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Changing the Terms of Debate about Gun Violence: Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms

Four assumptions frequently arise in the aftermath of mass shootings in the United States: (1) that mental illness causes gun violence, (2) that psychiatric diagnosis can predict gun crime, (3) that shootings represent the deranged acts of mentally ill loners, and (4) that gun control “won’t prevent” such incidents. Professor Metzl will address how assumptions about gun violence incorrectly link to stereotypes of mental illness and race in the United States. These issues become obscured when mass shootings come to stand in for all gun crime, and when “mentally ill” ceases to be a medical designation and becomes a sign of violent threat. Professor Metzl will also discuss how and why gun violence is a pertinent topic for the growing field of Health Humanities.

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Mental Illness, Mass Shootings and the Politics of American Firearms

The second annual Henry and Janet Claman Endowed Professorship in the Medical Humanities brings Jonathan Metzl, MD, PhD, who will ​present, “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings and the Politics of American Firearms,” on Thursday, October 23rd from noon-1:00pm at the Fulginiti Pavilion. Dr. Metzl is the Director of the Center for Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University. This endowment provides annual support for a visiting professor in the field of medical humanities and arts, bringing new perspectives and voices to our campus.