Columns / Discourse / October 14, 2015

Gun violence not the result of mental health negligence

In the wake of the Oregon shooting, I believe that mental illness is not a justifiable excuse for the prevalence of school shootings. The purpose of appealing to mental illness is to be the scapegoat for those who would rather hold on to their precious guns than make any serious progress. The United States is the only developed country that witnesses a mass shooting every few months. When these events occur, we look to Australia and the serious strides they’ve made in preventing unnecessary violence.

After 35 people were killed in Australia’s Port Arthur massacre, the Australian government enacted laws which required all guns to be individually registered and enforced all gun owners to hold a genuine reason for their ownership. Since then, a massacre like Port Arthur has not repeated itself in Australia.

But after Sandy Hook, Roseburg and the myriad of other school shootings, Jeb Bush says, “Stuff happens,” and Bobby Jindal wants us to grieve first before taking action.

But when is the right time, if not now? Most congressmen and women argue to enhance mental health services before enacting stricter gun laws, but that would only lead to increased funding for these social programs, something they refuse to do.

Of course, society would be better off if we improved the lives of those who live with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or any other mental illness, but discussion only ever happens in the wake of another mass shooting.

“The debate only comes up after the problem has happened which stigmatizes mental illness,” senior Nate Moore, public relations for Knox Advocacy for Awareness of Mental Illness (KAAMI), said.

In fact, I do encourage society to be more open to the discussion of mental illness, but when it is brought up after a massacre, we will unfortunately correlate violence with the mentally ill.

“We now treat the mentally ill as ‘other’,” senior Chase Skarda, Vice President of KAAMI said.

Although there is a possibility that violence could be caused by the mentally ill, the mentally ill are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators.

“The mentally ill are more likely to hurt themselves than to hurt others, anyway,” junior Kristina Mengis, Event Coordinator of KAAMI said.

By now, it is clear that the perpetrators like Dylann Roof and Christopher Harper-Mercer were not mentally ill, but actually white supremacists and misogynists. Roof wanted to start a “race war” and Harper-Mercer ranted about dying a virgin. These young men were not mentally ill but instead full of hatred and had access to guns.

“This debate has been going on for a while and nothing has happened. So it really shows you where Congress’ priorities are,” senior Ellen Lipo, President of KAAMI said.

Even if Congress ever decides to improve mental health programs, it should happen because people deserve better options rather than society being afraid of them. Easy access to guns is the issue that should be focused on because not all mentally ill people exhibit violent behaviors. On the other hand, violent people will definitely exhibit violent behaviors.

“Research shows that the strongest predictors of violence are a history of victimization or substance abuse and living in a violent environment,” Sara Stasik-O’Brien, Assistant Professor of Psychology said. “After a mass shooting we want an explanation, but to blame it on mental illness is a broad generalization. It is a fairly weak argument.”

 

Connie Meade

Tags:  gun control gun violence mental health mental illness oregon shooting Sandy Hook

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