In America, 96 percent of all gun violence is committed by people who do not have a diagnosed mental illness, according to a clinical psychologist.
“My main message for you today is that that relationship between those two is very slim,” Dr. Bart Hodgens, a psychologist with Centerstone of Florida, said at Thursday’s Manatee Tiger Bay Club luncheon. “Indeed, they only intersect at the edges.”
Thursday’s discussion, “Pros & Cons of Gun Laws and Mental Illness,” came just a day after Congress blocked a rule barring mentally impaired people from purchasing guns. Frank Alcock, an associate professor of political science at New College of Florida, and Raquel Okyay, who is on the executive committee of the Libertarian Party of Florida, were the other two panelists at the Pier 22 luncheon.
Hodgens said the relationship between mental illness and gun violence “really only intersect at the edges.” Mental illness and gun violence are more closely connected by self-inflicted violence such as suicide, he added.
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“When these high-profile mass shootings occur, they do by definition involve someone with a mental illness, and they take up a lot of attention and really in some ways fuel the debate about gun control,” he said. “The question becomes is that mental illness the cause of mass shootings? It’s a debatable point.”
For Alcock, who unsuccessfully ran against Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, last fall, a campus carry bill won’t make a school safer.
“It’s a matter of our public safety officials telling me that they don’t believe a campus carry bill will make the campus safer. It will be the other way,” Alcock said.
Steube is spearheading legislation that would lift the ban on concealed weapons at public colleges and universities and airport terminals. Steube was originally supposed to speak at the Tiger Bay Club luncheon but was unable to attend because of committee hearings.
In terms of gun legislation, there has to be a balance, Alcock said.
“There are considerations of public safety that I think are extremely important, and I also am a firm believer in accountability mechanisms,” he said. “I think that the balance has moved too far, too far in the direction of the Second Amendment rights and away from some reasonable considerations on accountability and public safety.”
With the Libertarian Party 100 percent in support of open carry, Okyay said gun laws primarily hurt the law-abiding citizen.
“We support those measures to have open carry passed,” she said. “We support it comprehensively. We will support it incrementally if we have to.”