U.S. and World » Gun Violence In the U.S. Isn't About Mental Health

Gun Violence In the U.S. Isn't About Mental Health

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Gun Violence and Mental Health

Most Americans support legislation to implement stricter gun control laws in the U.S. While Congress has not put forth any gun control restrictions, there seems to be a consensus about restrictng the capabilities of semi-automatic weapons, which includes banning bump stocks, silencers, and other devices that increase the effectiveness of high-powered assault weapons. Actually, many Americans believe in banning all assault weapons, but that will never happen because there are too many gun owners--both conservative and liberal--who would stage a massive revolution at the mere suggestion of it.

Gun violence in the U.S. is a social problem and has been for many decades. The U.S. Government has failed to enact adequate gun control measures for a variety of reasons, and the primary reason is money. To get elected, and to maintain their coveted seats after elected, many politicians have become dependent upon the deep coffers of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other lobbyists. These groups provide funds to help fill a seat with the candidate of their choice; a candidate who will--once in office--introduce bills and create laws in favor of those lobbyists.

The voices of NRA-backed, right-wing conservatives are no louder than gun control activists. Compreshensive gun control--as evidenced by the requirements and restrictions in other countries--saves lives. The lack of guns in European countries means fewer people are being shot, fewer emergency rooms see patients with bullet wounds, and fewer people die as a result.

Gun rights activists argue that guns don't kill people; rather, it's people killing people. After all, a gun can't fire itself--it needs a capable human being, with or without intent, to pull the trigger.

Sure-- people shoot and kill other people all the time--at least in America they do. But, it's not only shootings that result in a death; it's gun violence in general. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 467,321 persons were victims of a crime committed with a firearm in 2011. That number may be well over 500,000 by the end of 2018. For the same year (2011), data collected by the FBI show that firearms were used in 68 percent of murders, 41 percent of robbery offenses and 21 percent of aggravated assaults nationwide. Again, those numbers are a bit higher in the years leading up to 2018.

The bigger argument regarding people killing people focuses on mental health, and the type of individuals who would use a gun to maim or kill another human being. This isn't your garden variety street shooting or an armed robbery at the convenience store down the street. We are speaking specifically about people who use high-powered weapons to blast through schools, churches, movie theaters, or any public place where mass casualties may be the result of their actions.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia and approximately 2.6% of adults live with bipolar disorder. Another 5% live with mood disorders, including major depression and dysthymic disorder. NAMI also reports that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.--43.8 million, or 18.5%--experiences mental illness in a given year. These statistics are a sobering reminder that better mental health services are needed in our schools and workplaces. This is further evidenced by individuals living with serious mental illness who face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions. Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.

Gun rights activists also argue that most mass shootings are committed by individuals with mental issues, or those who do not have the mental capacity to own firearms. While many school shootings and gun-related mass killings have been carried out by individuals with mental illnesses, many have not. Those boys at Columbine didn't have mental issues. Neither did the Pulse Nightclub shooter, the Las Vegas shooter, or the shooter who killed nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. What all of them did have, however, was a lot of anger, hatred, and the desire to kill as many people as possible.

The mental health argument always surfaces when gun statistics reveal the truth about guns in America. The NRA and their supporters believe the U.S. is full of mentally deficient people, and if we could simply prevent them from acquiring guns and focus on fixing our broken mental health system, everything will be fine.

Here's the problem with that argument: Americans don't have any more or less "crazy" people than any other country in the world. But, we do have more guns.

(Assault rifles + mentally unstable people) or (Assault rifles + angry people) or (Assault rifles + any people) = gun violence. Period.

As long as politicians are beholden to the NRA, we will never see comprehensive gun control in the U.S. We will see are more mass shootings though.

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