The Santa Clara
February 22, 2018
The tragedy in Parkland, Florida marks the third mass shooting in the past five months, and like clockwork, conservative leadership has spontaneously developed a vested interest in mental illness.
Within the past week, Paul Ryan has said that mental health is “often a big problem underlying these tragedies.” The president called on state and local leaders to “help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.” And conservative pundit Tomi Lahren tweeted, “This [shooting] isn’t about a gun it’s about another lunatic.”
Several other conservative politicians and pundits have echoed these sentiments. As usual, they are trying to push the notion that guns don’t kill people; mentally ill people kill people, and the fact that they use guns to do it is irrelevant.
By their logic, guns were a nonfactor in the shooting. It was purely a matter of a rogue “lunatic” acting at the cruel mercy of his own mind.
The shameless liberals politicizing the deaths of these students to push their backwards, anti-gun agenda do not care about the safety of their neighbors nor the plight of the mentally ill. And besides, we need assault rifles to protect ourselves from other people with assault rifles.
That is their standard line.
I do not buy any of that for a second, but for the sake of argument, I am going to assume they are absolutely right.
I am going to ignore the fact that it is easier to get an AR-15 than getting a handgun in Florida.
I am going to disregard how the shooters behind the Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs and Parkland tragedies all passed background checks and were able to procure their weapons legally.
And I am going to forget every last campaign contribution the NRA has made to everyone it owns in Congress.
In this hypothetical reality, none of that matters. The sole factor in this mass shooting—and all others—is mental health.
With that in mind, I want to know exactly what conservative leadership has done to deal with what they believe is the catalyst of these national tragedies. If mental health is the underlying cause of every last mass shooting, surely they would have done something about it by now.
After three mass shootings in the last five months and, in turn, three apparently earnest pledges to address the flaws in our mental healthcare system, what have Republicans in Congress done?
If you guessed “absolutely nothing,” you are absolutely right.
According to Govtrack.com, a website used to track bills and the voting records of members of the United States Congress, no Congressional Republican has introduced a single bill with anything to do with mental health since well before the shooting in Las Vegas.
The president, admittedly, has proposed some progressive measures about mental health. But for every step he takes forward, he takes two steps back.
Trump has allocated $10 billion to address mental illness and the opioid epidemic in his new budget. If you only consider that proposal on its own, it would appear as though Trump is taking a proactive approach to the issue. When you consider his budget as a whole, however, that figure becomes a lot less impressive.
Bloomberg reports that Donald Trump’s proposed 2019 budget would slash funding for the National Institute of Mental Health by 30 percent—a decrease of roughly $500 million. The budget would also cut spending for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration by $665 million.
Trump has also proposed cutting Medicaid subsidies by over $1 trillion. According to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 25% of non-elderly adults with severe mental illness received medical coverage through Medicaid in 2015.
In short, the president’s budget would further gouge what is already a broken mental healthcare system. That is a bold move from someone claiming that mental health is the primary issue at hand when a man guns down a country concert, shoots up a church or kills 17 people in a high school.
Conservative leadership’s concern with mental health is nothing more than a cynical smokescreen. They go on television after every mass shooting and bemoan the dire state of our mental healthcare system—as if they have actually done anything to fix it. This is the third mass shooting in five months, and the GOP has done nothing to help remedy what they insist is the underlying cause for all of these tragedies.
But that is just how it goes. We are eight days out from this shooting, meaning we have about two more weeks of the GOP caring about mental health.
Jay Fuchs is a senior communication major