The majority (51 percent) of mass shootings are carried out by white people, so perhaps we have a whiteness problem? Those behind mass shootings are overwhelmingly male (88 percent), so maybe America has a masculinity problem?
Although these examples are hyperbolic, they are rooted in the same logical framework used by Trump in scapegoating mental illness as the causal mechanism responsible for mass shootings.
If we’re going to scapegoat based on correlation alone, let’s at least be inclusive and ban men and white people from purchasing firearms too.
To this you might object: “But that’s not fair, editorial board! Just because I’m a white male doesn’t mean I’m a mass shooter!”
We would respond, “Yes, impassioned DTH reader, you’re right. Neither your whiteness nor your maleness predisposes you to committing acts of terror. In the same vein, there is no identifiable mental disorder which specifically tells someone’s brain to spray bullets into a crowd of innocent bystanders.”
We acknowledge, like Trump, that there is a correlation between gun violence and mental health.
Whether manifested in mass shootings, homicide or more commonly suicide, mental illness and gun deaths have a historic and interconnected relationship. So, in that way, Trump is kind of right.
Anyone who has taken high school science or math can tell you that correlation does not necessarily prove causation.
Our point is that while whiteness, maleness and mental illness are all frequently associated with mass shootings, none of these are definitive predictors of one’s propensity to carry out such a heinous act.
There are more causal predictors that one will be a mass shooter which should truly motivate regulatory firearm policies, such as alcohol and drug misuse, poverty, history of violence, and, overwhelmingly, access to guns.
The most recent shooting at Rancho Tehama Elementary School on Tuesday sadly confirmed that a history of violence — namely domestic violence — can be a stronger indicator of the capacity to inflict mass casualties than mental illness.
At the end of the day, however, we realize that asking the President to lend an ear to research is a hefty task.
Therefore, all we ask of him is this: If we are going to identify mental illness as the primary contributor to mass shootings, we need to, at the very least, allocate resources to support our failing mental health care system.
Tweeted condolences do not make up for the administration’s proposed 23 percent reduction in the mental health services block grant and the $625 million in combined cuts to federal substance abuse and mental health agencies.
Fund mental health research, limit access to firearms, do something, Mr. President. Because thoughts and prayers have yet to assuage any “deranged” trigger fingers.