Republicans are gunning for mental health scapegoat

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King House passes resolution condemning white nationalism Anti-Defamation League calls on House leaders to censure Steve King over white supremacy comments MORE (R-Wis.) says mental health legislation is the appropriate response to the nation’s gun violence problem (“Ryan points to mental health bill as response to gun violence,” Nov. 16). Without question, there are problems in the nation’s system of mental healthcare, but mental health reform will not solve the problem of gun violence in America. It is time to stop using mental health as a political tactic to divert attention away from the issue that is at the heart of the tragedies Americans face every day: the easy access to guns.

Rep. Tim Murphy’s (R-Pa.) mental health bill, which Ryan presents as a solution to gun violence, has serious flaws of its own as mental health reform legislation. It completely fails as an answer to gun violence. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 33,000 firearms-related deaths in the United States in 2013. That’s more than 90 deaths a day. Only a small percentage of these deaths are attributable to people who have mental illness. And, while Murphy uses mass shootings that are sometimes associated with mental illness as a means of generating support for his bill, such heart-breaking incidents are very rare in a large epidemic of gun violence.

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Even if mass shootings really were the problem, Murphy’s bill isn’t the solution. He says he’ll make us safer by making it easier to force people with mental illness into treatment. But studies show mental illness is simply not a reliable indicator that someone is prone to engage in gun violence. 

Ryan and other leaders in Congress must stop attempting to distract us from the nation’s widespread epidemic of gun violence by capitalizing on stereotypes that people with mental illness are dangerous individuals. Their tactics not only fail to meaningfully address the very serious problem of gun violence, but they further demean people with mental illness who are trying to move from the sidelines of their communities and into the mainstream.

From Robert Bernstein, president and executive director, Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Washington, D.C.


Taiwan ready, willing and able to do its part for climate change

Representatives from around the world are gathered in Paris with the aim of reaching an agreement limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius and to build consensus on how to deal with climate change beyond 2020 (“Obama, Xi huddle during Paris climate talks,” Nov 30).

Regrettably, among the 196 member nations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Taiwan is absent — despite of the fact that the island is one of the leading economies in the world and willing to commit to reducing its carbon emissions proactively.

The challenges posed by climate change have continued to grow during the past decade. Climate change knows no boundaries and there is an urgent need to combat this worrying trend together. The global problem demands a global solution. Citizens of the world deserve every hand on deck on efforts to make sure that global warming doesn’t reach dangerous levels. 

The exclusion of Taiwan from the global summit runs counter to the global efforts to address climate change and the new agreement will not be complete without Taiwan’s participation. If the UNFCCC continuously excluded Taiwan from membership, what message does it send to the rest of the world? 

From Kent Wang, research fellow, the Institute for Taiwan-America Studies, Washington, D.C.