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Experts: Mental illness not main driver of mass shootings

SeattlePI.com Monday, 5 August 2019
President Donald Trump's focus on "mentally ill monsters" oversimplifies the role of mental illness in public mass shootings and downplays the ease with which Americans can get firearms, experts said.

"Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun," Trump said Monday , addressing weekend shootings in Texas and Ohio that killed 31 people. The president described the perpetrators as "a wicked man" and "another twisted monster." He called for swift use of the death penalty and passage of red flag laws that would make it easier to take guns away from people believed to be dangerous.

In response, mental health experts repeated what they have said after previous mass shootings: Most people with mental illness are not violent, they are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators, and access to firearms is a big part of the problem.

"Until we begin to have our political leaders speaking more accurately to these issues, it's up to us to put the facts out there," said Arthur Evans, chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association.

Evans agreed that red flag laws , also known as extreme risk protection orders, are a worthwhile step. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have such laws, according to the nonprofit Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and some have used the laws to temporarily disarm people who have threatened violence.

But Evans and others said terms like "monsters" add to stigma that keeps people from getting treatment.

A country's rate of gun ownership is a far better predictor of public mass shootings than indicators of mental illness, said Adam Lankford, a University of Alabama criminologist who published a 2016 analysis of data from 171 countries.

"If mental illness were the driving factor, we...
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Video credit: CBS 2 New York - Published
News video: President Trump Calls For Stronger Mental Health Laws In Wake Of Mass Shootings

President Trump Calls For Stronger Mental Health Laws In Wake Of Mass Shootings 02:02

President Donald Trump addressed the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton on Monday; CBS2's Maurice DuBois reports.

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