Calling the perpetrator of a mass shooting ‘mentally ill’ is another way of saying ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’. It is clear that anyone who comes to the point of killing dozens of innocents is by everyone’s lights, not right. But calling them ‘mentally ill’ and simply ‘mentally ill’ does not go far enough. The vast majority of mentally ill people are not violent. Even fewer are in any way ‘deranged’. A tendency towards violence may itself mean that a person is among the mentally ill, but that does not mean that the mentally ill are violent – much less deranged.
As someone who suffers from mental illness, it can be very difficult to determine what can be done to change the stigma but to go on living an honest life, while standing up for your rights and against the stigma. But if there is any right that the mentally ill can concede, it is the infringement on their right to bear arms, in the name of peace. This may seem like a hopelessly paradoxical position to some who, under feelings of persecution or duress, believe that they are the ones that need protection more than anyone. But a certain faith and intelligence must go far enough to overcome the fear and feeling of injustice.
Automatic weapons have no place among our citizenry. They make violence too easy at critical moments and for anyone. But those with mental illness can go further and be willing to give up firearms entirely, finding other, honest and non-violent ways to protect themselves. In exchange, they should ask, as I have advocated previously, that there be a taxation on the sale and transfer of firearms, which goes to fund mental health care in our communities. That seems the least society can do.