Mass Shootings Not a Mental Health Issue

Donald Trump said Sunday’s mass murder in Texas “isn’t a guns situation” but “is a mental health problem….”

The Texas killer had mental health issues that the Air Force should have scrawled in big red ink across every record that might have been viewed by any gun background checker, but from a public policy perspective, mass shootings are not a mental health problem:

In fact, “there is no real connection between an individual with a mental health diagnosis and mass shootings. That connection according to all experts doesn’t exist,” says Bethany Lilly of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.

“Having all of our attention focused on mental illness is not particularly helpful,” Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore, Md., told NPR Monday [Alison Kodjak, “Texas Shooter’s History Raises Questions About Mental Health and Mass Murder,” NPR: Shots, 2017.11.07].

If mental health issues were predictors of gun deaths, then we would expect to find unusually an high rate of mental illness in the United States that would reflect our unusually high rate of violent gun deaths. Yet a 2013 study found lower rates of depression in the U.S. than in several other countries. We tie Uganda and Rwanda for 48th in suicide rate, a fair indicator of mental illness, yet Sweden, Finland, Belgium, and Hungary all have higher suicide rates but far lower firearm homicide rates.

Mental illness deserves a strong public policy response. So do underfunded schools, crumbling infrastructure, and climate change. But talking about those problems (and talking is all Trump is doing, since this year he’s proposed nothing but cuts to mental health programs and coverage) does not substantively address America’s unique and shameful problem with gun violence.

41 Responses to Mass Shootings Not a Mental Health Issue

  1. In what way do you think someone killing others is “normal”?

  2. Political mental health is the real problem we face. As long as there is a mentally sick republican majority, we have this more and more. Either we fix gun laws or we start to build shorter flag poles so we can just leave the flags where they are. We are not fooling anyone with this false praying and half massed crap. We are just getting used to it. Praying, what were those folks doing in that church? It was Baptist so they were not there to play bingo.

  3. Roger Cornelius

    I have been making this same argument for sometime now.
    If mental illness were the cause of these massacres why haven’t women committed these acts given that women have an equal amount of mental illness as men.
    Mental illness has been around since man was invented. Gun manufactures for centuries have concentrated on making guns with increased firing power and that hold more rounds, they have finally accomplished guns that kill more people quicker.
    Countries around the world have mentally sick people and probably less guns. We rarely hear of massacres in other parts of the world that aren’t related to war.
    The American problems lie with cowardly politicians that prefer to defend killers and their actions by hiding behind an arcane 2nd Amendment.
    At the rate of a mass shooting every other day it won’t be long before we are or know a victim of gun violence.
    As we allow politicians to hide behind “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” things won’t change.
    The odds are increasing that a massacre will come to your hometown.

  4. Mike Henriksen

    Today Rush blamed mass shootings on the fact we put kids in daycare because feminism.

  5. Roger says it all about blaming it all on mental illness.

    It makes me very upset that this monster slipped through the cracks. Anybody that beats up their wife and beats up their stepkid should never ever be allowed to own guns.
    This is going to keep happening. Apparently it hasn’t made the people that are against abortions mad enough that the lives of innocent children outside of the womb are being shot down right before our eyes.

  6. ‘Oh, but it was only 26 this time. It could have been much worse.’

  7. Mental illness happens everywhere. But only in America do mentally ill people have such easy access to firearms, plus constant exposure to cultural images and politicians praising guns.

    “Take your guns to church! Take them to school! Carry everywhere! We’re not safe anywhere!” That rhetoric signals paranoia, and it’s making me depressed. There’s our greater mental health problem.

  8. Darin Larson

    This case highlights the effectiveness of the NRA gun lobby. They have made sure that many people that should never have a gun can easily acquire one. The whole controversy over the Air Force error misses the point. Even if this evil man would have been banned under federal law from acquiring a weapon, he can simply go through the internet or private party sales.

    The NRA will never stand for a national registry that would be required for approval of private party sales. With a national registry, this guy would have been relegated to trying to buy a gun on the black market.

  9. The problem is atheism. The guy was an atheist.

  10. Donald Pay

    Cory, that’s what I think. There comes a point when the illness goes beyond the mental state of an individual, and you have to look at how a society structures itself. War lordism or cults built around constant fear attract people who already have serious mental issues or will develop them soon after joining or identifying them. We look at ISIS as evil, but excuse the evil of gun fetishists and haters in Aberdeen who stoke paranoids into forming hate groups or worse. When you build your society around catering to the psychoses of these folks (the various haters and gun nuts), you have gone a long way down the road to what we’ve got now: criminal gangs in big cities, militias in the small towns and rural areas, and a citizenry constantly made paranoid by the breakdown of society. At some point we have to simply put our foot down on the haters and gun fetishists and say, “No, the mentally deranged will no longer run our society.”

  11. OldSarg – you gotta be kidding me with that. (you are parroting pretend pastor Huckabee with that comment)

    Roger – all great points. no question.

    Weapons that can shoot multiple rounds in just seconds, and people don’t see a problem with that? Magazines for those weapons that can hold 40 rounds? 60 rounds? 100 rounds? And there is no problem with that? Sounds like this guy shot 450 bullets in a matter of a couple of minutes, and people don’t see a problem with that? For a portion of the country that will go to the extreme (based on faulty propaganda) to preserve life in the womb, when it comes to this much carnage? They just shrug their shoulders and say “this is the price of freedom”. Ooof dah

    In Vegas, 600 people were shot in a matter of a few minutes due to the kind of weapon, amount of rifles, and accessories the killer had (still can’t believe that bump stocks are legal) The gun nut solution to gun violence? MORE GUNS! Well, if that was working, then we wouldn’t have any gun violence in this country because we have so many guns. And in addition, so many guns that regular civilians shouldn’t even have. When American police are outgunned by civilians – that’s a problem.

    Why do they (the gun nuttery in America) refuse to acknowledge that this sort of thing happens NO WHERE else but here in America. The difference in other countries where this doesn’t happen? Common sense gun safety laws. The math is pretty simple.

    It seems like our country is growing numb to gun violence. Now in the media, instead of breaking it down to “worst mass shooting” in history — they have begun breaking it down by “worst mass shooting in church in history” – “worst mass shooting in school”….etc etc. That doesn’t sound like anything close to making America great again.

    By the way, before people like OldSarg try to call me anti-gun or something…. I own a gun. I carried one in my LEO job for 28+ years. I had to go through multiple training sessions/qualifications with my weapon many times per year for me to be “qualified” to carry that gun. I feel no need to carry my gun everywhere I go with me, and I don’t. It is concealed in my home, in case I need it to protect me from an intruder. I don’t feel the need to own many guns or to stock up on ammunition. That is just……nutty.

  12. The Christian Right Wing and FOX news are actually saying that if people had to die at least these 26 people were in a church. Excuse me…..really? Really, America?
    It was only 26 innocents this time and they were in a church so they were as close to god as they could be when they died. This is just so off the wall.

  13. I am absolutely despondent thinking of where we are now and realizing there is no path to get to safety. The proliferation of guns, assault weapons, large-capacity magazines, bump stocks or other modifications to increase fire rate of weapons — how do we get to a rational place from here? The NRA decries, “they want to take your guns” and fear mongers the faithful while rational liberals say that we are not coming for your guns, but really isn’t that the issue? This is no longer an issue of heading off a problem. Weapons of mass destruction are out and in the hands of potential mass murderers (note: I do not claim that all gun owners – even many gun owners are potential mass murderers – I see objectively that subset of gun owners exists), how can we clean up this mess with out “coming for” those threats?

    I feel like we are having an intellectual/moral discussion about an issue that was resolved on reality 20 years ago. The NRA has already won; the NRA has already weaponized the US citizenry for profit. Furthermore, it has made (enough) US citizens and lawmakers OK with that reality.

  14. The guy was an “atheist” that went to that same Baptist Church he just shot up, right, that is like a vegetarian slobbering down steak at the Texas Roadhouse. Are you high man?

  15. Darin Larson

    OldSarg, I thought you said it was immigrants that were terrorists? Now you are adding atheists to the list? This was a good ol’ angry redneck white boy. Maybe, you should add them to your list!

    You forgot to add pro-gun nut to your list. If he was just an atheist, live and let live. The key part was that he was a gun nut. That turned him into a danger to society and everyone around him. There are plenty of deranged people in the world who do little serious harm, but give them ready access to an AR-15 and high capacity magazines and they can kill dozens, if not hundreds. When everyone has to walk around with a loaded pistol to protect themselves, we are no longer free.

  16. Get small o, get small. The only advise the republican crooks and liars have is to get small. Shop on line so you can avoid the crowds. Drink you beer on the couch, go to the church in the solitude of the forest or prairie. Get small and reclusive, oh, and as a republican, don’t vote. When you vote, you just put more of the crazy in charge. If you are a Democrat, most definitely vote to change the crazy.

    Look at our choices in the state for the republican party if you do not believe me. NOem and Jackley, too much satisfaction with the militarization of the police, even in Polo. Rusty and the rest, more of the same morphing into bigger idiots that tell you the solution is to get small. What a crock of hooey they are selling.

  17. Darin Larson

    O wrote exactly what I was thinking:

    I feel like we are having an intellectual/moral discussion about an issue that was resolved on reality 20 years ago. The NRA has already won; the NRA has already weaponized the US citizenry for profit. Furthermore, it has made (enough) US citizens and lawmakers OK with that reality.”

  18. Only 26 innocent bystanders this time, folks. Don’t get so riled up, just buy some more guns to protect yourself.

  19. Darin, does mass gun ownership change the way the owner thinks or does mass gun ownership reveal something about that owner?

    I have been thinking about friends I have that are collectors – real collectors. They have antiques, limited editions, rare models, interesting customizations, even guns never intended to be shot. They are not independent militia reservists or doomsday survivalists. BUT, if the conversation comes around to the government “coming to get their guns” they have a Pavlovian “from my cold dead hands” response. In that moment, their collection becomes an armory. These are the good guys.

  20. OldSarg, how’s that “thoughts and prayers” thing working for all you “christians”?

  21. mike from iowa

    The Las Vegas goon had stacks of bibles in his room. The Texas shooter should never had been sold guns. The Air Force did not pass along history of criminal acts to data clearinghouse where his background checked out clean.

    Wingnuts don’t believe in background checks. They won’t allow CDC to keep records on gun statistics-fatalities, injuries, etc.

  22. Darin Larson

    o, generally speaking, I think mass gun ownership reveals the mindset of the owner. I think they have a certain mindset before they accumulate their arsenal. Very few people waiver from this mindset, although I have seen it happen. After one mass shooting, I saw a gun owner with a large collection decide he no longer wanted his collection around to remind him of the carnage.

    The gun control debate was truly lost in 2004 when the assault weapons ban and the bans on large ammunition magazines expired. The argument by the gun lobby was that an AR-15 was merely a semi-automatic rifle like a .22. They just looked more menacing. If this was the case, then why does almost every mass shooting these days involve an AR-15 or a like kind and most involve large capacity magazines? The fact is that an AR-15 with a 50 shot clip is a heck of a lot more lethal than a .22 with a 10 shot clip. We have gone from the understandable mindset of a defensive posture being able to protect our homes or persons with a shotgun, a 6 shot revolver, or a 10 shot 9mm all the way to the crazy notion that people need the offensive firepower and ability to fire hundreds of bullets per minute of a military assault rifle. The 2nd Amendment has been distorted beyond all recognition and is now used as a shield by the deranged and evil to acquire weapons of mass death and destruction, aided and abetted by the NRA.

  23. mike from iowa

    Laying it off on mental health is just whitey wingnut’s way of avoiding sensible gun legislation- such as getting rid of assault weapons, large capacity clips, bump stocks, muzzle and flash suppressors. Moms, apple pies and Chevrolets.

    In what way is buying 30 guns in a month normal. Mass shootings is becoming normalized because wingnuts automatically react by going after sensible people who want and demand sensible gun control. But first, there is a grace period where the nation is forbid to talk about gun control in honor of today’s victims who will hand off the ban on talk to tomorrow’s victims.

  24. Roger Elgersma

    If all murderers have a mental health problem, is not an excuse to murder.

  25. If it’s totally a big mental health problem we’d be seeing a lot more knifings and gun murders in other countries also.

  26. Roger Cornelius

    Last night in South Korea Donald Trump continued his tough talk to North Korea and demanded North Korea quit acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
    Oddly, Donald Trump doesn’t have the courage to deliver that same message to killers in the United States that are threatening America on daily basis.
    When we elect politicians to state legislatures, governorships, congress, senate and the presidency it is fervent cry that they have the courage to solve problems.
    America is failing to protect its citizens from mass destruction.

  27. Authorities now have video of this shooter methodically shooting his victims in the head. No mental health issues here, just the dude being the dude finding a church a good place to do what he wanted to do. Hard to get any smaller than balled up on the floor. Thune, you goofball, show us all how to get smaller when you are all rolled up in a ball. On top of it, the dude damned near got away too. Had it not been for the deerhunter that put a round in his sorry arse, he may well have done it.

  28. Thoughts and prayers are a joke according to the Book.

  29. And of course James kicks Paul Ryan right in the rightwing.

    Paul Ryan and the rest of the fake prayer nuts are not fooling anyone. They are frauds that cannot do the job of governing. Get the hell out of the way Paul Ryan and take your cynical bottom dwellers with you. We are tired of your love affair with Russia at the expense of America’s freedom. Go away and take NOem, Thune and Rounds with you, toss in some Jackley and that little feller Rusty and hit the road.

  30. You’re right, Roger. Trump could call out America’s sociopaths and say enough, no more killing and demand changes to stop these freaks from owning guns. His low ratings would skyrocket since the majority of Americans want stricter gun laws, especially on assault-style weapons.

  31. “Why not just ban guns and when people are upset about it, just send them thoughts and prayers?” If “thoughts and prayers” are good enough for people who’ve lost their families then it’s good enough for people who’ve lost their guns.”

  32. Roger Cornelius

    Speaking of offering thoughts and prayers, jerry, I offer my thoughts and prayers to all the republicans that lost in yesterday’s election and promise not to do anything about it.

  33. My thoughts would be, you go to bed with the Russians and you wake with the loss and a whole bunch of cooties. I wonder what will Jackley do about the Russian interference with South Dakota elections in 2016 and why he has not addressed them.

  34. before AR 15s became mass marketed and sexualized for the buying public, the big deal was using the same bullet in a sporting deer/varmit rifle and overloading the powder so the bullet nearly spun thru the air. Prairie Dogs literally exploded on impact. macho fun-huh? But the deal with these assault rifles is the high speed of the propelled bullet relative to its small caliber and size. The old style M-14 killing machine merely pierced the skull, the AR 15 makes the human skull turn to mush. sorry for that visual. A much more effective killer designed for the battle field. Now every militia and his survivalist brother is armored, AR 15ed and large capacity magazine to kill as many– as fast–as thoroughly– as possible.

    400 bullets fired by one white idiot in Sutherville TX, and 500 people shot by another white idiot on the 32d floor in Las Vegas, with the same weapon, an assault rifle, and there you have it. That self-medicated undiagnosed mental illness is also usually involved is clear, but the solution is gun control. In a nation/world awash in booze, every pill, illegal narcoticsand meth, not to even breach the weed legalization unknowns (Colo is wringing its hands over high drivers now), medical and scientific research pales in comparison to the hundreds of billions lost in lives and health from lack of good mental health care.

  35. “When the good times are all gone, I’ll be bound for moving on”–name that tune mfi!

  36. of course GOP misinformation courts these such berries: “”Photos of Texas shooter is consistent with profile of Antifa member,” Cernovich wrote. “This is looking more and more like Antifa terror.”
    Salon, today

  37. mike from iowa

    Blogger mike from iowa said…

    Vote wingnut. Help ISIS cause
    More Americans die than ever was
    ISIS and wingnuts want Americans dead
    Wingnuts oblige without taking our heads

    Wingnuts vote to take away eats
    health insurance and winter fuel that heats
    the poorest of households-both black and white
    And send poor Americans into that good night

    Islamist terrorists should do this well
    Watching whitey wingnuts condemn Americans to hell
    all it takes is a contribution or two
    whether ISIS or wingnut they be coming for you

    This is what America has become
    electing Putin and Drumpf##k disreputable scum
    our only hope comes if enough Libs go vote
    and shove Drumpf##kification back in whitey wingnuts throat.

    Four Strong Winds, Leslie, but I had to Google it. :)

  38. I am hesitant to bring this up because I know it will bring backlash, but I believe the time has come. One thing that helped to turn the tide of public opinion against the war in Vietnam was the photos that began to appear in the daily news depicting the realities of that conflict; the child running down the road, burned by napalm; the street execution of the Viet Cong guerilla; the Buddhist monk setting himself aflame in protest. The war became real in American living rooms. I understand that showing the public what the first responders have to see when they enter these shooting scenes would be horrific to put it mildly. I know that it would be a terrible added trauma to those already suffering a loss. But I truly do believe that it would change the outlook of those who cannot visualize what a monstrous thing this is. We all need to see for ourselves just what happens when military weapons are used against innocent citizens. At the very least the hallways and offices of every elected public official from city to federal level ought to be papered with life-sized full color photos of the latest massacre so that they can see what their decisions visit upon the rest of us.