Why the gun control versus mental illness debate is dishonest and dangerous distraction.
First and foremost. The majority of people with mental illness are not violent. It’s quite easy to say, “look at that horrible violent crime. The perpetrators must be mentally ill.” The media look back at mass murders reinforces a stereotype that pathogizes people who seek treatment for mental health issues.I’ll repeat because we cannot say this enough: the vast majority of people with mental health issues are not violent.
Pro gun republicans and libertarians are planting a false debate that gun control should not be an important part of the solution. “It’s mental health!” they say (or immigration, depending of the color of the perpetrators skin).
The truth is the policies that republicans push eliminate the very safety nets essential for people with mental health issues.
You know those adults on Medicaid that are demonized as not working enough for the republicans? People with untreated mental illness are more likely to be unable to maintain steady employment. Their Medicaid is their ticket to essential mental health care. Republican states are queuing up to add able bodied adult work requirements for Medicaid that will most surely impact people with mental health and substance abuse issues.
If they are able to sustain employment and have private health insurance, the affordable healthcare act (ACA) ensures that mental health benefits are included in their plan no matter what state they live in. The GOP opposes essential health benefits. Along with prenatal care, mental health services are targets of the “I don’t need it so why should I pay for a plan that covers x” mentality.
It’s no secret that the National Rifle Association (NRA) makes significant donations to politicians, heavily focusing on republications. Again, Trump and the republicans have proven through policy that access to weapons trumps public safety and the needs of people with mental health issues. Any attempt to implement common sense gun legislation is targeted with a two prong attack: legislation and heavy propaganda. This article from 2012 documents NRA’s highly effective social media reach.
The NRAs propaganda is highly effective. Most Americans advocate for common sense gun legislation yet the debate is entrenched and we are mired in inaction. Democrats are not looking for an unconstitutional ban on guns. Yet the NRA political campaigns would suggest that we are divided. The social media campaigns seek to push Americans apart when it’s time for us to come together.
Sadly, there are too many moments when children who are killed and their families are in my thoughts and prayers.
My heart aches.
And I never want to become numb to the grief. I never want to become desensitized. I hope you don’t either.
I want our grief to mobilize us to unite and take action. My faith tells me that I have a responsibility to be part of the solution. That prayer and action are linked.
I want common sense gun restrictions. I want a robust safety net for people with mental illness. I want effective treatment. I want my elected officials to break the grip that the NRA has on them.
I am an engaged citizen and I vote.