National Advocacy Organization of People Labeled Mentally Ill Decries Gov. Abbott’s Call for “Mental Health” Instead of Background Checks
Washington, D.C. (May 31, 2022)—The National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR)—a coalition of statewide organizations founded and run by individuals labeled with mental illness, representing 28 states and the District of Columbia—is horrified and saddened but not shocked by the massacre of 19 children and two teachers on May 24 in Uvalde, Texas.
“Regrettably, it is hard to be shocked by the tragic loss of the children’s and teachers’ lives because, until our legislators act to prevent such tragedies, the massacre at Robb Elementary School differs from many other mass shootings only in the number of lives lost,” said NCMHR board president Braunwynn Franklin.
“Our legislators need to make gun safety a priority,” she continued. After a mass shooting in Australia in 1996, the country enacted strict gun laws—and it has not had a mass shooting since. “In the developed world, these levels of gun violence are a uniquely American problem,” Vox has reported.
According to an American Public Health Association study, “states with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides.” And as economist Richard Florida wrote, “fatal gun violence is less likely to occur in richer states with more post-industrial knowledge economies, higher levels of college graduates, and tighter gun laws. Factors like drug use, stress levels, and mental illness are much less significant than might be assumed (emphasis added).”
After the Uvalde tragedy, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, “If anyone thinks that we should focus on background checks instead of mental health, they’re mistaken.” But as the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and numerous studies have reported, people with mental health conditions are the wrong scapegoat after mass shootings. Instead, frequently the shooter in these tragedies is an isolated, angry white male with an automatic weapon.
And as a writer on the Behavioral Scientist website noted in 2017: “Perpetuating the myth that mental illness is the cause of mass shootings only serves to stigmatize the mentally ill even further. In addition, it distracts from the more difficult conversation that must be had over gun-control in America.”
According to federal government statistics, “only 3%–5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.”
"We NCMHR advocates have been diagnosed with serious mental health conditions, and we are concerned about falsely linking them with a tendency toward violence; it increases prejudice and discrimination,” Franklin added.
Unfortunately, many of our legislators are beholden to the National Rifle Association. In the 2016 election cycle, Republicans received nearly $6 million; Democrats received $106,000. But what about their constituents? According to a 2017 Quinnipiac University poll, 94% of those responding to the poll supported background checks for all gun sales.
“For those who claim that their right to own guns is protected by the Second Amendment, the amendment covers militias, not personal gun ownership,” Franklin added. “And to quote a gun control public service announcement, ‘Guns have changed. Shouldn't our gun laws?’”
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