As calls for expanding background checks to include mental illness as a criteria continue to reverberate following the D.C. Navy Yard shooting, Mayo Clinic psychiatrist J. Michael Bostwick, M.D., warns that the passage of new gun laws against the mentally ill “won’t eliminate mass shootings.”
Bostwick argues that completely “taking guns away from the mentally ill won’t eliminate” such shootings.
In an editorial in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Bostwick contends that “the majority of mentally ill people aren’t dangerous” and that most people who commit mass shootings “are not mentally ill–or it is [only] recognized after the fact.” Either way, these factors makes the passage of such laws futile.
Moreover, he said a look around the world shows that more gun control laws are not the answer to begin with. Mass shootings “[occur] in countries that have strong gun control”; this is “not just an American phenomenon” Bostwick argues.
Bostwick says doctors need to be very careful about wading into the arena of lawmaking, and lawmakers need to take their cue from people who understand guns better than doctors do:
We physicians do not generally know enough about firearms to have an informed conversation with our patients, let alone counsel them about gun safety. We also tend to ignore the reality that as long as the Second Amendment is the law of the land, the right to bear arms and therefore personal gun ownership… will be an integral part of the American scene.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins.