On Wednesday, Feb. 14, at least 17 people were killed in a high school mass shooting that took place in Parkland, FL. It’s the worst school shooting since Sandy Hook, according to a recent CNBC article.
Not Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who called the incident “pure evil.”
Not President Trump, who tweeted his prayers and condolences, saying also, “No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”
Yet in a country where guns seem to be so readily accessible to almost anyone, even to the young suspect* who carried out the shooting in Parkland, I think our elected officials know better than to pretend these acts of violence are surprising.
I wrote an editorial last fall about the massive influence the NRA wields over elected officials who prevent any meaningful gun reform from taking place. I also mentioned how, despite the fact President Trump repeatedly blames mass shootings on mental illness, he signed a bill last February that essentially makes it easier for people who are unable to work due to severe mental illness to purchase a firearm.
After the shooting in Florida yesterday, he also tweeted:
I want to be clear: Just because a person has a mental illness does not mean they are inherently violent. I know this because I know people with mental illnesses who are not violent. There are so many types of mental illnesses that affect people in so many different ways. Labeling all mass shooters as “mentally disturbed” perpetuates a hurtful and false stereotype and adds to the stigma people with mental illness already live with.
That said, people who are not mentally capable of responsibly handling a firearm should not be able to purchase them as the shooter in Parkland (or any of the various other mass shooters in recent history) did.
This shouldn’t be hard to understand: If someone has thoughts of suicide, is it sensible for them to be able to go out and buy a gun? If someone has a history of violent, antisocial behavior, should they be able to buy a gun? No, to both questions.
I agree with the president that mental health awareness and reform needs to happen. People with mental illness need better access to treatment. But that treatment is not and cannot ever be found in a gun store.
It’s past time our elected leaders realize this and seek solutions that both accurately represent and help people with mental illness, while also ensuring that only those who are responsible and mentally capable can have access to guns.
* – I’m not going to give the name or any further details about the suspected shooter. CNBC reported that they’re in custody, and therefore will presumably be tried in court (and hopefully receive a just sentence). I don’t think they deserve any more media attention about their life or personal background. According to a recent study, when news media go into detail about mass shooters’ lives and background, it has the potential to inspire copycat killers.