Supporters of gun rights blame everything except firearms for the endless string of mass shootings in this country. Blame is directed at violent video games, rap music, secularism, single-parent families and mental illness. It really doesn’t matter, as long as no finger is ever pointed at the obvious suspect – a heavily-armed society.
While improving the quality and availability of mental health services is a laudable goal, it will do little to reduce the number of mass shootings. While some gunmen are clearly psychotic, the vast majority are simply angry misfits, which is not a clinical diagnosis. Neither is being a racist, white supremacist, misogynist, religious fanatic or right-wing extremist. Nevertheless, these equally deplorable mindsets are frequently associated with mass shootings.
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So how do we address the problem of angry misfits? The first order of business would be to stop feeding their anger with lies and conspiracy theories vomited forth on a daily basis by Fox News and right-wing hate radio. And that would require a return to the fairness doctrine in broadcast media – the requirement that issues be presented in an honest, factual, balanced fashion. Naturally, such legislation will never pass as long as Republicans are in control of government.
People with mental illness are generally not a threat to others; they are, in fact, more likely to be victims of violence. That said, denying guns to those with illnesses associated with an elevated risk of suicide, like depression and bipolar disorder, would make sense.