It’s Guns…Not People, Not Diagnoses
As a former psychiatric nurse, I’m qualified to speak to the issue of mental health and guns. Having cared for a number of suicidal and homicidal patients, most are simply crying out for help and don’t really wish to die or kill others. With regards to the Las Vegas mass killer, his odd behavior may have been an undiagnosed mental illness, or it may not have been. The bigger issue always comes down to competence. Did he know right from wrong? My guess would be yes, due to the preparation and calculation involved in his crime. There are millions of Americans whom are suffering from mental illness whether diagnosed or undiagnosed everyday, yet, they don’t masterfully plan a slaughter of tons of people. That being said, most mentally ill people are not considered incompetent which is why many are still held accountable for their crimes with real prison time every year.
Better access to mental health treatment would not have necessarily prevented the Las Vegas mass shooting. Nor will it prevent the next mass shooting. This is why we should not allow politicians to use mental illness as a cop out or scape goat after mass shootings. Americans often forget that owning a gun is a right in America, but healthcare is not. We should remind the GOP of this when they once again pursue repeal and replacement of ACA. Available mental health treatment doesn’t always equal access to such treatment. We also forget that for most, seeking mental health treatment is a personal choice and a tough one at that. For those whom are forced into treatment by a loved one or the courts, these patients still have a choice of whether to continue their mental health treatment regimen or not.
The average mass killer suffers with sociopathy or antisocial personality disorder. ASPD is a mental health disorder characterized by disregard for other people. Those with antisocial personality disorder tend to lie, break laws, act impulsively, lack regard for their own safety or the safety of others, show aggression, irritability, or lack of restraint. These individuals may consistently present with anger, boredom, or general discontent. It’s also common for these individuals to experience substance abuse disorders. Symptoms may or may not lessen with age. Further and most importantly, there is no cure for this disorder and most sufferers are very resistant to behavioral therapy and psychotherapy which may or may not alleviate their disorder.
Being mentally ill isn’t a crime. Nor is refusing to seek mental health treatment or even refusing to take psychotropic medication a crime. None of these scenarios would even show up on a criminal background check so why bring up mental health after a mass shooting? My guess is so that many of us can continue to pretend people are the only problem, not the unnecessary, extensive circulation of weapons for mass murder in our society. People don’t choose to be mentally ill. They do choose to use guns to hurt others. Maybe it’s time, they no longer have such ease in making this particular choice.