With the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida, many are questioning whether mental illness is really to blame for the devastating shooting of 17 people. The 19-year-old responsible was shown to have displayed very aggressive, violent behavior throughout the years, with several neighbors reporting him to security on various occasions. This brings to light 2 main arguments posed by the public: Is mental illness to blame, and how can gun laws be altered with more security measures to prevent horrific situations such as this?
A widespread debate has been that gun laws should be restricted to those with mental illness. Could this be effective? The American Psychological Association (APA) published a book with many insights that relate to this issue. Chapter 4 of the book, titled “Mass Shootings and Mental Illness” proposes several suggestions based on research. For example, the book states that restricting gun laws to those with mental illness not only perpetuates the stereotypes that those with a mental illness are dangerous, but it also holds little value because people who engage in mass shootings do not often have a history of hospitalization or other incidents which would lead them to the diagnosis of a mental illness or treatment for one.
Furthermore, the book states that less than 3% of situations with gun violence are attributed to mental illness. Thus, restricting gun use to this population would not protect people from individuals who do not classify as having a mental illness.
PBS News Hour stated that President Trump believes that mental illness leads to gun violence. In a tweet just a day after the event, he stated,
“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
Dr. Louis Kraus, forensic psychiatry chief at Chicago’s Rush University Medical College, believes this is off-track. He stated,
“The concept that mental illness is a precursor to violent behavior is nonsense. The vast majority of gun violence is not attributed to mental illness.”
Overall, it seems that more needs to be in place for individuals attempting to buy a gun, and signs of a dangerous person need to be reported immediately and through various routes. The more we all take a stand against violence, the safer we make our communities.
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