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Don't Blame the Mentally Ill for Gun ViolenceRalph Stone, Salem-News.com Commentary
Mental illness sufferers are far more likely to be the victims of violence than perpetrators of violence.
(SAN FRANCISCO, CA.) - “Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger. Not the gun,” said Trump after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, that left 31 people dead and many wounded.
“Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger. Not the gun,” Trump said again; federal health officials made sure no government experts contradicted him.
Now anytime there is gun violence, especially a mass shooting, the mantra adopted by opponents of gun control, unfairly point the finger at mental illness, not guns, as the cause.
This is unfair to those suffering from mental illness as research shows that of all the violence that occurs in the United States, 96% is due to risk factors other than mental illness. In fact, people with mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violence than perpetrators of violence.
The very modest Bipartisan Safer Communities Act recently signed by President Biden will help states administer red flag laws; closes the so-called boyfriend loophole by barring individuals from possessing a firearm for at least five years if they are convicted of a misdemeanor crime of violence involving a current or former romantic partner; enhances background checks for gun purchasers between the age of 18 and 21(but not those older); and makes obtaining firearms through straw purchases or trafficking a federal offense.
The Act also provides about $11 billion to improve mental health programs. While money for mental illness programs is needed considering that less than half of Americans with a mental disorder get adequate treatment. It is unlikely, however, the Act will noticeably curb the gun violence in this country.
Jeffrey Swanson, a psychiatry professor at the Duke University School of Medicine who studies the intersection of gun violence and mental illness said of the Act, "It’s kind of a gun safety law wrapped in a mental health bill."
Clearly, despite the Act, "the right of the people to keep and bear arms” as interpreted by the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller will continue to trump public health and safety.
Recommendation: I highly recommend the two-part documentary Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness shown on PBS where executive producer Ken Burns presents both the obstacles faced by those who live with mental disorders and their hope for a better life.
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