Gun Control, Mental Health And Public Safety

A requested letter to Ted Cruz:

The United States is at something of a crossroads here: we can remain focused on gun control, or we can look at the root cause of not only the random acts of mass murder, but many other serious social maladies. The deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill has played a destructive role not only with respect to crime, but also with the degradation of urban life, and with the barbarous degradation of mentally ill people, who are a large fraction of the homeless in our country.[11]

Deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill is the root cause of most of these shocking acts of mass murder, and the much more common but less publicized murders that happen every day in America, which very seldom involve high-capacity magazines or scary looking black rifles.

Pretending that gun control is going to have much of an impact on this is like putting a Band-Aid on an arm with a severed artery. It is only a short-term solution, because it covers up a deeper problem. It is time to recognize and solve the root problem.

Gun control isn’t about guns, or public safety. It’s about control.

[Update later morning]

Randy Barnett has a letter for Ted, too, as does Dave Kopel.

6 thoughts on “Gun Control, Mental Health And Public Safety”

  1. If gun control really worked Chicago and NYC would be some of the safest places on Earth. And TX would be knee deep in blood.

  2. Deinstitutionalization is not the root cause of most murders. The research suggests that the mentally ill, who make up about 5% of the population, are responsible for about 5% of violent crime.

    Indeed, the linked article asserts that only 18% of Indiana murder convicts are mentally ill; that’s a far cry from “most”. [Why the discrepancy between 5% and 18%? My guess is that the mentally ill are more likely to be caught and convicted.]

    1. I didn’t say that deinstitutionalization is the root cause of most murders, but of most mass murders.

      Multiple studies completed since 1975 have demonstrated that the mentally ill are disproportionately (often 5-10x) involved in violent crimes such as murder, rape, and aggravated assault.

  3. I work for many of my formative years in one of these closed mental facilities. Most of the patients there were all but abandoned by their families. Most were harmless, in fact most roamed the grounds and came and went as they pleased during the day and were more than happy to return to their wards as evening fell. On many occasions I can remember staff cajoling those that had returned late, threatening not to feed them supper, or to not allow them to return if they were late again. This was usually all the pressure needed to ensure they were safe inside each evening. There were however several other wards, segregated from the others where the more dangerous were held. I was young and did light maintenance, food service, and nursing aid work. I was stunned when one after another, after a few minutes of conversation with an attorney and a state mental health specialist were told they were free to go. But to where? Most wandered into town and slowly melted away as the months passed. It breaks my heart to think of all those lost souls who truly became the homeless that year. I’m sure the truly dangerous were not released, however soon afterward (Maybe five years) the institution closed.
    Sorry…My point is, and yes Jim you are right, most of the mentally ill were not dangerous, they were unfortunately abandon. There were, however a percentage that were truly dangerous, and should never be allowed to roam freely. As you can see it only takes I few to cause great harm.

    1. Actually, many of the truly dangerous were released, or were never hospitalized — even when they gave clear evidence that they were dangerous to others.

      Deinstitutionalization, while it benefited some of the mentally ill, turned many others into the homeless. There’s a reason that homelessness was not a big problem in America until the late 1970s.

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