December 15, 2017

Addressing Common Myths About Gun Violence

By Kelly Boggan ’20
Contributor

If you walk up to anyone you know and say the words “gun control”, it’s likely that they’ll have an immediate reaction, whether positive or negative. It’s a complex issue, with the Second Amendment often being cited in arguments on the negative side. In a country with a tragic history of frequent mass shootings, however, it’s important to separate out the myths from the fact. Specifically, I want to call attention to the myth that the government is conspiring to take guns away from responsible citizens, and the myth that mental illness is a leading factor of gun violence.

First, I feel it’s important to note that “gun control”, despite its weighty connotations, does not mean that anyone is coming for the firearms of a responsible, well-trained citizen with a legal gun license. The idea of the government conspiring to “take your guns” is a myth often perpetuated as a scare tactic meant to discourage support of even the most basic gun safety laws.

According to PolitiFact, a Pulitzer-winning website dedicated to fact-checking politicians from across the political spectrum, there was never any Obama-era “dramatic pledge to come for anyone’s firearms”, despite claims from the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action. Certainly, no such plans from the Trump administration exist, either. When most people talk about “gun control”, they are talking about uniform federal background checks and cracking down on illegal gun sales.

Second, gun violence is also not solely, or even mostly, a result of mental illness. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, only 3-5% of violent crimes are committed by adults living with a serious mental illness. In fact, the mentally ill are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators–about ten times as likely. After the shooting in Las Vegas, it was speculated that shooter Stephen Paddock’s motive was linked to a potential undiagnosed mental illness, because there was no other clear motive investigators or reporters could come up with other than, “He’s crazy, he must be!” What this reasoning ultimately does is stigmatize real, nonviolent people that are living with mental illness. One in five adults in the U.S. has experienced some form of mental illness, and one in twenty-five experience severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, major clinical depression, or bipolar disorder.

You likely know someone with some level of mental illness. When we associate mental illness with violence, we’re not just talking about mythical madmen like the Joker or Hannibal Lecter; we’re talking about real people living with an illness, the same as cancer or heart disease. If I told you that someone with Leukemia was more likely to rob a bank, or that they robbed that bank because they had untreated Leukemia, you’d think it was ridiculous, wouldn’t you?

I’m personally against the private ownership of guns. To me, guns are meant to hurt and kill, regardless whether it’s against a deer in the woods, a home intruder, or an innocent person. Although as a follower of Christ and a pacifist it’s hard for me to justify their existence at all, I’m not going to deny anyone who owns one for protection their current right to do so.

However, regardless of which side of the debate you fall on, it’s important to be informed about the facts, and the two points I’ve discussed here are the ones I see come up most often with the question of gun control laws. As students, it is our job to seek out knowledge and facts where we can find them; and as Christians, it is our job to work toward a better, safer country for us and those we love.

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