There are many legislation proposals that are suggesting further limitations placed on those that are mentally ill and their access to guns. However, there are several loopholes which allow those with documented mental illnesses to purchase weapons. There have been recent movements to help block these loopholes. This includes further specifying the broad mental health categories which allow differentiation between commitments to outpatient treatment or guardian care, blocking access to purchasing guns from private sellers (e.g. buying at gun shows), and increasing accessibility to medical records which show possible violent behavior. Trump has also paved the way for open access to guns for as many Americans as possible, even those with a mental illness. Policy suggestions on both sides of the aisle have attempted to limit this access through closing some of the loopholes that exist for those that have documented mental illness. The problem of this lies not in the mental health policies around gun control, but in the presence of guns themselves.
The common strategy for conservatives to use to get out of applying common sense gun reform is blaming the problem of rampant US gun violence on solely the poor mental health of the active shooters. This is also actually working to convince most Americans that the gun violence problem is rooted not in access to guns, but the taboo of mental illness. The American Psychiatric Association has proven that there has been little research claiming a correlation between gun violence and mental illness. Limiting access to weapons for those with documented mental illness has been shown to reduce gun violence, but it’s not the main catalyst. There have been strong correlations to instances of bullying, but there hasn’t been significant connections between mental illness and gun violence in mass shootings. Ultimately, the broader question around mental illness and gun violence lies in access. Current legislation doesn’t limit the access of those without a documented mental illness or general public access to military style assault rifles. Common sense gun reform has often included background checks, but what’s the point if the buyer doesn’t have indicators of a violent history or if a buyer finds a military assault rifle at a gun show? This has been the central issue with gun control advocates: limiting access to more dangerous weapons for everyone, not just those with a mental illness.
March for Our Lives- an organization started after the Parkland school shooting which aims to unify advocates for gun control around relevant issues. Consider donating or canvassing during the midterm elections on these issues with this organization.
Alliance for Gun Responsibility Foundation– Learn about how this organization is aiming to destigmatize the association between gun violence and mental illness. Consider donating or attending a conference if possible.
As always, contact your state’s elected officials and voice your concerns or support.
This Brief was compiled by Sophia Adams. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this Brief please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.