We do not have a unique mental illness problem with this country; other countries also have people who suffer from mental illness. But you wouldn’t know it from listening to NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who supports the right to carry a gun at the cost to any other right. He seems to think that the problem of gun violence in the United States would best be solved by putting the mentally ill in institutions, a suggestion stuck in the 1950s. We are not alone in the world attempting more humane solutions to mental illness than institutionalization. Yes, we could do much more as a nation to help these people, but I seriously doubt that anyone who supports unrestricted gun ownership also supports an expansion of government spending on the type of health care programs needed to have a serious impact. At the same time, many of the people who have taken the airwaves in the weeks after Newtown to decry gun restrictions also oppose the types of background checks that would actually help to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
Including suicides, guns were a factor in 30,000 American deaths last year. In cities like Philadelphia, eighty percent of the victims of gun violence are young men from minority groups. Obviously, not all of these people or their murderers are mentally ill. They’re the victims of rash decisions, poverty, distrust in the police to solve crimes and accord punishment. All of these are major problems that we should attempt to deal with as a nation. But other nations have these problems, too. There is poverty in Britain. Australians don’t particularly trust the police. But neither of these can access deadly firearms with the unique ease of Americans. Continue reading