President Donald Trump said mental illness should take center stage in the discussion over gun violence. He’s wrong — much more than just “mental health” needs consideration — but at least one U.S. senator is taking him to task for being hypocritical on his point.
Trump’s calls to attach mental health to the issue of gun violence should be viewed as largely disingenuous, given that his administration is also calling for $425 million in cuts to mental health programs in our nation’s schools.
Those proposed cuts didn’t go unnoticed by the Senate’s top-ranking Democrat, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
“To know we have a budget pieced together that undermines the Department of Education on so many levels to prevent the next Parkland tragedy is nails on a chalkboard,” Schumer said of the proposed cuts.
Part of the dollar amount slashed by Trump's budget would eliminate a Department of Education program that provides “project prevention grants” to schools — grants that help educators provide counseling and conflict resolution to students they can identify as being prone to violence.
Some of the cuts also target programs aimed at helping student victims of such shootings.
"It is particularly troubling that we are in the midst of a national tragedy in Florida and having to talk about these cuts because the students impacted by the Parkland shooting are going to need the exact kinds of funding and support that Newtown received in the wake of that horrific shooting," Schumer added.
The issue of mental health was brought up immediately following a recent school shooting earlier this month. After an individual killed 17 others at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day, Trump said he and other lawmakers ought to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health” when it comes to who can own such deadly weapons like the AR-15 that was used that afternoon.
Critics quickly pointed out that the president’s words were empty rhetoric and further stigmatized those with mental health issues in America.
“The concept that mental illness is a precursor to violent behavior is nonsense,” said Dr. Louis Kraus, forensic psychiatry chief at Chicago's Rush University Medical College. “The vast majority of gun violence is not attributable to mental illness.”
That doesn’t mean that mental health shouldn’t be a topic of concern — lawmakers should definitely promote a better understanding of the issue, and provide means to help those in need. They just shouldn’t tie it to violence and mass shootings.
It is wrong to believe that the mental health of Nikolas Cruz, the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was the sole cause of the violence that occurred there earlier this month. Certainly other aspects of the gun debate need to be examined further, including whether these weapons belong in the hands of any civilian.
Yet, by proposing a budget that guts health programs for schools by hundreds of millions of dollars, Trump’s actions render his words meaningless. Schools across America deserve to have money to help students struggling with mental health concerns.
Trump is clueless when it comes to what needs to be done to stave off more attacks like these. But his budget also proves he’s not genuine in his calls to improve the mental health of some of our students across America, making transparent his use of the issue as a red herring in the larger debate on gun violence.