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Please Stop Scapegoating People With Mental Illness After a Mass Shooting

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I have a mental illness: depression. Like Americans everywhere, I’m saddened (but not shocked) at the latest shooting in Florida. Once again, gun rights advocates are the pointing the finger at mental illness and holding it primarily responsible for this act of mass murder.

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety most of my life. However, having a mental illness does not make me a killer and I’m getting tired of being blamed for America’s gun violence epidemic. Yes, mass shooters likely have — or had — mental health problems. But please don’t confuse correlation with causality. If anything, easy access to these weapons of death makes it easier for us to commit acts of violence against ourselves. Gun-inflicted suicide rates outpace any other form of gun violence by huge margins, yet all our discourse seems to focus on “lone wolf” shooters with mental health problems. Why focus exclusively on their state of mind, to the exclusion of everything else? Mass shooters are exclusively male. Why aren’t we blaming an entire gender for the acts of a minuscule few? Mass shooters have a history of committing acts of violence against women. Should we hold women responsible for getting in the way of a violent man’s fist?

I’ve witnessed paranoid behavior in psychiatric hospitals, but I see even more of it on television and on the internet. Arm teachers? Students as paid actors? We can’t even get a universal background through Congress, never mind an assault weapons ban.

If Congress wants to do something about gun violence, I believe we should deal with the prevalence of guns instead of scapegoating people with mental illness. We’re stigmatized enough as it is. And if you really do want to address issues of mental illness in the United States, put your money where your mouth is. Get guns off the street and fully fund mental health care initiatives. We need clinics and care providers, not Glocks and AR-15s.

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Getty image via RobertoDavid

Originally published: April 2, 2018
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