In the wake of the violent, deadly mass shootings that have been occurring across the United States, the American people are begging for a solution on how to lower gun violence and increase gun safety. The politicized topic of gun regulation has been in question for decades but still, no major strides towards a solution have come to the surface. Events such as Sandy Hook, Pulse nightclub, and now the recent attack in the small town, Texas church all add to the list of some of the deadliest massacres our nation has faced. Many are pointing the finger to mental health, claiming that we must implement stronger restrictions to gun access for those who are mentally ill. Is there a direct relationship between mental health and mass shootings?
We must first look at the current processes put in place that prevent certain individuals from obtaining a firearm. Regulations vary from state to state so there is no blanket law for gun access. Some states have a waiting period in place while others, like Virginia, can sell you a gun in less than ten minutes. Where many fall through the cracks is during the process of a background check. Stores, in most states, will run a federal and state background check screening for felony charges, individuals who are considered fugitives, or those who have been convicted of domestic violence. A loophole to avoid background checks is obtaining a gun through a private seller. In 39, states, private sellers can sell a firearm without performing a single background check.
In terms of mental illness, many diagnoses of anxiety, depression, and ADHD have no correlation to violent behavior. Statisticians and researchers have been unable to prove whether mental illness can be blamed as the cause, nor whether it can be predictive of future mass shootings. One in five United States citizens has a diagnosable mental disorder yet only one in twenty gun homicides are carried out by those with a mental health problem. There are also chronicled stories of Americans with ADHD going through the process of obtaining a gun and going through the required courses to get a carrying permit as well. Yet, it seems that the small percentage of people who are mentally ill seems to be taking the blame politically and socially rather than openly discussing the issue of gun safety.
If society and the political ecosystem are going to blame mental illness for mass shootings, we can not amend laws restricting those individuals from obtaining guns. We also can not deprive these individuals of access to proper healthcare. While mental health may be a portion of the problem, there are other strategies we must implement to lower the amount of gun violence in America. For example, when the automobiles were introduced, it took small steps to improve their safety. Seat belts, to car seats, to airbags were all introduced throughout the past fifty years to slowly increase the safety of vehicles. America did not ban cars because they were dangerous, we took measure to increase safety technology, introduced driver’s education, and created federal standards. Like cars, guns are not going away anytime soon. It is our responsibility to not place blame or politicize the subject but to view this problem in America as a public health crisis that needs increased safety measures.