After watching the CNN town hall meeting held in Florida regarding the terrible school shooting tragedy, I was disheartened to hear the NRA spokeswoman use such terms as “crazy, insane, monstrous.” The acts of the shooter were incomprehensible. But those of us who live with mental illness should never be lumped into a small group of people who are violent.
The NRA spokeswoman also said “the mentally ill” should be put into a “criminal database” and be prohibited from having guns. I’m in agreement that people who have mental illness should not have guns. It’s my personal viewpoint. But criminalizing mental illness will keep people from getting the help they need.
Further, what should qualify as diagnosis that make owning a gun illegal? Does that mean a person with depression goes into the hospital with suicidal thoughts and gets flagged as a dangerous mentally ill crazy person? Or is criminalizing mental illness only reserved for the psychos like me who have bipolar disorder? Because In fact I’m the real insane monster.
Do you see how absurd this is?
I don’t want to see innocent people get hurt or killed. I think there needs to be steps taken to keep people from obtaining guns who shouldn’t have them. But the kind of words we choose to debate what should be done matter. Knee jerk reactions usually have far reaching and usually not good outcomes. Fear drives people to react and results in horrendous name calling and labeling.
My hope is wiser heads will prevail on solutions. We as a society have allowed the issues of an abundance of access to military type weapons, lack of intervention to appropriate mental health care and an overwhelming swing toward not allowing proper intervention to help someone with mental illness get stabilized.
But something very important to ponder is to ask why many other countries who have as much mental illness as the United States, but don’t have mass shootings. Or are those of us with mental illness in the United States just different than the rest of the world? That’s what the NRA is arguing. And to me their solutions to the problem are as far fetched as believing mental illness is the sole cause to all the violence in the United States, when we know only 5% of all violent acts are committed by those who have a mental illness.
I’m bothered by people who are given a national platform who do harm to millions of people by calling for the criminalization of people with mental illness. Although it’s a small effort, I’ll be giving a talk today with college students encouraging them to get the help they need if they have signs and symptoms of mental illness. But can I with clear consciousness tell them there won’t be any negative consequences to getting help? I don’t know the answer. But I do know not getting help is a bad choice.