Every time a mass shooting occurs, people bring up gun control — and mental illness in the very next breath. Suddenly, the media, politicians, and the public care about treating mental illness; however, they’re only concerned about it in the context of restricting people with mental illnesses’ rights. Despite the fact that the vast, vast majority of people with mental illnesses aren’t responsible for crimes involving gun violence and despite the fact that people with mental illnesses do not pose any real threat against society (as I talked about more in this post), it becomes paramount that we stop people with mental illness from living normal, non-restrictive lives. And who’s one of the biggest supporters of registering, restricting, and policing people with mental illnesses? The National Rifle Association (NRA).
Yes, you read that right: the NRA, which is vehemently against any sort of gun regulation and which developed a protracted campaign to rewrite the interpretation of the Second Amendment, thinks that people with mental illnesses should be registered and restricted. In a 2012 press conference following the Newtown school shooting, NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre called people with mental illnesses, “genuine monsters. People that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons, that no sane person can every [sic] possibly comprehend them.” He then called for an “active national database of the mentally ill” before lumping them in with the “much larger, more lethal criminal class — killers, robbers, rapists, [and] gang members.” He’s also made other comments calling people with mental illnesses “lunatics” and characterizing them as crazed savages.
So, first off, a prominent member of the NRA’s leadership believes that people with mental illnesses are literal monsters, actually evil, and analogous with real criminals. Any type of legislature the NRA backs will be burdened with this grossly inaccurate, unfair, and cruel description of people with mental illnesses. Secondly, he thinks that people with mental illnesses are responsible for gun crimes (although 95% of gun-related crimes do not involve a person with a mental illness in any way), thus reinforcing the common chant of, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Third, he would rather we as a nation remove people’s right to doctor-patient confidentiality, criminalize what is either an accident of birth or upbringing, discourage people from seeking mental health care for fear of being targeted, and register actual human beings as though they were stock. Because all of that is preferable, more ethical, and more constitutional that requiring anyone who wants a gun to get a background check to make sure they’re not a threat to themselves and others. Sure. Sure.
Any piece of legislature that targets people with mental illnesses is bullshit. It fabricates a world in which roaming packs of people with depression, personality disorders, and eating disorders are wandering our streets killing children and breaking into houses. It further brutalizes and dehumanizes people with mental illnesses, making it that much harder for them (or anyone) to seek medical help. It allows the NRA to once again avoid responsibility for gun-related crimes and further disassociates people from accepting any sort of responsibility for their actions.
So let me be clear: people with mental illnesses don’t routinely kill people; self-entitled gun owners with no sense of responsibility and no concept of others’ right to life kill people. And it is in our country’s best interest to stop listening to the NRA lobbyists and start background checking everyone who purchases a gun, not just those with a mental illness. After all, you have much more to fear from the brooding neckbeard shouting at his barista than you do from a person with schizophrenia. A person with schizophrenia is just trying to be as healthy as possible and live their life as normally as possible. That neckbeard? He’s out to ruin someone else’s day.
And if anything was going to convince you that the NRA is not the organization you want to back, this should be it. Every time there is a significant gun-related death, instead of finding ways to responsibly deal with the gun violence, representatives will scapegoat every person they can, including one of our country’s most vulnerable populations. It is more important to the NRA that they keep doing what they’re doing and selling as many guns as possible than it is to stop gun violence, to defend people with mental illnesses, or to advance real change. So say no to their lobbyists and anyone who targets people with mental illnesses. They don’t care about you, they don’t care about people with mental illnesses, and they don’t care about the victims of gun violence. They only care about themselves and their bottom line.