There's More to Mass Shootings Than Mental Health

The recent shooting in Florida and countless other similar tragedies that have happened in the past couple of years has reinvigorated the age old conversation about gun control. As the media and the public try to make sense of how something so evil could happen so often, they often discuss how such instances could be prevented. One of those preventable measures is better regulation of guns, and another seems to be regulation of the people who receive those guns--specifically those with mental illness. I’ve heard many arguments that claim that if we were to vet potential gun owners to rule out mental illness, we would have less instances of mass shootings.

Here’s my problem with the hyper focus on mental health when it comes to mass shootings, and violence in general; it perpetuates the idea that people with disability are inherently violent, that there is something about mental illness that predispositions them to commit violent acts. A big part of the picture is not failure to recognize mental illness, but a failure to assess it. A failure to provide the support needed for something like autism, and a failure on society's part to treat those with disability as normal members of society. I am in no way making excuses or justifying the heinous acts of those who commit violent crimes, but it has to be more complicated than the overly saturated narrative of :

Image result for Trumps tweets about Florida shooting(Courtesy of Trump's twitter)

Because so often, these instances ARE reported. Students whose teachers actually follow through when red flags are raised, are referred to school counselors who are also dealing with hundreds of other students. I’ve read too many articles that claim if mentally disabled individuals were to just utilize the systems in place, heartbreaking instances like that in Florida could’ve been avoided. But instead of blaming the individual for their failure to seek out support, maybe we should critique the systems in place, and look at the value of care that is actually being given. Once again, I AM NOT PITYING THE FLORIDA SHOOTER OR ANY OTHER PERSON WHO HURTS OTHERS.

I am simply suggesting that there are more complex factors going into this shooting epidemic, and we should be careful in promoting a singular narrative that suggests mental illness is correlated with violence. These correlations quickly become slippery slopes that lead to more detrimental ideas that suggest that those with mental illness and other disabilities need to be contained and regulated in order to secure public safety. 

After all, if we’re going to make a direct connection with mental illness and mass shootings, shouldn’t we also make a direct connection to mass shootings and white masculinity? Should we place a higher level of scrutiny on all white males, assuming they are the most predisposed to commit shootings? Obviously this is not the answer, but maybe it will help shine a light on the complexities of theses issues and the way the media characterizes them

 

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