Mental illness and gun violence

Updated
Mourners place candles and stuffed toy animals on a memorial for victims of the recent mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut December 16, 2012.
Mourners place candles and stuffed toy animals on a memorial for victims of the recent mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut December 16, 2012.
Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Searching for the reason why Adam Lanza allegedly opened fire on an elementary school last Friday, some Republicans are focusing  on mental health–perhaps in an attempt to drive the conversation away from gun control.

“Assault weapons account for less than 2% of the murders in this country,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) on Today. “Now, if you’re in that 2%, you know, believe me, I understand that, but if you’re going to tackle the bigger, broader part of the problem, the challenge, I don’t think that this country has necessarily addressed the mental health issue.”

In fact,  evidence suggests that the mentally ill are not the main perpetrators of deadly shooting sprees. According to a 2011 article in The Lancet, only 3% to 5% of crimes committed in this country involve people with mental illness.

“This emphasis on insanity risks taking the U.S. farther away from real conversations about guns at the very moment when more cultural debate seems badly needed, whether or not these guns are allowed, regulated, or banned,” wrote Jonathan Metzl in 2011.

It’s also worth noting that as Republicans argue for increased attention on mental health, they fail to mention their opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which promises to bolster mental health care coverage through increased Medicaid enrollment and by working to link chronic physical problems with mental ones.

“The most important thing that the Affordable Care Act does is, in terms of mental health, is to give everyone insurance,” said Dr. Zeke Emanuel, who appeared on NOW With Alex Wagner Tuesday.

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Mental illness and gun violence

Updated