The compromising cost of gun control

Illustration by Aleah Green

There’s a responsible way to talk about background checks without stigmatizing mental illness in the discussion of gun control reform. President Trump isn’t doing it correctly.

With every mass shooting that shakes the country, politicians are usually the first to craft a meticulous public relations statement that supports their alignment with gun control policy.

The recent shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas warranted sympathetic reactions from even the most pro-gun conservatives out there, including President Trump.

Trump tweeted on Aug. 9 that, “Serious discussions are taking place between House and Senate leadership on meaningful background checks. I have also been speaking to the NRA [National Rifle Association], and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected.”

Aside from the issue of giving lobbyists a large say in legislation, Trump’s mistake in discussing gun control in this instance was targeting mental illness.

“Guns should not be placed in the hands of mentally ill or deranged people. I am the biggest Second Amendment person there is, but we all must work together for the good and safety of our Country. Common sense things can be done that are good for everyone,” Trump tweeted.

Directly comparing those with a mental illness to “deranged people” is extremely offensive. Mental illness is a spectrum, and it includes people with generalized anxiety or depression who would legally be able to obtain a gun license, as they rightfully should.

Categorizing all mentally ill people as being too unwell to carry a gun is not the best way to handle the gun violence epidemic in the U.S. It would definitely create more problems than it could ever solve.

However, I have to admit that I was both surprised and relieved to see President Trump acknowledge background checks as even a possible consideration in this debate.

What confused me about this was that two years ago, as stated by, Trump made it harder for background checks to be efficient by revoking an Obama-era regulation that would stop the potential sale of guns to certain people with specific mental illnesses.

I guess no one can really blame Trump for contradicting himself like this so often, as his viewpoints flip-flop in headlines as frequently as once a month.

Treading in the sensitive territory of gun control reform is difficult on its own. When combined with mentioning the highly sensitive topic of mental health, the worst thing to do is make empty promises and stigmatize all mentally ill people.

The stigmatization of mental health has only just recently begun to reverse in society. People have begun to realize that mental health impacts everyone regardless of being diagnosed with a mental illness. Accepting that it is possible to be mentally unwell without being institutionalized is what has separated the thought processes of the 20th century from the 21st.

The ability to be open-minded has been an important asset in the societal acceptance of mental health. However, it has taken many decades to get to that point. The careless language that Trump used when discussing mental illness in the context of background checks contributes to erasing the progress that’s been made in this discussion.