Mental illnesses are not the cause of the majority of gun violence in America. Individuals with serious mental illnesses are linked with less than 3 percent of major violence and people with mental illnesses are 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crimes.
For this and many other reasons, the conversation about mental illness being the underlying cause of gun violence needs to be stopped. It is not the driving factor behind gun violence and by continuing to discuss this avenue, American society is refusing to acknowledge other possible factors.
Every day, guns murder 34 people and injure 164 others. None of these injuries or deaths are necessarily due to mental illness. With terror attacks such as 9/11, suicide bombers in the middle east or the series of attacks in Europe, the discussion does not revolve around mental illness, it revolves around terrorism. Similarly to discussing murders or attacks, the discussion should not be about the person having a mental illness, but that the person committed a crime.
The dialogue about mental illness and guns completely overlooks the fact that every day people commit crimes, solely because they decided to do something bad. They weren’t suffering from a chemical imbalance or a brain injury. Some people chose to do something heinous and by attributing their decisions to mental illness, people undermine a person’s ability to know right from wrong. This degrades people with mental illnesses and makes them seem unbalanced and violent.
Many government officials, including President Trump, believe that mental health reform is the best way to combat gun violence, but this is not where politicians should focus their attentions. According to a report from the World Health Organization, one in four people suffer from mental illnesses and if every one of them were as violent as politicians claim, then there would be even more mass shootings than there already are.
While mental health reform can definitely help those who suffer from mental illnesses, it won’t prevent the mass shootings or large-scale gun violence that happens every day in the U.S. There are many factors that contribute to why people commit crimes. Officials should look at each of the shootings, what motivated these individuals to kill so many people and what allowed them to do this.
The Charleston shooter chose to go to a black church and kill many black people, because he was a racist and a terrorist, not a mentally ill person. The Pulse Nightclub shooter pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and was a homophobic terrorist. The San Bernardino attack was also ruled a terrorist attack by the FBI. One of the most historic mass shootings, the Columbine High School Massacre, still has no specific reason as to why the two students killed so many of their peers.
The Las Vegas shooter and the Parkland shooter are examples of only a few of the mass shooters who exhibited signs of mental illness or disturbing sides of their personalities. The common denominator is not mental illness, but the guns themselves.
Stating that mental illness is the cause of gun violence is a cop out. The conversation needs to be shifted because it will not adequately prevent mass shootings, and it stereotypes people with mental illnesses as violent, unbalanced individuals.