Gun Control And Mental Health Education Must Be Addressed

Wow it’s been a pretty awful 48 hrs or so. You can’t go anywhere w/o hearing abt the mass shootings: two back-to-back, & a third in California that happened not too long before. 


There’s a TON of finger pointing going on…& unfortunately in a country that has a two party system, each w their heels dug in, it’s hard to separate out 1) what changes are being asked for, for the good of the ppl, vs 2) what’s changes are being ask for to appease constituents &/or special interest groups, on the path toward getting more votes. It’s sad that this is how I & millions of others feel, but we do have to question the motives.


Instead of coming together arnd a topic that needs our immediate attn bc of the countless innocent lives lost, there’s so much finger pointing going on, that nothing is getting done. I hate that. My goal here is to try to lay out most of the factors involved, so that you can decide how you believe we should act in the face of these horrific trends in mass shootings.


In mental health advocacy, it’s counterproductive to take political sides. We have major issues that need fixing, & we need to come together. I’m painting VERY broadly here, for the purposes of example, but the simplest explanation as to what each “side” wants, looks like the following:


The left wants comprehensive gun reform – background checks & limits to the types of weapons that can be sold, so that the access to these weapons are limited & those who are motivated to perpetrate these crimes have a difficult time getting their hands on such weapons.  


The right on the other hand, wants to limit access to some of these weapons from the “mentally ill” by screening based on diagnosis, etc. Their thought is, “these folks” are the ones involved in carrying out these acts, & so by limiting only them, you are making us safer, & you aren’t taking away any of the rights of gun owners who aren’t a “risk.” 


Diving deeper – & again painting with a broad brush, there is no denying that a BIG reason for the motivation of each “side,” centers arnd the constituents they represent, the special interests groups who support them financially, & the votes they are trying to secure.  If you don’t believe that pandering toward votes & special interest groups are a big part of why we are so divided on this issue, I have some land to sell you. I wish there was 100% altruism on both sides.


There is not.


Diving even deeper, here’s my issue with each “side’s” take & why we aren’t finding any resolution. I’ll start with the right. Their path towards fixing this problem 1) puts the blame on – & I’m quoting here – “the mentally ill & the sickos” that we must keep the guns out of the hands of. This way of thinking is problematic for many reasons. 


1) It sets MH progress back tremendously. By pinning the blame on the mentally ill & calling them sickos, they are making it appear like ppl are just born as sickos, are societies outcasts, & that they are THE problem. 


2) This type of thinking also creates the perception that anyone w a MH complication is capable of these actions. There are many hundreds of millions of ppl, even at the disorder level, who would never take these actions. The choice of the wording on the right is very hurtful here – towards the progress being made in MH advocacy & overall openness arnd the topic.


With respect to the left, here’s my issue – gun law changes ALONE are not getting at the root cause of the issue. WHY are ppl turning violence? How can we help beyond just taking away weapons? Why aren’t we working to understand how these ideations & even ideologies develop. I guess it goes down to what you consider comes under the umbrella of “mental health.” In my opinion – MH stretches across everything from how you’re treated in school & at home/by your friends, where you turn to for your feelings of belonging, & why you develop the behavioral thinking patterns that you do. 


This is NOT as simple, on either side, as whether someone “gets guns/rifles or not.” It’s also not as simple as whether someone is “mentally ill” or not. 



Think about how often we hear abt suicides where – “you never would have known that person was struggling.” We have MANY millions of ppl who have had their MH effected – who have NO diagnoses, either bc they haven’t gone to a doc, or they wouldn’t be considered at the disorder level. Would the proposed changes above, prevent all these folks from getting guns?  What happens if we take assault rifles away, & ppl who are filled w hate have other means for committing these heinous acts, as technology improves & explosives can be carried more easily.  Would those gun law changes above, being proposed, fix the problem? The answer to all, is no.


I don’t agree w those organizations saying that MH can’t be talked about during these times, bc of how it further stigmatizes. I’m not advocating for talk around “the mentally ill” being the problem. I’m advocating for mental health education & social/emotional learning being part of the solution. The stats w school shootings specifically are pretty hard to ignore – kids who have felt like outcasts, isolated, & different have come back in most (90%) of the school shootings, to their own schools to commit these acts. That IS a MH factor. How do we get those kids help, early on? MH education & social/emotional learning. Educating peers, parents, neighbors, even themselves, what to look out for. Creating schools where kids feel less isolated.


For the kids who turn to ideological groups – we are wired as humans to belong. What drives folks to join hate groups? Verbal abuse. Hateful rhetoric at home. Hearing things on tv. Being bullied. This is PART of MH too. 


Until we acknowledge all of the above, we aren’t going to get anywhere. Let’s implement some common sense gun law changes, but let’s ALSO do it in conjunction with MH education reform – mandatory classes in K-12. Just “keeping guns out of the hands of sickos,” per all of the above, is a hurtful way to describe solutions, wrong, & doesn’t solve the issue. 


To do ALL we can to give us the best chance at a safer society, we need reform to both gun laws & MH education in schools, much like we just saw passed in the state of Florida.

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