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Mental Illness & Gun Violence

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It seems a matter of common sense to think that a mass shooter must have “something wrong” with them. Well-adjusted, moral people do not engage in mass murder. But are mass shooters mentally ill? Mental illness is a medical matter, not a matter for common sense pop psychology to resolve. Image Credit Looked at in strict medical terms, mentally ill people do not make up the majority of mass shooters and about 3% of violent criminals are mentally ill. The mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violence rather than perpetrators. Violence on the part of the mentally ill tends to be self-directed rather than directed at others. Self-injury is certainly a matter of concern, but mass shootings and gun violence are not, if one looks at the data, primarily a mental health issue. While the mentally ill commit some gun violence, focusing on mental illness as a primary means to reduce gun violence would be an error—except to address cases of self-harm. It could be objected that the definition of mental illness used above is too narrow—engaging in a mass shooting is clear evidence of mental illness since a sane person would not do this. While this does have some appeal, expanding the scope of mental illness to automatically include those who engage in mass shootings as mentally ill would be problematic. One obvious concern is that soldiers and police who have engaged in shootings with multiple casualties would thus be classified as mentally ill. In war, soldiers regularly kill large numbers of people, including the innocent and unarmed. Yet they are not classified as mentally ill simply because they use violence as a tool to achieve their ends (or the ends of others). It could be countered that soldiers and the police (usually) use violence legally and rationally while mass shooters and people engaging in other gun violence do not. While it is true that mass shootings and gun violence are illegal, mass shooters do often act from grievances. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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