There Is a Connection Between Mass Shootings and Mental Illness

by Emma Shuster ’18

Seven weeks into 2018, there have been eight school shootings in the United States that have resulted in injury or death, the most recent occurring on Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Florida. Nikolas Cruz entered a school armed, killed 17 people, and injured several others. Prior to the shooting, the FBI was notified of Cruz and how he had a “desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts.”

President Donald Trump, sparked interest and controversy after the shooting, when he tweeted, “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

The tweet has added to the questions over whether shootings correlate with mental illness and if more widespread and accurate diagnoses, could perhaps prevent shootings. According to a New York Times article, “ In an analysis of 235 mass killings, many of which were carried out with firearms, 22 percent of the perpetrators could be considered mentally ill.”

Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2013, many states considered legislation with a purpose to loosen involuntary psychiatric care and to strengthen mandatory reporting of certain patients to the national criminal background check system.

While limiting access to dangerous weapons may seem like a good idea, there lie some issues. Approximately, one in five adults in the United States will experience some form of a mental illness in a whole year. However, only a small portion of crime is actually carried out by the mentally ill. If certain laws were passed, the concern from guns-rights advocates is that such laws would restrict the rights of those who perhaps may never be violent. Legislators are carefully working to pass laws that would benefit and not restrict us all.