Vox tackles mass shootings and mental health

Image by Brett_Hondow from Pixabay

In the wake of the mass shooting in Allen, Texas, it’s going to be time to debate gun control all over again. I’d rather not, of course, but I’m not going to allow the other side to push lies, misinformation, and nonsense unchallenged, so here I am.


I’m unsurprised to see that Vox is wading in on the side of gun control. That’s to be expected, of course.

One interesting bit I recently came across was this attempt to address calls for mental health treatment.

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is calling for more resources for mental health following a mass shooting at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas, on Saturday in which a gunman killed at least eight people. Abbott presented those resources as the solution for the gun violence that has wracked the state in recent years. But there’s little evidence increased funding for mental health services will reduce gun violence.

“What Texas is doing in a big-time way, we are working to address that anger and violence but going to its root cause, which is addressing the mental health problems behind it,” Abbott said during an interview on Fox News Sunday. “People want a quick solution. The long-term solution here is to address the mental health issue.”

It’s one of many times since Abbott took office that the Republican governor and his party have invoked mental health issues as the root cause of mass shootings in the state, including last year’s shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, the 2019 El Paso Walmart shooting, the 2019 Midland-Odessa shooting, the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting, and the 2017 First Baptist Church shooting.

Though the Texas legislature has allocated more than $1.5 billion toward mental health services in the last few years, those services remain inaccessible to many in Texas, which faces a critical shortage of mental health professionals.

What’s more, it’s not clear that addressing the state’s mental health crisis will have any meaningful impact on preventing gun violence, given the large body of research that shows most individuals with serious mental health issues never become violent. Rather, Republicans’ rhetoric around mental health issues — a playbook long practiced by gun-rights advocates — serves to distract from discussions that they are unwilling to have around gun control.


Now, the Vox writer is correct that most people with mental health issues never become violent. However, I don’t recall anyone saying otherwise. Not from the pro-gun side, anyway.

After all, we’re not the ones who have called for mental health screenings before people can buy or carry a firearm.

What we have here, though, is a straw man argument. They’re pretending Abbott is focusing on something that’s a non-factor instead of passing gun control.

Except, it’s not a non-factor.

You see, while most people with mental illness will never become violent, many of those who become violent suffer from mental illness.

Arguments about a shortage of mental health providers in Texas, claims the state’s efforts are insufficient, all could be valid points of discussion. Making up implications that have nothing to do with the discussion isn’t.

The truth is that gun control isn’t the answer. There’s little evidence that our current problem can be solved with gun control at all. We’ve already addressed so many of these measures in detail that it’s almost pathetic, and yet they’re still being pushed while discussion of mental health efforts get dismissed as if they’re unimportant.

The thing is, I don’t think this is the total answer. I think there’s a lot more that needs to be done, but it all starts with focusing on the people.

In Texas, we just saw eight people killed with a Land Rover, for crying out loud. Even if that wasn’t intentional–and witnesses at the scene claim the driver told them to “go back where you came from,” which makes that harder to believe–does anyone think the body count would be lower if it had been on purpose?


Focusing on the people makes sense. Understanding why people would do such a thing and trying to address problems before they start makes sense.

It’s this idea that you can turn bad people into angels with a gun control law that doesn’t make any sense at all.

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