"It's a mental illness problem," Donald Trump recently declared on "Meet the Press" on NBC. "Guns, no guns, doesn't matter. You have people that are mentally ill and they're going to come through the cracks and they're going to do things that people will not even believe are possible."
And, it seems, most Americans would agree. A joint poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News and released last week found that while 82 percent of Americans surveyed thought gun violence is a serious problem, more people -- by 2 to 1 -- believe such violence is a result of inadequate methods and means of treating the mentally ill than of inadequate gun laws. The problem with these findings, though, is that they likely won't be used to implement, or even argue for better, detection and treatment of those with mental illness. Instead, they'll be co-opted by politicians -- like Trump -- who'll use the survey and others like it as evidence that gun controls are just fine; that, as one site put it, "guns don't kill people; crazy people do."
Except that's not entirely true: The vast majority of gun violence is still committed by people who are not mentally ill. Many incidents are accidents. Many are committed by children who happen upon guns in their/their neighbors'/their relatives' houses. And many, as we know, are committed by teenagers who are just beginning to show symptoms of the onset of mental illness -- cases in which early detection wouldn't necessarily apply. And, of course, not everyone suffering from mental illness will commit gun violence -- in one study, in fact, fewer than 5 percent of gun-related deaths were committed by those diagnosed with mental illness. (As President Obama recently said, "we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses... we are the only advanced country on earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.") Meanwhile, efforts to imply that all, or even most, incidents of gun violence are at the hands of the mentally ill only serves to increase the stigma directed towards those who suffer, which a 2013 study out of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health acutely confirmed.
So while it's easy to put the blame for gun violence on the mentally ill -- or the lack of support for them -- it's misleading, and ultimately unlikely to do anything to end needless gun-related deaths.
I have said some version of this several times in the past, but it is good to see a psychologist making similar statements as well.
And I seriously doubt you would find a mental health professional, NOT paid by the NRA, to say anything different.
This whole mental health dodge is a straw man argument, and NOBODY should take it seriously.
The simple truth is that fewer guns lead to fewer gun deaths, and that stricter laws and background checks keep guns out of the hands of people who absolutely should not have them.