Gun Law Reform and Mental Health: the Myth of the “Lone, Deranged Criminal”

Pictured: man in a protest holding up a sign that says: You don't spread democracy with a barrel of a gun- Helen Thomas

Just a few months shy of the 10th anniversary of the deadliest mass school shooting at Sandyhook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, is now the deadliest since then.

The NRA issued a statement using the oft-repeated “act of a lone, deranged criminal” phrase that Republicans and the gun lobby alike have repeatedly used to distance themselves from accountability to describe Salvador Ramos’ deadly actions and the actions of other mass shooters.

According to the Pew Research Center, gun ownership is primarily tied to protection as the motive for ownership with two-thirds of gun owners citing protection as the primary reason they own a gun. White men are the largest gun ownership, group.

Yet with the continued proliferation of guns, regulation of gun ownership hasn’t kept up.

The powerful lobbying group National Rifle Association made political contributions to 50 senators in their respective states, with the largest amounts going to prominent Republican senators such as Utah’s Mitt Romney and Florida’s Marco Rubio. Both senators have avidly taken anti-gun control positions while accepting millions of dollars in campaign donations. The trend continues with other Republican elected officials who have accepted NRA donations also taking anti-gun reform positions.

Mental Ilness Found Amongst Mass Murder Shooters

Gun lobbyists such as the NRA control a massive amount of political influence despite statistics getting worse for gun violence in the U.S. At the same time, research indicates that mental health illness was found amongst the majority of mass shooters who survived their deadly rampages. Researchers were able to study 35 shooters and found that 28 had a history of mental illness that wasn’t being treated at the time of the shooting.

With the NRA attempting to push the “lone deranged shooter” narrative, the converse of that would be improved mental health screening, treatment, and mental health checks before purchasing a weapon. In Texas, where Robb Elementary School is located, Governor Greg Abbot also blamed the shooting on “mental health” issues despite there being no evidence of that in this instance, and despite having just cut mental health funding by over 200 milion dollars.

Weapons manufacturers continue to benefit from the lack of regulation which makes it easier to continue selling guns. In many states, everyday things like purchasing allergy medicine, owning a car, or getting an abortion are significantly harder than buying a gun and thousands of rounds of ammo. But because it’s easy to scapegoat mental illness for every single mass shooting, actual solutions from funding mental health treatment to putting common-sense regulations in place for gun ownership remain elusive.

Limiting access to guns is just one of the many things public policymakers must do to reduce the gun violence epidemic gripping the nation. It’s clear that with mental illness playing a role in many mass shootings, funding the services needed for those who are at risk of acting on violent thoughts is another common-sense approach that’s needed.

A Nation and Community Mourns

Mass shootings having an adverse effect on the mental health for the victims’ families but also on the public at large. A growing number of people are citing mass shootings as a genuine societal fear. According to the Brady Report, “up to 95 percent of people exposed to mass shootings experience symptoms of PTSD in the early days after the incident, and most of those individuals feel the psychological effects of the trauma months later.”

An interdisciplinary approach is needed to solve this problem: common-sense regulation of gun buying and ownership, holding our elected officials responsible for inaction, and providing access to mental health resources for everyone. Until then data convincingly tells us that we’re not waiting for the possibility of another mass shooting, we’re waiting for the inevitble next one.

If you are in need of mental health support, visit the Luz mental health and trauma support page for easy to reach resources.

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