Earlier this week President Trump rolled back some Obama era protections intended to bar mentally ill people from obtaining guns. This caused a lot of people concern because the mentally ill are, I am, seen as violent, unstable, and untrustworthy.
A few years ago I took an active shooter preparedness course created by FEMA as part of a workplace safety training. In this training we were given warning signs that someone may be a danger to the workplace and I exhibited pretty much every behavior.
These behaviors were:
- Mood Swings
- Unexplained Absences
- Social Withdrawal
I experience all these things as do a lot of people with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. These warning signs seemed to me to be describing symptoms of mental illness rather than actual characteristics of past shooters.
Let’s take a popular example, the Columbine high school shooter. He didn’t experience any of the listed symptoms. He was being bullied and, in my opinion, his flight or fight mechanism expressed in an extreme way and he went on a shooting spree.
Or how about the more recent church shooting at a black church by a white supremacist. He hated black people and he expressed that hate by killing. None of the symptoms listed by the FEMA training exhibited.
But based on the common perceptions of the mentally ill not really based on anything but stigma people view me as a danger to society. The truth is I am far more likely to hurt myself or be the victim of violent crime than I am to perpetrate one. I thought about killing myself for months at a time but never once even had a fleeting thought about killing another human being.
This fear of the mentally ill is irrational, unfounded, and part of the reason so many of us find ourselves isolated with no support system.
So, this will probably be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t care what Trump did because it wasn’t going to solve the problem of gun violence anyway. The mentally ill are not the problem. Given that this is largely a male behavior, it likely has more to do with issues such as toxic masculinity. Men feeling like they are fighting for some cause, having their perception warped and feeling like warriors.
Lets focus on fixing men, not punishing and stigmatizing the mentally ill.