This past weekend, mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio killed at least 30 people and injured over 50 more. These mass shootings, the 16th and 17th in the United States this year this year, took place amidst a continued crisis of white supremacism in the US; while the administration promotes xenophobia and the President calls immigrants less than human; and in a political climate in which we have repeatedly failed to address the prevalence & availability of deadly firearms. Our hearts are with the victims, their families, and their communities.
Speaking this morning about these mass shootings, President Trump said that mass shootings are carried out by “mentally ill monsters” and claimed that in order to prevent them, we must “reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure these people not only get treatment but, when necessary, involuntary confinement.” These remarks are a blatant attempt to target and scapegoat people with disabilities in order to distract from the active role our President himself has played in inciting anti-immigrant sentiment and white supremacist violence. ASAN calls on policymakers and the American public not to be taken in by this dangerous rhetoric, but to insist on real, meaningful change.
Blaming mass shootings on people with mental health disabilities has become so routine that yesterday, the American Psychological Association issued a statement warning against blaming mental illness for “a public health crisis of gun violence fueled by racism, bigotry and hatred.” As the APA points out, people with mental health disabilities are far more likely to be victims of violence than to be perpetrators. The overwhelming majority of gun violence is carried out by nondisabled people; we cannot fight gun violence or racism by monitoring and institutionalizing people with disabilities. We urge everyone to educate themselves on this issue so that we as a nation can stay focused on working towards real solutions.
When we examine the evidence, it is easy to see that enacting legislation making it easier to surveil and institutionalize people with mental health disabilities, as the President has suggested, would not prevent gun violence. Instead, it would threaten the civil rights of the 1 in 5 Americans with mental health disabilities. People with disabilities have fought for decades for our right to live in our communities and make our own decisions about our housing and health care. As centuries of failed U.S. policies demonstrate, denying us these rights means abandoning us to abuse, neglect and segregation. The results of the President’s proposal would be catastrophic; not only for the disability community, but for our nation as a whole, because it would allow gun violence to continue unchecked.
When the President of the United States scapegoats the disability community instead of reckoning with white supremacy, he knows exactly what he is doing. He knows that his talking points, reprehensible as they may be, line up with common societal prejudices which allow him to distract from the issues at hand. It is incumbent upon all of us to refuse to play along. We must educate each other; denounce white supremacy; stand up for our friends, family & neighbors with mental health disabilities; and advocate for real solutions to gun violence, racism and xenophobia. We call on our elected officials at all levels of government to do the same.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run by and for autistic people. ASAN was created to serve as a national grassroots disability rights organization for the autistic community run by and for autistic Americans, advocating for systems change and ensuring that the voices of autistic people are heard in policy debates and the halls of power. Our staff work to educate communities, support self-advocacy in all its forms, and improve public perceptions of autism. ASAN’s members and supporters include autistic adults and youth, cross-disability advocates, and non-autistic family members, professionals, educators, and friends.