, and injured a tenth. The shooting was an act of terrorism, an act of racial hatred, and a national tragedy. And according to most on the right, it was avoidable. Even our new president seemed to acknowledge this just after Virginia reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were gunned down on camera in 2015: “This isn’t a gun problem,” he said. “[I]t’s a mental problem.”

Many Americans agree with the president. A 2015 ABC News poll claims that 63 percent of American believe that mass shootings are not a gun issue, but a mental health problem. The NRA has strongly pushed this narrative, with Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre arguing after the Navy Yard shooting in 2013, “We have a mental health system in this country that has completely and totally collapsed. We have no national database of these lunatics.”

So let’s take the president at his word, and the NRA at theirs. Let’s “go after people with serious mental illness,” as Senator Ted Cruz suggested during his primary campaign. If mental illness is the real culprit here, we need to root it out and remove the danger.

But if everyone seems to agree that those suffering from significant mental illnesses should be barred from access to guns, what about tanks? Combat aircraft? Cruise missiles? Intercontinental ballistic missiles? The ability to end life on planet Earth?

Questioning our new president’s mental state is nothing new. And while his followers once explained away the unbalanced things he said and did as the despicable “locker room talk” of the campaign trail, even his most ardent supporters expected the Oval Office to be a sobering influence. Even they must be disappointed as the lies, tantrums and conspiracy theories just keep pouring out each day.

His obsession with even minor criticism, his lack of empathy and his rage have been on display from the start. He has consistently lashed out at anyone who dares question him – calling for violence at his rallies, attacking the press at every opportunity and rage-tweeting at 3 a.m. Most recently, he has called for an investigation into what he believes are 3 to 5 million cases of voter fraud during the election, a claim that literally everyone around him says cannot possibly be true, but which he maintains anyway, likely due to an inability to accept the simple numerical truth of the popular vote numbers.

His anger, coupled with his ability to perceive a slight from miles away, and his complete inability to pull a punch, leaves most Americans somewhere between perplexed and terrified about our future. What actions might he take if he feels insulted by another nation, or another nuclear power? I have faith in the fact that he must have a line he isn’t willing to cross, that he wouldn’t kill my family and yours to protect his ego. But the thing is, if we look at his history, we see no evidence that tells us he wouldn’t cross that line.

Simply put, whether it’s a narcissistic personality disorder or an antisocial personality disorder or something else, the simple fact is that our president may be suffering from a mental illness of some kind. His personality has been called “extreme” for decades, but few have been willing to call him ill — probably because his reaction would be to use every ounce of his wealth and power to destroy anyone who opposes him, burning villages and salting the earth in his wake.

But he works for us now, and I think it’s time we took a look under the hood. And if I’m right, we need to do what the NRA and Trump himself said we should: remove his ability to become the biggest mass shooter in human history.

Brett Pransky contributes writing to the Columbus, Ohio street paper, StreetSpeech. He is a professor, a writer and a dad, not necessarily in that order. You can email him at [email protected]