The United States of America continues to suffer from an epidemic of mass shootings. The horrific and bone-curdling Uvalde massacre, in which 19 students and two teachers were killed and 17 people were wounded, marked the 212th instance of mass shooting in the US in 2022. To arrest this spate of mass shootings requires the US government to consider real long-term solutions and take practical measures. But there is one huge, towering problem: the panoply of solutions it is focusing on are deeply flawed and illogical.
Many lay the blame of these mass shootings on mental health problems. Shortly after the attack at Robb Elementary School, Texas’ governor Greg Abbott said that the shooter had a mental health challenge and the state needed to do a better job with mental health.
According to the report published by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing about mass violence in America in August 2019, only two percent of America’s firearm-related crimes are committed by those with mental health problems. American psychiatrist Jonathan Metzl and MHS professor Ken MacLeish, in their 2015 article titled ‘Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms’ for the American Journal of Public Health, called the link between mass shootings and mental health as one of those seemingly self-evident assumptions about mass shootings that is replete with problematic assumptions. In addition to this, Dr. Matthew Hirschtritt of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California and former president of the American Psychiatric Association Renée L. Binder also debunk this pernicious myth of mental health problems being a contributory factor behind mass shootings. In their paper “A Reassessment of Blaming Mass Shootings on Mental Illness” for JAMA Psychiatry, Hirschtritt and Binder write that attributing mass shootings to mental illness not only marginalises an already marginalised community but also diverts public focus away from policy reforms that can lower gun violence.
Some in the US believe that arming teachers and ramping up the security can curb these mass shootings. Here, it is worth pointing out that two-fifths of Uvalde’s total budget has been allocated to police funding. As far as the security measures are concerned, Robb Elementary School had a fence as well as heavy surveillance. However, none of this mattered a jot as Salvador Rolando Ramos broke through to gun down the students and teachers inside the school.
Next up, there are people who believe that there is “no way to prevent this” – a disingenuous statement that masks their refusal to do something. Let’s take a look at how other countries have managed to prevent this. The UK government imposed tighter controls on gun ownership after the deadly Dunblane Primary School massacre on 13 March 1996 and there have been zero school shootings in the UK since then. Australia, in order to curb gun violence, seized 650,000 privately-owned firearms. Norway, after Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in Oslo and Utøya in 2011, announced plans to ban semi-automatic guns by 2021.
Lastly, and more destructively, there are some who argue that “guns don’t kill people, people do.” Technically, it is true that a gun is an inanimate object that cannot kill someone itself. But here’s some food for thought. How would Salvador Rolando Ramos have managed to barge into the elementary school and kill 21 people if he wasn’t armed? How would Payton Gendron have managed to buy a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle and kill ten people at the Tops Friendly Markets store if it wasn’t that easy to buy firearms in the US?
As of yet, despite the shockwaves this unfortunate incident has sent across the world, there are little to no signs of America learning its lessons from the Uvalde massacre and doing anything of note. After the Uvalde massacre, there have been ten more mass shootings in the US and an attack at a high school graduation ceremony in Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans.
It’s past time for the US government to reform gun laws and enact gun reforms like a gun buyback program, red flag law and thorough background checks of ammo buyers.