Facts and Misdirection: Gun Violence and Mental Illness

I wanted to write an introduction on the criminalization of mental illness in my February posting. But there has been so much misinformation about the relationship of mental illness and gun violence in mass shootings that I am compelled to write to set the record straight. Here are the highlights of the true story on gun violence by people with mental illness.

The truth is that guns kill people and like it or not, we need effective gun control here in the US.  Focusing on people with mental illness as villains keeps us from tackling that fact, which is unpopular. Those for gun control know that we are up against the NRA and the politicians who kowtow to them.

According to research and experts on mental illness, as gathered and reported in the New York Times February 16th:

While gun violence experts have said that barring sales to people who are deemed dangerous by mental health providers could help prevent mass shootings, several more measures —including banning assault weapons and barring sales to convicted violent criminals—are more effective.

The Times also reported that Americans do not appear to have more mental health problems than other developed nations of comparable size, nations which experience far fewer mass shootings.

A 2016 study estimated that just 4 percent of violence is associated with serious mental illness alone. (National Institutes of Mental Health, National Institute of Health.)  Here is the conclusion of the study: ”Evidence is clear that the large majority of people with mental disorders do not engage in violence against others, and that most violent behavior is due to factors other than mental illness.”

A 2015 study found that less than 5 percent of gun-related killings in the US between 2001 and 2010 were committed by people with a diagnosis of mental illness.

So let’s stop being side-tracked by mental illness. Focus on the tough issue of gun control. Take on the protectors of the NRA!