Why it’s a problem: ABC News and other media outlets continue to double down on the mental health narrative surrounding the Maine gunman in order to avoid scrutinizing law enforcement agencies’ numerous failures to take action to prevent the recent mass shooting.

While evidence suggests that Card was experiencing psychosis in the months before the shooting, the fact is that he made numerous, explicit threats that law enforcement agencies were notified about and failed to act on. It’s also true that Card was seen by mental health professionals, and the fact is that the mental health care system couldn’t do anything to stop him from committing violence, but law enforcement definitely could have. Mental illness is not a reliable warning sign for violence, but making explicit threats should absolutely be an actionable red flag. When somebody says they are going to shoot people and then acquires 15 handguns and rifles, they don’t need a welfare check, they should be under surveillance.

To their credit, the author of the article discusses the need for better mental health care for the members of the community most closely impacted by the shooting, but to generally frame the inadequacy of the mental health care system as an issue of preventing mass shootings rather than one of supporting victims is frustratingly hypocritical considering that whenever nonviolent people are in crisis, especially Black people and disabled people, it usually prompts an immediate (and often violent) response by law enforcement and poor to zero follow-up with mental health supports. Why is one group of people criminalized when they seek help, and the other group of people medicalized when they commit violence? (This is a rhetorical question, as I already know the answer.)


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