The Collegian
Thursday, February 22, 2024

​OPINION: Stop equating mass shootings with mental illness

<p>Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian</p>

Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian

Mental illness becoming synonymous with mass shootings is an issue. Not all cases of mental illnesses result in mass shootings or suicide. Although many people have stated the need for more funding and research into helping those with mental illnesses, which is definitely necessary, it should not be the result of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. 

There is a serious problem with making gun laws only about mental illness. Not all gun laws need to be or should be about mental illnesses -- sometimes they just need to be about the difficulty required to acquire a gun. Most states don't even require citizens to have an ID to purchase a firearm. We should increase background checks, require more identification and increase gun control in general — but not blame mental illness. 

Always assuming that mass shootings are related to a mental illness is dangerous because sometimes it's just pure hatred and there's no excuse for that. There's also an issue with always making an assumption that the shooter is mentally ill because then it will limit the chances of a mentally-ill person seeking help. Why seek help if people are going to assume the worst of you and try to lock you up? The stigma surrounding the correlation between mass shootings and mental illness is dangerous as it discourages the aiding of those with mental illness. By relating all mental illnesses with mass shootings, people suffering from illnesses such as depression or anxiety might be less likely to seek help for fear of being imprisoned because they ‘might’ cause a mass shooting. 

In general, if someone says “mass shootings are a mental illness problem” it lumps all people with mental illnesses together, including those suffering from chronic mental illnesses as well as those with sudden outbursts or no previous history of mental illness. Additionally, if there were stronger gun regulations preventing people with cited issues with authority — or particularly the police, seeing as they were called to the Parkland shooter’s house several times for outbursts — then he would not have been able to get his hands on such a weapon. 

While blaming the people — the peers, teachers, neighbors, police and everyone who knew there was potentially something mentally wrong with the shooter — is one response, the other response is to acknowledge the fact that there is a lack of gun control in our country. In what was supposed to be a moving monologue about the shooting, Jimmy Kimmel said, “This is a mental health issue, because if you don’t agree we need to do something about it, you’re obviously mentally ill.” He said this while addressing the president. Kimmel simultaneously emphasized the need to help those suffering from mental illnesses and accused the president of being mentally ill himself. Kimmel undermined his own argument in defending victims of mental illness by blaming President Donald Trump, whom he accused of being mentally ill, for causing the problem.

It was an extremely poor word choice on Kimmel’s part. Our president isn’t mentally ill, he is just anti-gun control — which I suppose some might argue humorously designates mental illness. However, it is always in poor choice to joke about mental illness. 

Although mental illness is difficult to talk about and we need to take it more seriously, we can’t place all the blame for mass shootings on people suffering from mental illness. We must recognize that the problem with mass shootings lies with lax gun-control laws and how much money the National Rifle Association pays off politicians to keep the gun regulations lax. 

Mental illness is a universal problem. The whole world struggles with helping people with mental illness, but gun control is different. Only in America do we suffer from so many mass shootings, and it is truly an issue mainly of a lack in gun control and lax gun-regulatory legislation. 

Stop making mental illness synonymous with mass shootings and start dealing with these two issues properly. We need to take mental illness and mental health more seriously and we need to have stricter gun laws. Much time has passed since the Founders passed the Second Amendment, and adapting our gun laws to match our own time is long overdue.

Contact opinions writer Caroline McNamara at

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