Mental Health and Guns

February 6, 2013

The recent shootings in Connecticut have been used to call for gun reform. The critics of the Right to Bear Arms guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment are calling for the abolition of gun owners' right to own firearms. Restrictions on gun ownership are sought in an effort to curb gun violence. These calls are in response to the horrible crimes which have been perpetrated on innocent children and bystanders in our schools and public places. Guns are portrayed as the reason for the violence. I would contend that gun control in the form of restriction of the sale and possession of automatic weapons and weapons that contain multiple shot magazines are already regulated and can be even more restrictive. Not because they are the cause of these shootings, but because no law abiding citizen needs to own a firearm that can fire many times without reloading. We don't live in a war zone and don't need to be equipped to do combat. However, guns are not the inherent evil at work in these tragedies. Untreated or under treated mental illness is.

Almost every mass shooting that has been committed in recent memory has been perpetrated by a gunman suffering from mental illness. "Socially awkward" is a phrase used in the press because it is politically correct. In reality, it appears that it is a euphemism for mental illness. Many times individuals who have significant mental illnesses are being under treated or not treated at all. People suffering from mental illness often don't want to take their medication because of the effect is has on them. Medication also brands the person taking the medication as mentally deficient in some way. Negative social stigma is a deterrent to taking medication or even being diagnosed.

Society has chosen not to invest in mental health for our children or adults. Many of the homeless people on the street suffer from a mental illness. State legislators have chosen to close mental health facilities in order to save money. Instead of saving money, this policy choice has cost more money and lives. We must reexamine our priorities and commit to better funding to meet the mental health challenges of our people. Treating the symptom, such as gun violence, is not the answer. We need to treat the cause, mental illness. If we find more treatment for those afflicted with mental disease we won't need the draconian gun control measures currently advocated as "the solution".