Another week. Another school shooting in America. I was surprised to find out that the Parkland massacre is the 18th gun related incident in a school is the US this year, apparently these occurrences are so common now that they don’t make the news. It seems it is only the death toll of the attack in Parkland, Florida, prompted the coverage. 17 students and teachers lost their lives. From an foreigner’s perspective, the second amendment appears absurd and antiquated. But according to the NRA, the lobbying group that line the pockets of politicians with millions of dollars, the right to bare arms overrides the right of children to go to school without being gunned down.
I’m not going to talk about how US gun laws, as there has been plenty said on the subject and I have nothing more insightful to add to the conversation. What I take umbrage with is Donald Trump and the Repulican party blaming this incident on mental health. It’s interesting that when an atrocity is committed by a muslim extremist, or anyone who isn’t white for that matter, there is no mention of mental health. Instead, right wingers from both sides of the Atlantic start frothing at the mouth, braying about how we need to tighten immigration laws. Of course, one could argue that no one in sane mind would commit mass murder. But the truth is that mentally ill people are far more likely to be the victims of gun violence than the perpetrators.
According to recent data, 92 people are killed by guns in the US every day and 58 of those deaths are as a result of suicide. The rest are homicides, accidents, police incidents and undetermined incidents. I find these numbers staggering. 90% of people who attempt suicide with a gun will die, where as only 10% of suicide attempts without firearms result in death. Suicide attempts are usually the culmination of a crisis, and most people who survive an attempt will not try to take their own life again, and will not die from suicide. To blame mass shootings on the mentally ill is to misunderstand and misrepresent the problem.
While the NRA wields massive power, there will be no meaningful or effective changes made to gun laws in the US. Trump has suggested that the solution to the problem of mass school shootings is to arm the teachers and train them in combat. This is a preposterous proposal and one that could lead to more gun violence, not less. If teachers are to be armed, what’s to stop a teacher from committing a massacre? Presumably, teachers will be also be subjected to mental health checks and if that is the case, no one with a mental illness will be allowed to teach. This would further discriminate and demonise people with mental illnesses. I’m sure the irony of this suggestion coming from the mouth of the man who proclaimed himself to be a ‘very stable genius’ is lost on no one. There is no reason why anyone with a mental illness should not be a teacher, providing that person is receiving the correct treatment, but this applies to all jobs across the spectrum.
The problem is not mental health itself, but putting guns into the hands of the the mentally unwell is dangerous. However, anyone who owns a gun is a potential murderer. Many of the daily deaths by fire arms in the US are a result of domestic disputes, drunkenness or road rage. The simple correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths is irrefutable. To blame the Parkland shooting on mental health is egregious and perpetuates stigma and the erroneous perception that people with metal illnesses are to be feared.
Feature image via Twitter.