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

Four assumptions frequently arise in the aftermath of mass shootings in the US: (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 effective gun control laws will not prevent such incidents. Professor Metzl will discuss how these assumptions about gun violence are incorrectly linked to stereotypes of mental illness and race in the United States. These issues become obscured when mass shootings are framed as representative of all gun crime, and when “mentally ill” ceases to be a medical designation and becomes encoded as violent threat.

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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.