Actually, Guns Are the Problem

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADear Congressional Representatives who Keep Saying that the “Real Problem” is Mental Illness,

Mental illness is, indeed, a real problem. Please, by all means, address the issue of mental health in our country. We need more and better mental health clinics, more and better training for teachers, police, medical personnel, and others who interact with a wide range of people on a daily basis. We need insurance programs that make mental health care—and medications—affordable for all. We need supportive employment and suicide prevention and substance abuse treatment programs. And we need some funds to make all of that happen.

Yes. Please. Address mental health in this country.

And also address the problem of gun violence.

And don’t pretend they are the same thing.

Many, many, many, people—in fact, the overwhelmingly vast majority of people–who struggle with mental illness never use a gun to kill someone. Mentally ill people are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. And they are more likely to use guns to commit suicide than murder.

What may be more painful to acknowledge is that many, many murderers have no mental health diagnosis. They are sane. They are angry. They are desperate. They are impulsive. They are confused. They are selfish. They are scared. But they are sane.

And they are armed.

Guns are certainly not the only problem in this country. But guns are absolutely a problem in this country. And you need to do something about it. Stop scapegoating the mentally ill and start taking responsibility for cleaning up this mess of an armed society you have helped to create.

Sincerely,

A mother, friend, relative, and pastor of people with mental illness

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