GOP Lawmakers Blasted for Blaming Allen Shooting on Mental Health: Critics React
A tragic mass shooting at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas, has left a total of eight people dead, including multiple children. The gunman reportedly used an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle, a weapon often used in such attacks. Surprisingly, instead of blaming firearms, Texas Republican lawmakers are pointing fingers at mental health for the rising trend of mass shootings in America.
On Sunday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott claimed that “mental health problems” are essentially the “root cause” of mass shootings during an interview with Fox News. He had made similar statements following the Uvalde school massacre in 2022. GOP Texas Congressman Keith Self, who represents Allen, echoed this sentiment while speaking with CNN on Saturday, blaming the decision to close mental health institutions for leading to such incidents. However, it is unclear who made this decision and when, and which mental health institutions he was referring to.
Critics argue that Republicans regularly do the opposite of championing mental health. For instance, Abbott cut around $211 million in funding from the agency that oversees mental health programs last year. Yet, during the Fox interview, he claimed that Texas had added almost $25 billion over the past three sessions to address mental health, with another $3 billion expected to go toward it in the current session, but he did not explain how that money has been put into action.
Kendall Scudder, the Texas Democratic Party’s vice chair for finance, believes that if Texas Republicans really want to address mass shootings as a mental health issue, they should treat it like one and implement stronger gun safety measures alongside managing mental health problems. He noted that Texas ranks 48th in mental healthcare spending and 50th in access to mental healthcare, with eight mass shootings during Abbott’s tenure as governor and no priority bills proposed by Republicans to address the mental health crisis.
Many citizens are fed up with conservative lawmakers pointing fingers at mental health instead of taking responsibility for the real issue at hand: gun control. Polls indicate that the vast majority of Americans support universal background checks on firearm purchases. Yet, Republican politicians in the state and federal legislatures have only passed laws to “protect guns, not to protect our kids,” Scudder said.
Schroeder Stribling, president and CEO of Mental Health America, stated that people with mental illnesses are ten times more likely to become victims of violence than members of the general public, but the vast majority of violent occurrences, only 3%–5%, are carried out by someone with a serious mental illness. He pointed out that when politicians blame “mental health problems” for hate-motivated mass violence, they are falsely stigmatizing mentally ill individuals and failing to address violence in different ways.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, one of Abbott’s biggest political rivals, blasted Republicans’ scapegoating of mental health funding in his tweet last Monday. He criticized their budget proposal, which would cut $325 million from mental health programs and put 34 million kids at risk of losing guaranteed mental health care.
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough called out Abbott during a segment that went viral on Monday morning, stating that other countries, like Britain and Belgium, also have people with mental health issues but don’t frequently experience mass shootings. “The thing is, Abbott will do anything but talk about the issue that is in front of him,” Scarborough said. “The murders in Texas since 2014 by guns have skyrocketed, and all this guy does is say he wants more guns in the state of Texas. It’s sick. This is a sickness.”