Dems, GOP divided on how to address mass shootings

The state of Virginia isn’t as gun friendly as it once was. Despite all the gun control measures in place, some of which were meant to prevent mass shootings, the state played host to two such incidents within days of one another.

To say lawmakers are going to react is an understatement.

Where things break down, though, is in just what the two sides have in mind.

After two mass shootings at the University of Virginia and at a Walmart store in Chesapeake in November that left a total of 10 people dead, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced last week that his administration would push legislation to increase the state’s mental health resources. But some Democratic lawmakers warn that linking these two issues re-stigmatizes people suffering from mental illness.

“Every time there is a shooting the response is that we have to do something about mental health,” state Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Charlottesville, told Cardinal News in an interview earlier this week. “But the reality is that the data shows that people with mental illness are much more likely to be victims of crime than they are to be perpetrators.”

At a Thanksgiving event a week ago, Youngkin sidestepped a question from a reporter asking whether he would consider supporting legislation that would be aimed at restricting access to dangerous weapons and firearms.

“When the facts come in at the end of all the investigations, then we’ll have time to come together and talk about what actions we can take,” Youngkin said. Instead, he vowed to take further action to address the understaffing and underfunding of state agencies providing mental health services, and to begin offering patients treatment on the same day they experience a mental health crisis.

Now, I’m going to actually agree with a Democrat. The data does indeed show that those who suffer from mental illness are more likely to be the victims of a crime, rather than the perpetrator.

I’m just curious if Deeds will remember that data the next time someone wants to pass a law targeting gun owners with mental health issues.

I’m also curious if Deeds is aware of just how irrelevant that factor is when it comes to the subject of mass shootings.

When it comes to mental illness, there’s a huge gulf between “depressed because I lost a loved one” and “my sofa cushion is telling me to kill 15 prostitutes in a back alley somewhere.” While both fall under the mental health umbrella, there are huge differences.

So it’s not necessarily wrong to look at mass shootings as a mental health issue.

Part of the problem, though, that both sides are missing is that we know so little about mass shootings and mass shooters. We know that the vast majority of mass shooters come from broken homes, but so do a lot of other people who don’t shoot people in job lots.

Before we can find a real solution, we have to actually understand the problem.

Gun control won’t cut it. Virginia already has plenty and we see where that got them.

Mental health efforts may not cut it either, though. Not unless they’re focused in the right places.

However, I will say that, unlike gun control, increased mental health resources could yield significant benefits beyond any impact on mass shootings. After all, a lot of people suffer from mental illness. They could use the help, even if they’re not a danger to anyone else.

As a result, it may reduce suicides, if nothing else. Since roughly two-thirds of all “gun deaths” are suicides, it’ll drop those numbers.

But somehow, I don’t think Virginia Democrats are interested in that.