After last Wednesdays shooting at a High School in Florida left 17 dead and 20 injured, and the over the 10 other mass shootings to happen this year has sparked heavy debate on common sense gun laws and mental health. But many health experts have warned that Mental Health isn’t the primary problem behind these shootings.
Trump’s argument was bolstered last year when it was revealed that Patrick Kelley who shot up a Church in Texas, had “suffered from mental disorders” and had escaped a psychiatric hospital more than five years ago. Then it was found that the most recent school shooter in Florida, Nickolas Curz, was also said to be know by the community as angry and aggressive.
The fact that the majority of Americans (63%) believe mass shootings in the US have more to do with mental health problems than gun control laws, health professionals warn that people should not draw a connection between mass shootings and mental illness.
Only about 3%-5% of violent acts in the US are committed by individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, and the percentage of crimes they commit with a gun “are lower than the national average for persons not diagnosed with mental illness,” according to findings published in the American Journal of Psychiatry back in 2015.
Studies have also found that the mentally ill are no more likely to become violent than a person without an illness, and that only one percent of violent acts committed by psychiatric patients involved killing a “target”.
“If we were able to magically cure schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, that would be wonderful, but overall violence would go down by only about four percent,” according to Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine, told ProPublica in a interview back in 2014.
The National Rifle Association, has capitalised on the public perception of the mentally ill. Following the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada in early October of 2017 that left 58 dead and more than 500 injured, NRA Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre also pointed to mental health.
Guns are easier to get than the American Dream:
A forensic psychiatrist at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and author of The Anatomy of Evil, has recently created a database of over 350 mass murderers dating back over a century.While Stone has found that around 20% of mass murderers have been severely mentally ill, he claims that the bigger problem is the accessibility of the weapons.In the Texas shooting for example, Kelley bought the firearms he allegedly used through a federally licensed firearms dealer, where the seller is legally required to conduct a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The 19 Nickolas Cruz that killed 17 people last week at a High School in Florida also purchased his firearm legally despite the FBI and local officials knowing he was a threat. People like this are able to get weapons for two reasons:
- Lax gun control laws
- Someone doesn’t follow protocol for submitting background information to the FBI.
His name was able to clear the system because the US Air Force admitted they failed to report Kelley’s domestic violence convictions to the FBI – a conviction that, according to federal law, bars an individual from buying a firearm.Researchers say, however, that even if Kelley’s history had been reported to the FBI, he would have still had a way around the system as not all legal firearm purchases in the US require a seller to conduct a background check, fill out a form, or even show ID.The US federal law currently only mandates background checks from firearm retailers with a federal license to sell. For private sales however that involve a seller without a federal license, including those at gun shows, only 19 out of 50 US states mandate a background check or a license or permit to buy a firearm.The private salesman argument has been around awhile and also is known as the “Gun Show Loophole”. These are holes in our legislation that need to be patched to keep guns out of the wrong hands.
According to a 2010 Department of Justice report, “…individuals prohibited by law from possessing guns can easily obtain them from private sellers and do so without any federal records of the transactions”.The NRA has effortlessly been lobbying against expanding gun laws, according to studies from both the Pew Research Center and the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research have found that the majority of Americans, 77%-85%, support background checks for private sales along with other gun-control measures. The NRA argues that “mental illness not the guns or background checks should be “the focus of any policy to address high-profile shootings”. But health experts have also pointed out that the group is also against expanding NICS to include “psychiatrist’s diagnosis, a doctor’s referral, or the option of a law enforcement officer … or seeking mental health treatment”.Including these individuals would be overreaching and “doing so would actually discourage troubled people from getting the help they need”, according to the NRA’s website.Analysts and researchers also highlight that while politicians are quick to blame mental health for mass shootings, Trump and other pro-gun politicians have not said they will increase funding for healthcare providers or mental health research.In his first months in office, Trump repealed a regulation, implemented by the previous administration, that banned gun sales to individuals with certain mental health diagnoses, including those receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses. Now this same administration is saying that mental health is part of the problem despite them removing a regulation that stopped some mentally ill from own firearms.The NRA is one of the largest lobbyists in United States politics and will prove to continue being an uphill battle for common sense gun laws. While pushing the idea that the government wants to ban and take away all guns.