The Danger of Trump’s Mass Shooting Rhetoric

December 5, 2017

On Sunday, November 5th, a gunman entered a church, shooting indiscriminately, and killed 26 people. Far more were injured. The victims ranged in age from 1-77.

This was the third deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history. The three deadliest shootings have happened within the past two years. The typical societal response is as follows, with little deviation: there will be lots of media coverage (if the death toll is high enough), people will send thoughts and prayers to the victims (instead of something actually slightly useful like money), and the left wing will attempt to discuss gun control while the right wing, with vehement indignation, will say it is inappropriate to talk about gun control. If a political statement is formed from the ashes, it is this- “we need to better help the mentally ill.” Essentially, they implicitly blame the illness of the mind, not the vehicles used, or how easy it was for the mentally ill to acquire the guns. This was explicit in Trump’s response to the Texas shooting as he stated, “This isn’t a guns situation. This is a mental health problem at the highest level. It’s a very, very sad event.”

To clarify, the GOP takes these mass shootings, shames the democrats for attempting to politicize the shooting to save lives, then politicizes the shooting towards mental health to appease the public. The government can’t simply sweep mass shootings under the rug. People innately seek blame, and seek solutions. A gun based solution is never going to be enacted, or even seriously proposed, in a republican future. Thus, republicans blame the individuals. They seek to demonize the shooter. The right wing are right to do so, however we as a society can’t completely ignore the manner of destruction. If a “deranged individual” wanted to inflict mass harm without access to a gun,  they wouldn’t feasibly be able to kill more than maybe a dozen. Contrast this to a shooter who is a block away where nobody is able to locate where the shots are coming from, and aren’t able to adequately cover themselves. It is clear why guns are demonized. Guns take the machinations of violence, and enable far easier access. The highest modern mass stabbing in the world occurred in China. 33 people died- a tragic death toll. This attack was carried out by 10 coordinated people. This still is just over half as many deaths as several modern US mass shootings. To put it succinctly, guns can kill way more people than knives. So why is Trump still leaning on mental health as the reason to the massive death tolls, as opposed to guns?

The President of the United States is the most powerful and influential figure in the entire world. That is not a hyperbolic statement, it is the truth. So when he states that mass shootings are the fault of mentally ill people, it puts a target on the backs of the mentally ill. They are seen as the problem, the source of the terror experienced by so many. This blame is dismissed by many, but to stalwart supporters of the president, his words are gospel. This is a dangerous precedence, and one that does not look to a solution, but as a way to avoid blame. The ignorant masses combined with an ignorant leader leads to mentally ill people feeling ostracized by a fearful society. It exacerbates the problem in order of magnitudes. Now not only are people who are mentally capable in every sense scared of shootings, but they are scared of mentally ill people for invalid reasons. As Vox states, “Mentally ill people are far, far likelier to be the victims of violence (including violence committed by police) than the perpetrators.” This response helps no one.

Now, it would seem that if Trump blames poor mental health for mass shootings, the Trump Administration would, maybe, block the mentally ill from buying guns. This would be logical after all. Mass shootings are caused by mental health so block mentally ill people from buying guns. Well the Trump Administration didn’t act logically. They gutted an Obama era bill that helped to block mentally ill people from buying guns. Peter Ambler, the executive director of Giffords, the gun control group started by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, stated “Blaming mental health is a tactic straight out of the gun lobby’s playbook that’s meant to paralyze Congress. Donald Trump’s goal is to make people think our leaders don’t have the power to prevent gun violence.” By blaming mental illness, President Donald Trump is not helping the situation. He is intentionally derailing the conversation. This a serious problem, and one that won’t be fixed with arcane beliefs and Trump induced gridlock.

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