Quoted in the Capital Times (a Wisconsin newspaper) under the headline "Some say efforts to boost mental health treatment to combat gun violence are misguided." Also quoted, Jeri Bonavia, director of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort:
"We know that there are some problems with getting mental health records into the background check system, and I think that needs to be addressed," she says. "But it can’t be that we turn our attention just to mental health issues related to gun violence because people suffering from mental illness make up a very small percentage of the perpetrators of gun violence."....
A poll this week by Quinnipiac University shows that more than 90 percent of American voters support background checks for all gun buyers, which would close the so-called gun show loophole. And that's where Bonavia says Wisconsin should be focusing its effort. Her group is currently in the midst of a petition drive to urge Walker to propose background checks.So first Bonavia implies that we ought to make policy based on the percentages. But then she says, make a pervasive law that applies to everyone, without mentioning the very small percentage of perpetrators of gun violence within the truly vast category of Americans who buy guns. And by the way, the category "gun violence" lumps things together. Gun control has become a hot issue because of a few massacres. If you make a category out of the set of incidents that has inflamed present-day opinion, people suffering from mental illness seem to be 100% of the perpetrators! You only get your very small percentage if you throw in other types of incidents, such as gangsters wiping each other out. Wake me up when 90% of Americans want to do something about that. And explain to me how background checks have any curative power over that problem.
The appeal to statistics and reason falls flat when you shape it to suit the policy you already want.
"Only 4 to 5 percent of violent crimes are committed by people with mental illness," Dilip Jeste, the president of the [American Psychiatric Association], says in a statement. "About one quarter of all Americans have a mental disorder in any given year, and only a very small percentage of them will ever commit violent crimes."See what I mean? Questions for Dr. Jeste: 1. What percentage of school shootings are committed by persons with mental illness? 2. If we cut the category "violent crimes" down to massacre-type shootings where the motive isn't robbery and the victim isn't someone with whom the shooter has a personal dispute, what percentage of those crimes are committed by persons with mental illness? 3. If we break the category "mental disorder" into subparts, so that depression and schizophrenia aren't lumped together, is there any category within which you cannot say that only very small percentage will ever commit violent crimes? 4. In your effort to shield the mentally ill from unnecessary stigma, are you giving cover to a set of persons who could and should be identified as dangerous? 5. What are the interests of the psychiatric profession that could affect whether you are giving truly honest answers to all of these questions, including this one?