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Fact check: Trump says mental illness is cause of the nation’s gun violence

President Trump delivers remarks about El Paso, Dayton shootings

President Trump delivers remarks about El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio shootings.
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President Trump delivers remarks about El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio shootings.

President Donald Trump has frequently associated gun violence, such as the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, with mental illness.

At a recent rally in New Hampshire, Trump told supporters, “We will be taking mentally deranged and dangerous people off of the streets so we won’t have to worry so much about them. A big problem. There are seriously ill people and they’re on the streets.”

Gun violence is a common occurrence in America. There have been more than 36,000 gun-related incidents in the country so far in 2019, including 263 mass shootings and nearly 9,500 deaths, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

People with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violence than they are the perpetrators, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“Research on the relationship between mental illness and violence shows that there are certain factors that may increase risks of violence among a small number of individuals with mental illness,” according to NAMI.

Those factors include abuse of alcohol or drugs, having a past history of violence, being a young male and having untreated psychosis.

The best way to reduce the risk of violence is through treatment, “Yet fewer than one-third of adults and half of children with a diagnosed mental illness receive mental health services in a given year,” according to NAMI.

Just 3 to 5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to mental health problems, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, whereas mentally ill people are more than 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than are the general population.

“Social contagion,” or the spread of violent ideas, is another strong contributor to gun violence, according to researchers.

Carla Marie Manly, a Santa Rosa-based psychologist, defines social contagion as “the spread of attitudes, behaviors, or ideas via conformity and imitation,” in an interview with Healthline.

““The shooters become driven to study previous perpetrators to learn their methods and to obtain validation,” she said in the Healthline interview. “Given our society’s media-driven focus, mass shooters seek the infamy that will come with their actions — the same notoriety given to prior shooters.”

That is backed up by a study from Arizona State University, which found “significant evidence that mass killings involving firearms are incented by similar events in the immediate past.”

That same study found that mass shootings, were “significantly associated” with gun ownership.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
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