Shooting at schools have almost become a normal thing in the past 15 years.
The most recent shooting took place Wednesday in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were murdered. Many people on different social media platforms, like President Donald Trump, have said the shooting was caused by mental illness.
“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior,” Trump tweeted. “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
However, Jonathan Metzl, sociology and psychiatry professor at Vanderbilt University, said he disagrees with blaming the shooting on mental illness. In an article Metzl published in the American Journal of Public Health, he cited a Mother Jones report that found 60 percent of mass shooters in the United States since 1970 had symptoms of acute paranoia, delusions and depression before committing their crimes.
“It’s hard to know the deep psychological reasoning behind why people commit mass shootings,” Metzl said. “It could be caused from bullying or life stresses, but we can’t blame this on mental illness completely and ignore the issue of guns here.”
Metzl said focusing on mental illness won’t get this country anywhere, but limiting access to firearms will.
“It’s politically irresponsible to say mental illness is the cause for any shooting and completely distracts from the real issue here,” Metzl said. “I think if we all come together against the political divides and try to reduce gun violence while still respecting the second amendment, we could really solve this problem.”
Antonio de Velasco, political rhetoric expert and communications professor at the University of Memphis, said focusing on the mental health of the shooter as an individual is misguided, and part of the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) playbook.
“It just distracts from the broader influence of gun manufacturers and their lobbyists,” de Velasco said. “Evidence shows that more (and easier access to) guns leads to more gun violence.”
De Velasco also said trigger locks, closing the gun show loopholes and reinstating the federal ban on assault rifles would be a start to solving the gun problem in the U.S.
Michael Duke, professor of anthropology at the U of M, said he agrees gun laws should be stricter, and people should not be allowed to purchase an AR-15, an assault rifle that has been in used several mass shootings, including the shooting at a Chattanooga, Tennessee, military base in 2015.
“Although it will never completely remove the threat of violence, other countries, like Australia, that resolved to enact stricter gun laws have seen dramatic decreases in homicides, gun-related accidents and mass shootings,” Duke said. “Stricter gun laws in America should be put in place, and there is absolutely no reason for civilians to possess an AR-15 or any other high powered weapons, since they are useless for hunting and self-protection.”
Duke said when a 20 children and six adults were shot and killed in 2012 in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, many people thought the nation as a whole had reached its tipping point regarding the easy availability of high-powered weapons. However, the gun lobby in the end was too powerful.
“An executive order to ban AR-15s should be signed, and the President should do more than offer ‘thoughts and prayers,’ because without action, those sentiments are meaningless,” Duke said. “Unless this tragedy results in some kind of legislation to limit firearms, those students and teachers in Florida will have died for nothing.”