Mental Health, or, Gun Violence’s Scapegoat



Madison Tanner, Contributor

Since the beginning of the year, America has had over two-hundred mass shootings and over six-thousand gun deaths, not including suicides, which is a depressing qualifier to add. Something is rotten, that much is evident, though it seems that no one can come to a consensus on what is causing it. 

This past Saturday, there was a shooting at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas, a suburb north of Dallas, leaving eight dead and injuring seven others. The shooter, Mauricio Garcia, used an AR-15 style weapon and was shot and killed by an officer on the scene. The Texas Department of Safety is leading an investigation into the shooting. 

Governor Gregg Abbott in an interview with Fox News opposed increasing gun restrictions and safety laws, such as background checks, instead stating, “We are working to address that anger and violence by going to its root cause, which is addressing the mental health problems behind it.”

So far, there has been no indication that this shooting was caused by mental health issues; however, WFAA is reporting that the shooter had been removed from the army due to mental health concerns. WFAA is also reporting that the shooter held extremist far-right beliefs and had previously expressed contempt for Jewish people and people of color. 

Whenever there is a mass shooting, and the perpetrator is even somewhat aligned to the right of the political spectrum, conservatives are quick to jump to the mental health discussion and ignore any other probable cause, like easy access to firearms or radicalized (read: alt-right) political beliefs. This behavior, while completely based on willful and dangerous ignorance, could at least have the dignity of being consistent, except for the fact that conservatives jump on any and every opportunity to blame the tragedy on the left or the radical transgender agenda with the fervor of a pack of rabid dogs.  

Back in March, there was a shooting at a Christian School in Nashville, Tennessee, wherein six people died. While at first the shooter was identified as a twenty-eight-year-old woman named Audrey Hale by law enforcement, there was later confusion as to whether or not the shooter was transgender following the discovery they went by masculine pronouns on a personal site. 

Following the revelation, conservative lawmakers and news outlets began a barrage of anti-trans-fueled rhetoric. Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson featured an image of the shooter on one of his shows with the comment, “We are witnessing the rise of trans violence.” 

Donald Trump Jr. went as far as to say, “Maybe, rather than talking about guns we should be talking about lunatics pushing their gender-affirming bulls— on our kids?” He followed this comment with a tweet that read: “There’s a clear epidemic of trans/non-binary mass shooters.”

There is no denying that what happened in Nashville was a tragedy. Those six lives should not have been lost. But the narrative that there is an “epidemic” of transgender shooters is nonsensical, given this was one shooter out of hundreds, hundreds who are, for the most part, white, cisgender men.

You hear no mention of this, there is no blame assigned to white supremacy and alt-right ideology for shootings where that is undeniably the cause. No, conservative lawmakers and media cry mental health and ignore the rest. It is, without fail, their fallback for tragedy every, single time. It’s not the increasing political polarization between left and right. It’s not the fostering and refusal to condemn white supremacy. It’s certainly not the guns. 

To say otherwise would be an admission of fault. It would be accepting blame for the willful spread of dangerous rhetoric meant to anger and radicalize conservative voters and demonize minorities. It would be owning up to the fact that there is a not insignificant part of their supporters who would gleefully return America to an era pre-Civil Rights Movement. It would be admitting they were wrong to spend years upon years adamantly refusing to strengthen gun laws. And if all that is true, then the lives lost to mass shootings are on them, and that’s a heavy weight to hold.

I’d like to live in a world where Republicans have the integrity to truly believe that mental health is the issue, and take the appropriate steps to address the crisis they claim is happening. However, I’ve yet to see an increase in the resources allocated to mental health services, or early, objective education on mental illness and preventative measures. So, no, I don’t believe that they are genuine. Frankly, I don’t think they care in the slightest as long as they remain unaffected.

Blaming mental health without offering solutions accomplishes nothing but demonizing the mentally ill and reducing the likelihood that people who truly need help will seek it out.