Gun Control: A Misguided Focus on Mental Illness

Don’t fall for the diversion
US News • Views: 25,126

The big push to divert the discussion of guns and gun control into a discussion about mental illness is really beginning in earnest tonight. And unfortunately, many liberals arguing for gun control are falling for the diversion, because yes, mental health care is terrible in America and it does need improvement — but they’re not seeing how the right wing (and watch, this will be a big NRA talking point in their “major press conference”) is using this issue to take the debate in a vague, pointless direction that will end up without touching anyone’s precious guns.

I’ve been watching this “mental illness” talking point gather strength on the right since Friday, and now it looks like the word has been put out to hammer it hard.

For one example out of many, at Breitbart “News:” PSYCHIATRIST: LANZA WAS ‘PSEUDOCOMMANDO’ WITH ‘WOUNDED NARCISSISM’.

The psychiatrist they’re all-caps yelling about is not Adam Lanza’s psychiatrist; it’s another CNN talking head who never met anyone involved in the case, but apparently still considers it ethical to diagnose them on air.

Here’s a good piece on the subject by Richard Friedman, M.D. at the New York Times, that makes the same point I made in this post few days ago: A Misguided Focus on Mental Illness in Gun Control Debate.

Perhaps more significant, we are not very good at predicting who is likely to be dangerous in the future. According to Dr. Michael Stone, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia and an expert on mass murderers, ‘Most of these killers are young men who are not floridly psychotic. They tend to be paranoid loners who hold a grudge and are full of rage.’

Even though we know from large-scale epidemiologic studies like the E.C.A. study that a young psychotic male who is intoxicated with alcohol and has a history of involuntary commitment is at a high risk of violence, most individuals who fit this profile are harmless.

Jeffery Swanson, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University and a leading expert in the epidemiology of violence, said in an e-mail, ‘Can we reliably predict violence? ‘No’ is the short answer. Psychiatrists, using clinical judgment, are not much better than chance at predicting which individual patients will do something violent and which will not.’

It would be even harder to predict a mass shooting, Dr. Swanson said, ‘You can profile the perpetrators after the fact and you’ll get a description of troubled young men, which also matches the description of thousands of other troubled young men who would never do something like this.’

Even if clinicians could predict violence perfectly, keeping guns from people with mental illness is easier said than done. Nearly five years after Congress enacted the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, only about half of the states have submitted more than a tiny proportion of their mental health records.

How effective are laws that prohibit people with mental illness from obtaining guns? According to Dr. Swanson’s recent research, these measures may prevent some violent crime. But, he added, ‘there are a lot of people who are undeterred by these laws.’

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying; yes, mental health care in the United States needs to be improved. But the right wing is using this almost totally unrelated issue as a diversionary tactic to stop us from addressing the ongoing epidemic of gun crime. Dr. Friedman’s article concludes:

All the focus on the small number of people with mental illness who are violent serves to make us feel safer by displacing and limiting the threat of violence to a small, well-defined group. But the sad and frightening truth is that the vast majority of homicides are carried out by outwardly normal people in the grip of all too ordinary human aggression to whom we provide nearly unfettered access to deadly force.

Jump to top

Create a PageThis is the LGF Pages posting bookmarklet. To use it, drag this button to your browser's bookmark bar, and title it 'LGF Pages' (or whatever you like). Then browse to a site you want to post, select some text on the page to use for a quote, click the bookmarklet, and the Pages posting window will appear with the title, text, and any embedded video or audio files already filled in, ready to go.
Or... you can just click this button to open the Pages posting window right away.
Last updated: 2016-01-01 10:29 am PST
LGF User's Guide RSS Feeds

Help support Little Green Footballs!

Subscribe now for ad-free access!Register and sign in to a free LGF account before subscribing, and your ad-free access will be automatically enabled.

Recent PagesClick to refresh
This Is What the Revolution Looks Like: Former Sanders Staffers Are Launching a New PAC Aimed at Midterm Congressional Elections It's not a true political movement and it has no soul, no spine, and no heart if it can not persist past a defeat. Real change in this country will require a sustained national mobilization, what I’ve called a ...
Thanos
24 minutes ago
Views: 44 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 2 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Likes: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
How to Fly a Drone (& NOT Crash) - in 4K! 8 easy steps to flying without crashing in ANY conditions: 1. Basic controls: 01:24 2. GPS off: 02:38 3. Rotate: 03:54 4. Side-to-side: 05:54 5. Forward and back: 07:39 6. Flying high: 09:24 7. Figure 8: 10:23 8. Flying ...
Thanos
14 hours, 47 minutes ago
Views: 116 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 3 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Likes: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Guns. Sensibly, Responsibly, Constitutionally.I need your help. Please take a few minutes. It’s a quick read. There’s lots of spacing. Maybe pass the word for others to read this and leave a yea or nay comment. I’m not fishing for views. I need ...
dangerman
1 day, 14 hours ago
Views: 354 • Comments: 3 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Likes: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Supreme Court May Make Prosecuting Bribery Cases Against Public Officials Tougher The justices, both conservative and liberal, gave a favorable hearing to former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, who was convicted of corruption for taking $175,000 in cash and gifts from a businessman seeking help to promote his dietary supplement. McDonnell's ...
Thanos
1 day, 18 hours ago
Views: 541 • Comments: 1 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 10 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 2
Likes: 0
Comments: 1
: 3
′Oldschool Society′ Neo-Nazis Go on Trial for Refugee Home Attacks In Europe the anti-immigrant movement is more active. Four Germans have gone on trial on suspicion of planning to detonate nail bombs at a home for asylum seekers. The three men and one woman allegedly formed a far-right terror ...
Thanos
1 day, 18 hours ago
Views: 273 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 18 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 1
Likes: 1
Comments: 1
: 3
Time-Lapse Images of Mount St. Helens Dome Growth 2004-2008 gallery.usgs.gov The rapid onset of unrest at Mount St. Helens on September 23, 2004 initiated an uninterrupted lava-dome-building eruption that continued until 2008. The initial phase produced rapid growth of a lava dome as magma pushed upward. As shown ...
Thanos
1 day, 18 hours ago
Views: 703 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 8
Tweets: 71 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 1
Likes: 1
Comments: 0
: 2
6 Horrifying Realities of Dealing With Sandy Hook ‘Truthers’cracked.com On December 14, 2012, Lenny Pozner's six-year-old son Noah was one of 27 people murdered by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Pozner has since been consistently insulted and threatened by people who think he and ...
HappyWarrior
1 day, 21 hours ago
Views: 445 • Comments: 1 • Rating: 5
Tweets: 5 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Likes: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Vice UK Rejects Call for Union Recognition Vice’s UK arm has rejected a push for union recognition by a group of staff, bucking a growing trend that has seen unionisation at digital media businesses including the outlet’s main base in the US. At a meeting held ...
The French Rat
2 days, 1 hour ago
Views: 565 • Comments: 1 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 2 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Likes: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Racist Texts Allegedly Sent by SF Officers Released The text messages compared blacks to animals and made light of shootings. They called Latinos “beaners” and targeted gay officers. And all of them were sent by San Francisco police officers. Such are the contents of the latest bigoted ...
Thanos
2 days, 11 hours ago
Views: 701 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 2
Tweets: 3 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 1
Likes: 0
Comments: 0
: 1
Prince Had a $300 Million Fortune and No Will: Is All Hell About to Break Loose? Tyka Nelson, also a singer, filed documents in a Minnesota court today petitioning for the appointment of a special administrator who, in light of her late brother having no will, would oversee the distribution of Prince's assets to her ...
Thanos
2 days, 11 hours ago
Views: 730 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 32 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 1
Likes: 1
Comments: 0
: 2