In the recent wake of the up-rise on gun violence; we’ve all come to understand a few things about putting guns in the hands of the mentally unstable.
But what does this say about the millions of individuals that actually have a mental illness?
A lot evidently. See, most individuals with a mental illness are not walking around with the label “mentally Ill” stamped on their foreheads – nor would that be practical or necessary. However; this means that you’d never know if the person sitting next to you on the train had a mental disorder, or even a relative that may seem perfectly normal at a family gathering.
The reason behind this facade isn’t that they are hiding it, but that mental illness’ are normally episodic. Meaning they could happen sporadically and unintentionally. Many Military PTSD patients cannot be around loud popping noises, such as fireworks due to the trigger effects.
Triggers are specific memories, behaviors, thoughts and situations that threaten recovery – signals you are reaching a point that brings you closer to a relapse. Like a traumatic flashback or like riding a roller coaster that loops over itself. Once the roller coaster car gets to a certain spot on the track, a threshold is met, there is no turning back, and it starts the downward loop – a relapse.
So in a hypothetical scenario let’s say you’re a bigger built guy out for a morning run. You decide to take a different route that leads you through a wilderness trail. Along the way you notice a woman running towards you on the opposite side of the sidewalk. Right as you’re about to pass her, she trips and falls. Being the kind soul that you are you stop to check on her. What you don’t know is that she was physically abused by her ex for years, so certain sudden movements could be a trigger. As you quickly reach out to offer a hand, she is taken aback by the sudden movement and starts freaking out.
Now I know this is a bit of a silly scenario, but I did that so you could see how simple, yet complex certain mental disorders can effect the neurological system. She didn’t mean to freak out on the innocent bystander, but his quick movements triggered a traumatic flashback causing that reaction.
That being said, I can some-what understand the recent attacks on mental illness. However, mental illness is not the actual driving force behind gun violence. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that those with mental illness are two to three times more likely to be victims of gun violence than perpetrators.
Shifting the blame on to the mentally ill only perpetuates stigma against them and ignores the root causes of the issue.
An actual common denominator that can be found in these mass shootings, and in homicides in general, is that they are overwhelmingly committed by men.
In recent news on the topic of Nikolas Cruz, CNN asked; How could a young man whose lawyers say he has been “experiencing and enduring mental illness his entire life” purchase a semiautomatic rifle?
Well CNN, According to a US official briefed on the investigation, Cruz used a semiautomatic rifle that he had bought legally after passing a background check.
On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said “As you know, mental health is often a big problem underlying these tragedies, We have a system to prevent people who aren’t supposed to get guns from getting guns, and if there are gaps there then we need to look at those gaps.”
And that system is to Barr a person from purchasing or possessing a firearm due to mental illness in the National Instant Criminal Background Check Database under two conditions: if he is involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, or if a court or government body declares him mentally incompetent. Then there’s Red Flag laws, which are another method of preventing gun violence.
Basically, there needs to be an intervening third party in order for someone to be listed in the database. So if nobody ever intervenes – They fly under the radar.
A licensed gun dealer is required by law to run potential buyers through the criminal background check system. The process usually takes around 90 seconds, and, if all the records are in the right place, would prevent a purchaser who was previously involuntarily committed or legally judged as mentally incompetent from getting the gun.
However; federal law doesn’t require states to make these mental health records part of the background check system, and many fail to voluntarily report the records.
Plus, licensed gun shops aren’t the only places people can buy from.
“You could buy guns from someone from an online classified ad, people at a yard sale or on the street corner selling guns, or people who are at a gun show but not a retail dealer,” all without having to pass a background check, according to Ari Freilich, a legal expert with the Giffords Law Center.
Honestly, in my opinion, I do believe these new laws may help to a degree. However, the fact still stands that a mentally competent criminal will do whatever is necessary to do the crime he set out to commit. These gun laws won’t change that, but a change of heart may. All we can do is keep talking about it and keep standing up for what’s right. So til then, I’ll keep writing.