It’s the anniversary of several mass shootings and with the most recent congressional baseball game incident, gun rights has come back into the news.
This topic has always frustrated me. And here’s why.
The Pew Research Center recently did a survey and found that 89% of their respondents strongly or somewhat favored preventing the mentally ill from purchasing guns. (link: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/06/22/americas-complex-relationship-with-guns/ ) In other words, most Americans are associating mental illness with gun violence. And that simply is not true.
Those with mental illnesses are no more violent towards others than those without mental illness. Certainly there is the issue of harm towards themselves, but that’s a different topic altogether. Here we’re talking about people jumping on the “oh he was a wacko/crazy, or he was psychotic, or he had to be seriously mentally ill” bandwagon every time a mass shooting occurs. Then they try to make laws restricting mentally ill people from buying guns.
Which mental illnesses? I’m sure lots of people will say schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (due to how Hollywood depicts us), maybe depression, but what about ADHD/ADD, eating disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, autism spectrum disorders? They’re all in the DSM. If we count every mental illness that is in the psychiatrists’ book, that encompasses way too much of the American population. Some might say just ban people with “severe/serious mental illnesses” (SMI) from purchasing guns. SMIs are defined by law anyway (I can rant about this all day too).
How exactly do they expect to check whether you have a “restricted” mental illness before selling the gun? Demand a letter from a physician? So much for health privacy. Apparently that only applies to those with real medical diseases. Let’s perpetuate that stigma against mental illness, shall we?
Don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely no interest in owning a gun. I live in the safest neighborhood in my city, but I can understand if people who do not have that luxury (or perhaps like to go hunting) would choose to buy one.
I think everyone who owns a gun should be properly trained, practice regularly at ranges, and pass annual safety tests. However, I will not deny someone who has no criminal history the right to purchase a gun simply for having an arbitrarily-defined group of medical diseases. The ACLU and several other mental health and disability advocates agree with me, but the media and general population seems to have other ideas. I’ll just leave you with this article from a couple months ago: