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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

If it is a gunman, he MUST be crazy

I heard this story coming into work this morning on NPR. It was about a shooting that occurred in Montreal, Quebec, where there is tension between Anglophones and Francophones. Yes, that's right, people who speak English (the minority) and people who speak French (the majority). Sigh.

But anyway, here is the developing story from Yahoo News:

"A masked gunman opened fire during a midnight victory rally for Quebec's new premier, killing one person and wounding another. The new premier, Pauline Marois of the separatist Parti Quebecois, was whisked off the stage by guards while giving her speech and uninjured.

"It was not clear if the gunman was trying to shoot Marois, whose party favors separation for the French-speaking province from Canada. Police identified the gunman only as a 62-year-old man, and were still questioning him Wednesday morning."

The speculation about the motive comes from things he reportedly said while being dragged away by the police.

Getting back to what I heard on NPR, the reporter being interviewed from Canada speculated that the man was mentally ill or mentally unstable (this is also raised as a possible issue in the Yahoo News story). After all, what "sane" person shoots another human being?

But since mental illness runs in my family, and since I study this for a living, I know that that most mentally ill people are not violent and thus such characterizations of the mentally ill as crazy and dangerous is inaccurate, and it angers me.

In the book, it is shown that mental illness is often given by the media as a source of violence, even though it is not. On NPR this morning, the reporter from Canada said this shooting is likely due to mental illness, the work of a crazed gunman, because "in most shooting cases it is a crazy person who does it" (paraphrasing here).

First of all, I am not even sure that is true. But even if it is, it is also true that "in every case it is a person with a gun who does it."

So what is the real problem then? Mental illness or guns?

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