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Stop saying all mass shooters are mentally ill. Not all mentally ill people are violent | Opinion

Thoughts about mass shooters — and a Father’s Day lesson from the author’s son

UVALDE, TEXAS – MAY 25: A child crosses under caution tape at Robb Elementary School on May 25, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. According to reports, during the mass shooting, 19 students and 2 adults were killed, with the gunman fatally shot by law enforcement. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

By John A. Tures

As we have learned during the recent wave of young shooters, their relationship to mental health is not always so clear cut.

After the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, we notice a pattern among the shooters.  Politicians and pundits have been quick to label every shooter as being a mental health case, but don’t always do something about the problem.  Trump blamed mental health issues for the shooting, but didn’t acknowledge that he rescinded an executive order making it harder for those with mental illness to get a gun.

In the NBC News article “Abbott said the shooter had a ‘mental health’ issue.  A month ago, he slashed funding to help,’” the authors wrote “In rejecting suggestions that stronger gun control laws could have prevented the tragedy, Abbott conceded the slain 18-year-old suspect had no known mental health issues or criminal history but said, “Anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental health challenge.”

I would disagree.  Just because a soldier, police officer, or someone defending himself or herself shoots somebody else, that does not mean they have a mental health challenge.

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Nor does that mean those with mental illness are more likely to be violent.  In fact, as the New York Times report from 2018 (reposted on June 8, 2022) concluded, with interviews with  a psychiatrist: Most Violence Is Not Caused By Mental Illness.

The NBC story adds “There is no evidence the shooter is mentally ill, just angry and hateful,” said Lori Post, director of the Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at the Northwestern University School of Medicine. “While it is understandable that most people cannot fathom slaughtering small children and want to attribute it to mental health, it is very rare for a mass shooter to have a diagnosed mental health condition.”

The Daily on NPR concurred, citing a mental health expert who pointed out that these are angry young men, not mentally ill.  “They think the world owes them something,” she concluded.

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At the time, my son and I were driving to play sports together.  We had a discussion about the radio program, and its claims.

“One of the lessons that kids learn from the media and politics is that people are owed something,” I told him.  “But the strongest lesson I’ve received from Christianity is that the world doesn’t owe us something.  Quite the opposite.  In fact, the lesson I’ve learned from Christianity that we owe something to the world, a life based on serving others, helping those less fortunate.  I’m also at my happiest when I am helping someone else, and I think that’s something not everyone is taught, even for some in religion.”

There’s no silver bullet to solving every mass shooting.  But perhaps flipping this script, and focusing on what really matters, might be a good start.

Opinion contributor John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. His work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.  His views are his own.  Readers may email him at [email protected],  and follow him on Twitter, @JohnTures2

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