Mental illness awareness takes priority over gun control

Perpetrators behind the recently publicized Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora and Sandy Hook massacres all had two things in common: their weapon of choice, gun, and their mental state, ill.  Despite realizing these two commonalities, the nation seems to be fixated on solely improving gun control instead of improving mental health treatments.  In Pennsylvania, the law states that gun permits are restricted for persons who are: convicted felons, with mental illness, currently charged with felonies, dishonorably discharged from the military, “habitual” drunkards, drug users, of character or reputation that makes them considered likely to cause harm to the public.  Many of these depictions are difficult to discern from an application, which, along with two forms of identification, two references and $20, is all that is needed in order to become the proud owner of a firearm in Pennsylvania.  For instance, someone who is mentally ill may not manifest symptoms characteristic of a mental illness or indicative of violent behavior until they experience a crisis; therefore, they may not be warranted an official diagnosis until after they have a crisis, which, may be after they are in possession of a firearm and it is too late.

In tragedies, society always seems to look for a villain, but, perhaps, society does not know how to react when their villain becomes the victim of a mental illness.  No one is to blame except for society itself.  By not properly caring for the mentally ill, society has allowed those suffering from mental illness to succumb to their sickness.

Though mass killings such as these are rare, they can be avoided if the mentally ill receive proper care and treatment.  Perhaps, we should focus our efforts to stop gun violence in a different direction.  Instead of trying to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, we should simply reduce the number of criminals.  Throughout the United States, prisons have become the primary mental health facilities.  According to Business Insider, as of 2012, 1.25 million mentally ill people are behind bars while 40,000 are behind mental hospital doors.  Those that are mentally ill and behind bars are receiving far worse treatment than those behind mental hospital doors.  Often times, the mentally ill in prisons are subject to over medication and violence and then released into the streets.  Stopping the mentally ill from being criminalized is vital to reducing the number of criminals in society.

Mental illnesses that many incarcerated people tend to suffer from include Anti-Social Personality Disorder, Bi-Polar Disorder and Schizophrenia.  According to the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual),the book that is used to characterize certain mental disorders, Anti-Social personality disorder is characterized by: “failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior, deception, impulsiveness, irritability, aggressiveness, reckless disregard for the safety of self and/or others, and lack of remorse.”  These characteristics seem to make up the quintessence of a killer.  Bi-Polar disorder, or mood disorder, is characterized by an inability to control dramatic oscillations between a frenzied state of mania and depression.  Schizophrenia is characterized by the breakdown of thought processes and a deficit of typical emotional responses including auditory hallucinations and paranoid delusions.  These disorders characterize people that have lost touch with reality and are not capable of controlling their actions.  If a person is truly suffering from a disorder, will punishing them in prison actually teach them a lesson if they are incapable of feeling any remorse?  Imprisoning these people does not seem to be constructive at all.  Imprisoning these people only separates those deemed “normal” from the “abnormal.”

Many people who are mentally ill are harmless; however, many, who have no sense of reality, can be harmful.  More money as well as public awareness should be raised in order to gain a better understanding of these mental disorders and better treatments.  Anyone that vindictively kills someone must be mentally disturbed in some way.  Guns are not the problem; the people behind the guns are the problem.  Perhaps, the Senate should spend more time debating ways to improve citizens’ lives instead of ways to restrict them.  A plethora of problems, unfortunately, plague the mentally ill, but, perhaps, by raising awareness, many of these problems can begin to be fixed and society can begin to function more safely and humanely.