NYAPRS Note: Yesterday, Senate Democrats took the floor to call on Senate Republicans and the Trump Administration to approve gun background checks and to decry deflection from this measure by blaming gun violence on Americans with mental health conditions.
In particular, Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii gave the following remarks from the Senate floor:
…To make it worse in the week since the attacks in Ohio and Texas, we keep hearing from Republicans that gun violence is not caused by guns.
To quote the President directly, mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger. Not the gun. Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger. Not the gun.
I want to spend a little time on this one because this one is really offensive and really deeply hurtful.
Setting aside the lack of progress on guns, we're also losing 10, 20, 30 years of progress that we made in destigmatizing mental health services. Now mass shooters and regular experience mental illness of the same rate.
There is no indication that mass shooters or individual people who are homicidal experience mental illness than any other part of the population. It's more insidious than that.
About 20% of all Americans at some point need mental health services and the great difficulty in terms of of getting mental health services is not just availability of care, it's that people still feel embarrassed to say I need some help.
And shame on the President of the United States to equate someone who may need care for postpartum depression or post traumatic stress coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan or may experience a bipolar disorder or whatever it may be, a kid with autism, shame on the President of the United States to imply that people who need mental health services are somehow dangerous and they are the ones that should be cracked down on.
That is a deeply, deeply dangerous thing to say about 20% of all Americans who simply need to get better and who simply need to not be characterized as crazy or dangerous or that they should be ashamed of what they are experiencing.
Shame on the President of the United States for equating mental illness with being dangerous to society. Consider for a minute the progress that we made as a society to destigmatize mental health. We've reduced the shame around living with the challenges and more people are willing to prioritize their mental well-being.
People should not be embarrassed or scared to seek the help they need and shouldn't be blamed for the gun violence epidemic in our country...