Patience: Don’t Blame Mental Illness for Mass Shootings


By Alisa Patience

“It wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.” The famous last line in multiple “King Kong” adaptations perfectly represents the contrasting views people hold of gun violence, which caused the death of 17 students in Florida earlier this month. President Donald Trump and many other right-winged citizens have concluded the problem behind this shooting and others like it is not easy access to firearms, but mental health. Trump has repeatedly called the shooter in Florida, Nikolas Cruz, a “sicko,” which Cruz is, but not for the reasons Trump means.

It appears that Cruz’s attorney is having Cruz play the role of a broken kid who is sorry. He is playing up the fact that Cruz has a mental illness and has had a sad life as if it is somehow an excuse for what he did. It isn’t.

Twenty percent of American adults have a mental health condition and 14.5 percent live in poverty. How many students reading this story have some kind of mental illness or have lost a parent, yet would never consider murdering innocent students? Research has shown there is not a direct link between mental illness and gun violence or violence in general. Cruz has a history of being mentally unstable and socially troubled, but correlation is not causation.

Trump addresses Cruz as a “sicko” because he is mentally unstable. He fails to recognize Cruz may have been pushed by other motives, like anger, power, lack of respect, etc., which may not classify as diagnosable mental illnesses. Trump’s evaluation is both ignorant and close-minded and the fact Cruz killed 17 students with a gun seems completely lost on our president as he fails to acknowledge this tragedy could have been avoided had Cruz been unable to get a gun in the first place.

Blaming violence on mental health issues is wrongfully shifting the blame. Most serial killers and murderers do not have a diagnosable mental illness.

No amount of mental health care could have prevented Cruz from taking a gun to those students, so Trump should stop using mental illness as a way of avoiding gun control. And it isn’t like the current administration is doing much to aid in mental health, anyway, so unless he has plans for the future in that regard, maybe he should avoid the excuse. To me it seems as though Trump is reverting to age-old conservative views without having any real support for them. And his ideas and claims will not end the recent trends of mass shootings.

If you ask me, gun control is our best bet at a reasonable defense against gun violence. After all, it was a plane that killed the beast, it was a gun that killed the students.

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