As Gun Violence Rises, Reed Works Against Mental Health

America has become unfazed by the epidemic of gun violence in our schools. Recently another mass school shooting took place at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas. This most recent shooting did not seem to faze us in the same was many Americans were by the shooting in Parkland, Florida. In many cases, many Americans seemed more interested in watching the royal wedding the day after the shooting rather than reflecting on the epidemic of gun violence in our country. Some of the students at Sante Fe High School seemed not as surprised as we might think of the events that recently unfolded at their school. Santa Fe student Paige Currey has been widely quoted following the shooting when she told a reporter “It’s been happening everywhere, I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here too.” Never before has a generation of Americans thought that they might die in a school shooting. So how did the United States get to a point in which so many children die every year in school shootings? It probably has something to do with the large quantity and ease of obtaining guns in the United States. However, the current majority in Congress seems to attribute this violence to different reasons. Those who oppose gun control have found numerous issues on which to deflect any concerns citizens may have that could lead to any type of reasonable gun control and reform.

Many seem to be pointing to the issue of ‘mental health’ as the reason for such instances of gun violence and mass shootings in the United States. This claim is easy to deconstruct when you consider that there is no reason that the United States would have significantly higher rates of mental health issues that cause individuals to enact violent behavior when compared to other similarly developed nation. So if mental health isn’t the reason for gun violence and mass shootings in other developed nations, or the U.S., why does the United States have such high instances of gun violence, mass shootings and school shootings? Once again, it probably has to do with the incredibly high quantity and easy access to weapons in the United States. Despite this easily dismantled argument, our local congressman Tom Reed has been parroting the narrative of his colleagues that mental health should be the main focus in response to gun violence instead of doing anything remotely related to regulating firearms. Congressman Tom Reed has claimed that he wants to reform and expand mental health services to prevent shootings. The claim by Congressman Reed that he wants to give greater access to mental health services is itself hypocritical and almost laughable when you consider his record and opinions on giving Americans affordable health care. In 2017, Reed voted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and replace it with the American Health Care Act. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, expanded Medicaid access to millions of low-income Americans, this allowed those millions with new Medicaid coverage to finally have access to mental health care. The American Health Care Act would’ve stopped the expansion of Medicaid and would’ve caused millions to lose their newly acquired coverage; therefore, limiting mental health services for Americans. So when Tom Reed and like-minded colleagues, who attempted to overturn the affordable care act, say school shootings are an issue that can be remedied by providing more Americans with access to mental health services, we know that their words and intentions don’t match past voting actions.

Besides calls for action focusing on Mental Health, claims that bullying is the main cause of school shootings still continue. It’s absurd when individuals still claim that the root cause of mass school shootings has to do with bullying when the perpetrators of mass school shootings seem to be from a particular demographic. Young men with extreme political ideologies often accompanied by support of groups such as the KKK, and or neo-nazi groups. The father of the young man who perpetrated the most recent shooting in Santa Fe has claimed that his son’s issues with bullying were in some way responsible for his rampage of violence and that his son was a victim. This seems like an attempt to deflect any responsibility regarding the issue at hand. The shooter used his father’s gun to commit the shooting. This seems to be a prime example of an instance where proper gun storage, locking a gun safely away, could have prevented a massive instance of violence. Any responsible gun owner/sportsman would agree that proper storage and locking of firearms is an important part of gun ownership. However, entitlement, not bullying, seems to have a lot more to do with the violence perpetrated by this shooter and other school shooters. One of the individuals shot and killed was a girl who had repeatedly rejected his romantic advances. Because she rejected his advances, he thought a justifiable response was to take her life. If bullying is the cause of violence in school shootings why aren’t more school shootings committed by the children of immigrants and minorities bullied for their minority status or immigration status? Why aren’t more school shootings perpetrated by LGBTQ students bullied for their sexuality or gender identity? Presently, it appears society and politicians make excuses for a certain demographic of young men, claiming bullying and/or mental health is a cause when our society is actually raising boys to act on a heightened sense of entitlement justifying this type of violence.

When acts of evil are continuously committed by a specific demographic, almost always young men, it becomes difficult to continue to blame issues of bullying or mental health as a cause for school shootings. Multitudes of children of all types of backgrounds get bullied in the US and young adults in countries all over the world face issues of mental health. However, some seem to keep deflecting from one glaring fact when it comes to the issue of gun control and school shootings in the United States. That the United States has the most guns per person of any country on earth. With more guns, it becomes easier to access them, and the opportunity to commit evil acts increases.

Mitchel Smigel is a Jamestown resident.