Gun Violence: Scapegoating Mental Illness

“This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America.” —President Barak Obama, October 1, 2015

Jonathan M. Metzl and Kenneth T. MacLeish published “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms” in the 105th volume of the American Journal of Public Health, February 2015.

Why the study? Political responses to mass shootings in the U.S. tend to focus on the causal relationship between mental health and gun violence. Some recent responses have gone as far as to require mental health professionals to report “dangerous patients” so that authorities can confiscate their firearms. Even though the authors agree that mental illness was a factor in many mass shootings and that addressing it is important, their research aims to challenge the oversimplification of claims about gun violence that frame the discussion so that the problem of everyday gun violence in the U.S. is obscured.

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