I have a feeling that this post is going to result in a huge political debate, but I am not trying to shove my political views out onto the blogging/reading world (I promise). Rather, I am trying to address a huge issue facing our world today and how it affects those with mental diversity. As such, I would LOVE to hear all of y’alls opinions on the matter so please, please, please comment any impressions below.
As many of you are well aware, there were 52,678 acts of gun violence in 2015 in the US (Via the Gun Violence Archive). Most people assume that these acts come from gang related incidents, isolated homicides, or accidents. The other major belief,however, is that mass shootings is the direct cause of those suffering from mental illness. Society sees the mentally diverse as a group of dangerous people on the brink of grabbing a gun and slaughtering innocent people for no reason.
This, of course, is not accurate. Less than 5% of all acts of violence in the US are performed by people diagnosed with a mental illness (via the article titled Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms).
What is true, however, is that 60% of those killed by guns each year are self-inflicted suicide attempts. What society needs to focus on is not that the mentally diverse are dangerous to others, but that they can potentially be dangerous to themselves.
There are currently many solutions being brought to the table by the left side of the political spectrum regarding tightening restrictions on gun laws. I, personally, am in favor of higher gun control. This country has a problem, and while restrictions on guns may not reduce the rate of violence, there are still many problems in the gun selling industry that need to be addressed to ensure fair treatment of all sellers and buyers.
What scares me about tighter gun laws, however, is the background checks. It is legitimate that those with criminal records and illegal status should not be allowed to own a firearm, but many proposals are calling for restrictions on the selling of guns to those diagnosed with mental diversity. This con potentially lead to a plethora of problems:
- Many people with symptoms of a mental diversity will fail to weak, or stop treatment in order to obtain or keep a firearm. This could lead to dangerous situations as many people require a consistent treatment plan to keep them from having their normal acts of delusion and violence. This is neither safe for the public, nor for those affected by MD.
- Discrimination. Just as societies in the past have discriminated against: african americans, jews, and women; so, I fear, will society begin to discriminate against the mentally diverse. Although there is already a huge stigma around those with MD, being barred from purchasing a gun could spiral into people being segregated from jobs, insurance companies, and businesses based on their mental health status.
- People will find a way to obtain a firearm regardless of the law. This creates a problem as these guns and their owners will be unregistered, and even harder to identify by the appropriate law enforcement in the case of disaster. It is better to keep track of and tax those with guns than to allow underground trading on the black-market.
Now there is a reasonable argument against the removal of guns in order to protect an individual from killing themselves. However, there are more ways to commit suicide than by firearm. Denying someone the right to own a gun will not prevent them from committing suicide, but will instead lead to other societal problems as discussed above.
Now, you say, how do we prevent the mass shootings by the mentally diverse if we allow them to have guns? There is no good answer to this, but I believe that removing their ability to purchase a gun is not the right one. I think that president Obama took a, small, but good step in the path towards resolving this issue by ordering money for the treatment of mental diversities. While I hate to suggest that those with MD need to be treated, as it insinuates that those with mental diversities need to be fixed, it is still necessary for many individuals to undergo medication and social therapies. Research and funding in this area can not only help prevent gun violence by suicide, it can also change how society sees the mentally diverse. By acknowledging that mental diversity is out of the control of the individual, that it cannot always be controlled without therapies, and that it is a large enough issue to need funding, can reduce the many fears and insecurities that those with and without MD possess. Having a mental illness is like living with arthritis; it is not dangerous or harmful when it is being treated properly. The problem is that most mental diversities are not being treated in the ways that they could, or should be. A lot of this is due to the stigma around the issue, as well as a lack of research in the field.
Thus, I believe that while stricter gun laws are necessary, we should be careful in how they are implemented and what they stand for. It is also important for people to stay aware of the back ground behind statistics, as they do not always tell the whole story. I would like to end with one very important statement: those with MD are not dangers to society in any way, shape, or form. We may require medication and therapy, but our minds are what make us unique and important contributions to society. I believe that our differences are what makes us invaluable to the worlds today.
What are y’alls take on this major issue?