President Trump in Morristown, N.J., on Aug. 15. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Opinion writer

You might recall in a post 10 days ago that I proclaimed myself unmoved by all the positive talk on background checks and other gun-control measures in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, earlier this month. My jaundiced reaction was because of an extensive track record of inaction on gun safety, despite horrific slaughters that literally cried out for the nation to do something. Anything.

So, imagine my pearl-clutching shock when President Trump proved me right by talking with his mouth full of word salad on the subject of gun control on Sunday. Here’s what he said on the tarmac at an airport in New Jersey before heading back to Washington to do what he does best: live tweeting Fox News and cyberbullying.

Reporter: What about gun control, Mr. President? Where does that stand?

Trump: So, Congress is working on that. They have bipartisan committees working on background checks and various other things. And we’ll see. I don’t want people to forget that this is a mental health problem. I don’t want them to forget that, because it is. It’s a mental health problem. And as I say — and I said the other night in New Hampshire; we had an incredible evening — I said: It’s the people that pull the trigger. It’s not the gun that pulls the trigger.

Moments later . . .

Reporter: Could just be a little clearer on the gun — your gun position? I don’t —

Trump: Which one?

Reporter: Your position on background checks and guns. What would you support exactly?

Trump: So, Congress is looking at it very strongly. Bipartisan. I put in certain parameters, which you somewhat know about. I’m also very, very concerned with the Second Amendment, more so than most presidents would be. People don’t realize we have very strong background checks right now. If you go in to buy a gun, you have to sign up. There are a lot of background checks that have been approved over the years. So I’ll have to see what it is.

But Congress is meeting. Bipartisan. A lot of people want to see something happen. But just remember this: Big mental problem, and we do have a lot of background checks right now.

Question: But you’re not willing to support universal background checks right now?

Trump: I’m not saying anything. I’m saying Congress is going to be reporting back to me with ideas. And they’ll come in from Democrats and Republicans. And I’ll look at it very strongly. But just remember, we already have a lot of background checks. Okay? Thank you.

The president is for background checks, but also we have enough background checks already. This is rhetorical three-card monte. Do you know which card is the money card? And then his sophomoric sound bite: “It’s not the gun that pulls the trigger.” Excuse me while I scream into a pillow. And then there’s the “mental health problems” dodge.

I’m not minimizing the danger of the mentally ill getting access to guns and then doing harm to themselves or others. But the president is repeating a tiresome and destructive tradition. He’s making craven use of a serious issue that no one is debating to ignore the wishes of an overwhelming majority of the American public. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday showed 75 percent approved of “expanding background checks to all firearm sales and transfers.”

And when it comes to the slaughter in El Paso, the president’s insistence that we look at the shiny object of mental health requires us to ignore the evil that motivated the confessed white supremacist mass murderer. How his rage over an “invasion” by immigrants led him to drive more than 600 miles to target “Mexicans” for slaughter. Only someone wilfully ignorant would believe that the evils of white supremacy, racism and xenophobia played no role in the horror of El Paso. Only a crazy person would keep harping about mental illness rather than focusing on our permissive access to guns.

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Read more:

Jennifer Rubin: Trump’s predictable cave on gun safety has arrived

Fred Hiatt: There’s never been a president like Trump. Just look at his gun-control record.

Paul Waldman: Trump says he wants to pass gun legislation. But he’s not up to the task.

The Post’s View: No, Mr. Trump. Guns are the reason for mass shootings.