OPINION: Stop Blaming Mental Illness For Gun Violence
Chris Agard | March 2, 2018, 12:36 a.m.
Many lawmakers claim that mass shootings are a product of mental illness, implying that there is no hope in stopping this epidemic that has plagued our country. Many believe that no type or amount of legislation can aid our wounded nation. These beliefs are simply egregious and infuriating.
No developed country in the world sees as much gun violence as the United States. Between 1966 and 2012, the United States experienced 90 mass shootings. The country with the next most mass shootings during that time frame had 18.
Our generation has grown up with lockdown drills — in the case of an active assailant on campus — alongside their fire drills at school. This is an issue that many either do not know how to handle, are prevented from handling, or choose not to for their own ulterior motives.
Oftentimes, it is reported that the perpetrators of these mass shootings experience some sort of mental illness. The validity of these claims are highly questionable, but even if they are true, mass shooters have far more in common than just that. If this were truly a problem of mental illness, the people who commit these crimes would not be just men. They would also not be just white.
I am not arguing that mental health does not deserve attention. However, when a politician does nothing to support programs that aid those with mental health issues and, in fact, blames mass shootings on mental illness, the politician’s own lack of action is blatant.
The toxic combination of white male aggression and mental illness has proven a deadly equation that our legislators and culture have helped defend. Donald Trump became president because of a platform that pandered to an irrational white male aggression.
Regulations must be made stricter for all Americans intending to purchase guns, not just mentally ill people. Trump and Republicans in Congress have actively made access to guns as easy as possible for Americans, which only puts other Americans in danger.
Furthermore, our country has bred men, including myself — but especially white men — to act and think dangerously. This aggression can be seen throughout American history, during slavery, the days of lynching, and today in the age of irrational gun violence.
“We must also work together to create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life,” said Trump after the Parkland shooting.
This is not possible when it is clear that our country and president only embrace the dignity of the lives of select Americans. He has certainly proven that he has no concern for the sanctity of my life as a black male.
The issue of mass shootings may be about mental health, but only to a slight degree. Productive solutions can only be made through stricter gun laws.
Putting guns in schools and arming teachers is an absurd concept, and it is shameful that the president has even proposed this idea. The militarization of public schools, effectively turning them into prisons, would only be a good idea in the sense that might possibly get the funding that is imperative to their success. However, there are other ways to fund schools, ones that will not put children and young people at risk.
There are many tweets and online posts about the strict regulations made by Australia lawmakers after a mass shooting in the 1990s. This is not necessarily the best example, given that the number of guns purchased in Australia was less than the number of guns that have been bought in the United States and that the importation of guns to the country is more challenging because it is an island. However, it is a good start, as regulation is the only way we can see any progress in the safety of our schools and general populace.
Solving this dilemma will take much more than mimicking Australian policy, and it most certainly will require more than the current inaction of policymakers. It will require partisan action, American ingenuity, and a lack of involvement by the National Rifle Association.
I am angered to see that my peers and I have become desensitized to these horrifying acts of violence that are anything but normal.
America deserves a future unlike its past, one that sees less devastation and one that, as our president said, embraces the dignity of life.
Chris Agard CM ’21 is an International Relations major from Atlanta, GA. In his free time, he enjoys eating burritos from Chipotle.