Emma Gonzalez is Right

Cheryl Roberts / Feb 27th, 2018
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Emma Gonzalez is right. Anyone still suggesting that mental illness is at the root of the Parkland school shooting, or of any mass shooting in the United States, should be called out on their "BS."

Mental illness is not the root cause of mass murder in the United States. Guns are. If people with mental illness were the root cause of mass murders, then other countries with the same rates of serious mental illness would have the same mass murder rates. They don't.

As reported by the New York Times in November 2017, Dr. Adam Lankford, Professor at the University of Alabama, found firearm ownership was a "statistically significant predictor of the distribution of public mass shooters worldwide" and that the United States stands out. Despite having less than 5% of the world's population, Lankford found that the U.S. has "31% of global public mass shooters. Because of its world-leading firearm ownership rate, America does stand apart—and this appears connected to its high percentage of public mass shootings."

According to a survey also cited by Lankford, (Small Arms Survey, 2007), the U.S. ranks "first in gun ownership, with approximately 270 million firearms owned by civilians" or 88.8 firearms per 100 people. Yemen is ranked second, with 54.8 firearms per 100 people. Of 171 countries studied from 1966-2012, the average number of mass shooters per country was 1.7. The U.S. had 90. It's nearest competitors? The Philippines (18), Russia (15), Yemen (11), and France (10), with only Yemen having a higher rate of mass shootings than the U.S. when adjusted for population size.

When the Tucson and Aurora shooters opened fire, they were suffering from serious untreated mental illness. That the command hallucinations, a hallmark of their mental illness, were left untreated is a shameful failing of our mental health system, second only to the shameful failing of legislators who refuse to enact meaningful gun control legislation. But even given the faulty mental health system, without access to guns the level of carnage at Parkland, Newtown, Las Vegas, Tucson or Aurora would not have been possible.

Legislators who have refused to act on gun control are complicit in the deaths of 17 people in Florida. They are the same legislators who will be complicit in the deaths of those who die in the next school shooting and many of the same ones who vote against adequate mental health care funding.

We do not know yet if Nikolas Cruz has a serious untreated mental illness, a personality disorder or is emotionally damaged. No matter, the inescapable fact is this: the firearms Nikolas Cruz legally purchased allowed him to slaughter innocent children and adults in numbers not possible without a firearm, let alone a semiautomatic one.

The Parkland murders are on the NRA and those who support our current gun laws. To suggest otherwise is "BS" and Emma Gonzalez and her generation know it. And as for our failed mental health system, I hope Emma and her generation go after that system next. We could use their help.

About the Author
Cheryl Roberts

Cheryl Roberts is an attorney and former local judge from Columbia County, New York. Early in her career she served as a counsel to committees in both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. Ms. Roberts has been a speech writer and lobbyist and most recently served as Corporation Counsel for the City of Hudson, New York.