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No. The Mentally Ill Are Not Mass Murderers

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I'm now very freakin' tired of this meme. Every time some guy brandishing a high-powered battlefield style automatic rifle kills a crap load of innocent people, young children included, he's instantly, like hot Nescafe, considered a mental case. A crackpot crazy that just happened to turn homicidal because of his horrid family upbringing. Give me a break! This rush to obliquely justify this blood lust is so totally overworked, tried and lame that it conjures up instant nausea in me.

You see, in today's deliberately orchestrated and promoted mainstream media reports about mental illness, there is a tendency to emphasize an unsubstantiated and supposed link between violence and mental illness. Deliberate news stories peddle and suggest that there is a strong connection between mental illness and crime. But here's the thing: the majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illnesses. In fact, people with a mental illness are more likely to be the victims, rather than the perpetrators of violence.

So every major mass murder in the United States automatically supposes a direct correlation and link to mental illness. This broad brush is either deliberate or designed to confuse the public. For starters there are different kinds of mental illnesses from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome to garden variety depression. Because the media often quotes dramatic statistics to underscore their case, a look at the broader picture is essential. For example, studies have found that the rate of violence (defined as threatening, hitting, fighting or otherwise hurting another person) for people with mental illness is 3 to 5 times the rate of the general public. On its own, this is a worrying figure. But it is similar to how much more violent men are than women.

And there's more: studies have shown that alcohol and substance abuse far outweigh mental illness in directly contributing to violence. A review of scientific data found that the strongest predictor of violence and criminal behavior is not a major mental illness, but past history of violence and criminality. In the United States the complicit attitude to mass murder and the public's painful grappling to understand it is not helped by a sensationalistic driven mainstream media. Ratings and one-up-manship is the driving issue -- not a real examination and factual understanding of the causes of mass murder. It's easy to simply blame this on mental illness.

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Admittedly, any attempt at re-shaping American public beliefs is not going to be an easy task. However, it is important to correct the patently misleading information about this issue, because it leads to intolerance and negatively impacts the lives of people with mental illness and our society as a whole. Learning the facts about violence and mental illness is an important first step in building realistic attitudes about this complex issue.

First off, mental illness plays no part in the majority of violent crimes committed in America today. And the flawed assumption that any and every mental illness carries with it an almost certain potential for violence and mass murder has been consistently proven wrong in many studies. Research shows that people with major mental illness are 2.5 times more likely to be the victims of violence than other members of society. This most often occurs when such factors as poverty, transient lifestyle, and substance use are factors.

Further, existing data suggests that the pattern of violence is remarkably similar whether a person is suffering with a mental illness or not. For example, people with a mental illness are no more likely than anyone else to harm strangers. Violent behavior by anyone is generally aimed at family and friends, rather than strangers, and it happens in the home, not in public. Typically, spouses, other intimates and other family members are the targets of violence committed by a person with mental illness. Most of this violence is committed by men and directed at women -- as is the case in the population as a whole.

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In America today, alcohol and drug use are the prime contributors to violent behavior. Add to this individuals suffering from psychosis or neurological impairment who live in a stressful, unpredictable environment with little family or community support may be at increased risk for violent behavior. The risk for family violence is related to, among other factors, low socio-economic status, social stress, social isolation, poor self-esteem and personality problems.

All this aside, here's a distilled version of American mass murders: The federal government did nothing after 6- and 7-year-olds were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 20 children, six adults, and himself in 2012. Since then, there have been more than 1,600 mass shootings , killing more than 1,800 people and wounding more than 6,400. Many of these events led to protests and calls for actions, but Congress refused to budge every time. [www.vox.com].

When it comes to guns, America has way more gun deaths than other developed nation and it has far more guns in society than any other country in the world. America has nearly six times the gun homicide rate of Canada, more than seven times that of Sweden, and nearly 16 times that of Germany, according to United Nations data. These gun deaths are a big reason America has a much higher overall homicide rate , which includes non-gun deaths, than other developed nations. Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world's population yet own roughly 42 percent of all the world's privately held firearms -- 88.8 guns for every 100 people. This is insane!

Gun rights supporters besides using a flawed, backward reading of the Second Amendment to justify gun ownership and America's high levels of gun violence, argue that guns are not the problem. They point to other issues, from violence in video games and movies to the breakdown of the traditional family . But the fact is that only 52 out of America's 235 mass murderers or about 22 percent, had mental illnesses. It's time to stop blaming the mentally ill for the crimes of these brutal and vicious murderers.

The problem is guns and America's abundance of them.

The solution? American politician's -- both Republican and Democrats -- focus attention to gun control on a few very weak specific measures: universal background checks, restrictions on people with mental illnesses buying firearms, and an assault weapons ban. The power of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its lobbying efforts and financial support for Congressional leaders, make meaningful gun control legislation nearly impossible. Even with these tepid, timid steps are met with stiff opposition making something like Australia's law -- which amounts to a gun confiscation program -- impossible.

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The NRA's subjective understanding of the Second Amendment is premised on a set of deliberate obfuscations designed to dupe the American public. For instance, any suggestion about gun control and regulation is met with stiff resistance as if this contradicts and contravenes the sacredness of the Second Amendment. But that's not the case.

Consider this:What the NRA deliberately keeps hidden is the fact that guns were regulated in early America. For example, people deemed untrustworthy such as British loyalists unwilling to swear an oath of allegiance to the new nation were disarmed. The sale of guns to Native Americans was outlawed. Boston made it illegal to store a loaded firearm in any home or warehouse. Some states even conducted door-to-door registration surveys so the militia could "impress" those weapons if and when necessary. Men had to attend musters where their guns would be inspected by the government. The "well regulated militia" is today's National Guard.

So let's be clear: the mentally ill do not commit the vast majority of mass murders. Indeed, domestic violence and alarming strains of misogyny are powerful predictors of America's increasingly common mass shooting epidemic. Here's are the facts:between 2009 and 2012, 40 percent of mass shootings started with a shooter targeting his girlfriend, wife, or ex-wife; by 2016, that number had swollen to 54 percent, according to gun-control advocacy group Every Town for Gun Safety.Of the 95 mass shootings between 1982 and 2017 in Mother Jones' open-source database, only three cases--that's just over 2 percent--included female perpetrators.

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MICHAEL DERK ROBERTS Small Business Consultant, Editor, and Social Media & Communications Expert, New York Over the past 20 years I've been a top SMALL BUSINESS CONSULTANT and POLITICAL CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST in Brooklyn, New York, running (more...)
 

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