BRONX, NY- Has anyone noticed how quickly the media jumps to the conclusion of mental health being the reason for gun violence? Why is it always mental health? This excuse (yes, I use the word “excuse”) needs to stop. To me, it feels like a cover up for the NRA (National Rifle Association) and lack of gun control from congress. Mental health has been linked to most of the massacres that have occurred, but it does not speak for all the shooters who have committed the crimes. What we need are stricter gun control laws.
The Charleston shooting and recent killings of WDBJ-TV journalist Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward have added more fuel to the fire. The Charleston shooter was labeled for mental health issues despite the evidence found about the massacre being premeditated. Parker and Ward were murdered by a former coworker who had a history of violent behavior. Violent behavior and mental illness are two completely different things.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) mental illness “refers to disorders generally characterized by dysregulation of mood, thought, and/ or behavior”. Healthline.com defines violent or aggressive behavior as “behavior that causes physical or emotional harm to others or threatens to. It can range from verbal abuse to the destruction of a victim’s personal property. People with aggressive behavior tend to be irritable, impulsive, and restless.” So, is violent behavior another tactic the media is using with gun violence?
Some of you may be thinking “how does this equate to lack of gun control?” Thinkprogress.org and the LA Times created a timeline of mass shootings since the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999.
- April 20, 1999: Columbine High School. 13 dead, 21 wounded (Littleton, CO).
- July 29, 1999: Mark Orrin Barton. 12 dead including family members, 13 wounded (Atlanta, GA).
- September 15, 1999: Wedgewood Baptist Church. 7 dead, 7 wounded (Fort Worth, TX).
- December 26, 2000: Edgewater Technology Company. 7 dead (Wakefield, MA).
- July 8, 2003: Lockheed Martin Plant. 7 dead, 7 wounded (Meridian, MS).
- March 12, 2005: Church of God meeting at Sheraton Hotel. 9 dead, 4 wounded (Brookfield, WI).
- March 21, 2005: Red Lake Senior High School. 11 dead, 5 wounded (Red Lake, MN).
- March 25, 2006: Capitol Hill Shooting. 7 dead, 2 wounded (Seattle, WA).
- October 2, 2006: Lancaster Amish School. 5 dead, 6 wounded (Lancaster, PA).
- February 12, 2007: Trolley Square Mall. 5 dead, 4 wounded (Salt Lake City, UT).
- April 16, 2007: Virginia Tech. 32 dead, 24 wounded (Blacksburg, VA).
- December 5, 2007: Westroads Mall. 9 dead, 4 wounded (Omaha, NE).
- February 7, 2008: City Hall Missouri. 6 dead, 2 wounded (Kirkwood, MO).
- February 14, 2008: Northern Illinois University. 6 dead, 21 wounded (Dekalb, IL).
- March 29, 2009: Pinelake Health and Rehab Nursing Home. 8 dead (Carthage, NC).
- April 3, 2009: Binghamton Immigration Center. 13 dead, 4 wounded (Binghamton, NY).
- November 5, 2009: Fort Hood Army Base. 13 dead, 29 wounded (Fort Hood, TX).
- August 3, 2010: Hartford Beer Distributor. 9 dead, 2 wounded (Hartford, CT).
- January 8, 2011: Gabby Gifford’s Shooting. 6 dead, 13 wounded (Tuscon, AZ).
- September 6, 2011: IHOP Shooting. 5 dead, 7 wounded (Carson City, NV).
- October 14, 2011: Salon Meritage Hair Salon. 8 dead, 1 wounded (Seal beach, CA).
- February 27, 2012: Chardon High School. 3 dead, 3 wounded (Chardon, OH).
- April 2, 2012: Oikos University. 7 dead (Oakland, CA).
- April 6, 2012: Oklahoma Shooting. 3 dead, 2 wounded (Tulsa, OK).
- May 29, 2012: Cafe Racer Espresso. 5 dead (Seattle, WA).
- July 20, 2012: Aurora Movie Shooting. 12 dead, 58 wounded (Aurora, CO).
- August 5, 2012: Sikh Temple. 6 dead, 4 wounded (Oak Creek, WI).
- September 27, 2012: Accent Signage Systems. 5 dead, 3 wounded (Minneapolis, MN).
- December 11, 2012: Clackamas Town Center. 2 dead (Portland, OR).
- December 14, 2012: Sandy Hook Elementary School. 27 dead, 1 wounded (Newton, CT).
- June 7, 2013: Santa Monica College. 7 dead (Santa Monica, CA).
- September 16, 2013: Washington Navy Yard. 13 dead, 3 wounded (Washington D.C.).
- April 2, 2014: Fort Hood Military Base. 3 dead, 16 wounded (Fort Hood, TX).
- May 23, 2014: Isla Verde Shooting. 7 dead, 7 wounded (Isla Verde, CA).
- October 24, 2014: Marysville High School. 5 dead, 1 wounded (Seattle, WA).
- June 18, 2015: Charleston Shooting. 9 dead (Charleston, SC).
- August 26, 2015: Journalist Shooting. 2 dead (Roanoke, VA).
Since the Columbine massacre there have been 37 shootings. More than 300 people have been murdered. In 18 of these shootings the killer commits suicide. This data does not include all the other shootings that were reported between the dates mentioned above. An article from the New Yorker states “after an incident like Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech, policymakers often strive to improve gun control for the future- and those efforts often focus on mental health and the reporting of prior records, as in the case of Connecticut. But if you look at people like Jaylen Fryberg, Mason Campbell, or Karl Pierson (all school shooters), you see no formal diagnosis of mental illness, and often, no actual signs of instability either.”
The media has shown in many of these shootings that premeditation was involved. Notebooks, text messages, emails, social media posts, and phone calls prove the shooters wanted their victims dead. Sadly, the New Yorker also points out “mental illness is easy to blame, easy to pinpoint, and easy to legislate against in regard to gun ownership.”
How can the NRA give permission for these murderers to have possession of a weapon? How did they pass the qualifications needed to purchase a gun?
The main debate lies in the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution; “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” (law.cornell.edu). The last phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” is the vague one. Cornell University Law School suggests there are two theories to how congress goes about this when it comes to severe gun laws: individual right theory and the collective rights theory.
“Under this ‘individual right theory,’ the United States Constitution restricts legislative bodies from prohibiting firearm possession, or at the very least, the Amendment renders prohibitory and restrictive regulation preemptively unconstitutional. On the other hand, some scholars point to the prefatory language “a well-regulated Militia” to argue that the Framers intended only to restrict Congress from legislating away a state’s right to self-defense. Scholars have come to call this theory ‘the collective rights theory.’ A collective rights theory of the Second Amendment asserts that citizens do not have an individual right to possess guns and that local, state, and federal legislative bodies therefore possess the authority to regulate firearms without implicating a constitutional right.” (Cornell University Law School).
This link provides an interactive map of gun regulations in each state based on the NRA: https://www.nraila.org/gun-laws.aspx
My main point in all this? Mental health, violent behavior, and racism are not always to blame for gun violence. Even with the violent behavior cases, most of the massacres have been proven premeditated. This is not a “mental health issue”, this is a lack of gun control. The NRA and congress need to step up their regulations. It should not be easy for someone to possess a gun. This is not only on individual terms, but within military and police law enforcement as well. Soldiers and cops have senselessly used their weapons to take lives. Background checks need to take place. To congress and the NRA…. NO MORE EXCUSES!
Note: Since August 26, 2015, more mass shootings have taken place such as:
- December 2, 2015. San Bernardino Shooting. 16 dead, 19 wounded (San Bernardino, CA).
- June 12, 2016. Pulse Nightclub. 50 dead, 53 wounded (Orlando, FL).
- October 1, 2017. Las Vegas Music Festival. 59 dead, 441 wounded (Las Vegas, NV)
- November 5, 2017. Sutherland Spring Church. 27 dead, 20 wounded (Sutherland, TX).
- February 14, 2018. Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School. 17 dead, 17 wounded (Parkland, FL)
- August 3, 2019. El Paso Shooting. 22 dead, 24 wounded (El Paso, TX).
Please refer to this link from Vox for an incredible interactive map of past shootings since Sandy Hook Elementary. It will really open your eyes to this problem: https://www.vox.com/a/mass-shootings-america-sandy-hook-gun-violence
- Moore, Maloy. Garvey, Megan. Wagstaff, Evan. “Deadliest U.S. Mass Shootings, 1984 – 2017.” 2017, Oct 2. Los Angeles Times. http://timelines.latimes.com/deadliest-shooting-rampages/
- Second Amendment: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/second_amendment
- Konnikova, Maria. “Is There A link Between Mental Health and Gun Violence?” 2014, Nov 19. http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/almost-link-mental-health-gun-violence
- Institute for Legislative Action:https://www.nraila.org/gun-laws.aspx
- Legg, Timothy J. “Aggressive Behavior”. 2019, Sept 18.http://www.healthline.com/health/aggressive-behavior#Overview1
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Last Updated: October 14, 2021