I thought last night’s debate was great. I admire President Obama for not taking a swing at Mittens; I know I would have. But Obama was back, and it was a beautiful thing.
One thing bugged the hell out of me, though. In response to a question about gun control laws, Obama repeated several times that we need to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental illness. He referenced the recent mass shootings, particularly the one in Aurora. He didn’t say it directly, but the implication was that mentally ill people are dangerous and are more prone to commit gun violence than average people.
I take issue with this.
I grew up around guns. My father was an Army vet and a police officer; my grandfather and all three of my uncles had served in the Marine Corps. The Caisson Song and the Marine Corps Hymn got sung to me as bedtime songs. My uncle taught me to shoot when I was 12, and my family laughed when I said my favorite of his guns to shoot was his Colt .45–it’s a large handgun, and I was a small girl. Even my sister owns a pistol–a pink one. No, I’m not kidding.
I don’t own a gun, and part of that is due to my mental illness. I’m not worried that I would walk into a crowded theater and start shooting at strangers. Aside from martial arts and whacking my sisters when we were kids, I’ve never even hit anyone. I may talk about how much I’d like to strangle certain people, but I would never actually do it. I’m not a violent person.
The only person toward whom I am violent is myself. That’s why I don’t own a gun. I have so many moments of despair where my problems seem insurmountable and my life unsurvivable. Usually they pass, or at least get less urgent. But if I had a gun, it would be way too easy to stick it in my mouth and pull the trigger during one of those moments of despair.
President Obama, please stop conflating mental illness and violent behavior. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a schizophrenic. Most people with mental illness would never dream if hurting other people. I know it’s impossible to understand how anyone could take a gun and shoot dozens of people, but just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean the attacker is mentally ill. You can be sane and still full of hate.
You’re the President. When you stand up in front of this country and put people with mental illness in the same category as mass murderers, you’re continuing the stigma those of us with mental illness have to contend with every day. According to NIMG, approximately 1 in 4 adults is living with mental illness. You called Romney on dismissing 47% of the country, but writing of 25% isn’t much better.
We aren’t violent, Mr. President. Please don’t equate us with mass murderers.