Justin Nutt, BSW, LMSW, LAC

Justin Nutt, BSW, LMSW, LAC

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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UC Santa Barbara School Shooting: Mental Health vs. Gun Control

A gunman went on a drive by shooting spree on the night of Friday, May 23, 2014 at the University of Santa Barbara campus. These shootings left 7 people dead and another 6 injured. Many media outlets say that the answer to this is gun control; that banning guns, and changing the regulations connected to gun ownership, is the key.  This is also often the focus when it comes to school shootings as well, the gun not the mental health of the gunman.

Two items are of concern when it comes to using this idea as the answer to prevention of gun violence. To start, we have to look at the idea of banning guns or the change in regulations or gun ownership in a similar way that we look at events such as deaths caused by drunk driving. A car, when a drunk driver is behind the wheel becomes, in effect, a 2,000+ pound bullet which can murder countless people the same way that a gunman with a magazine filled with rounds can. A gun, like a car, is a tool: it can be used as good or it can be used for evil. It is not able to decide which it will do; it is the user who holds that power. When has a death that occurred as a result of a drunk driver ever been blamed on the fact that there is the ability to have “high capacity” bottles of alcohol, or the car which was being driven been blamed the way which the gun was? Have DUI’s and the deaths are the result of drunk drivers led to a ban on alcohol or cars? We tried prohibition of alcohol, and banning guns would lead to much the same result, those law abiding citizens who owned guns would be turned into criminals simply because they want to not be penalized for the actions of others.


Having watched the video, and as someone who has conducted hundreds of hospital psychological evaluations and who has a private practice, the gun issue aside, watching this video the clear cut fact is that this shooting was a result of mental health issues. Clearly, from a 6 minute video, it is impossible to be 100% on a diagnosis for this young man,but watching the video I would present this… It is apparent this man is highly psychotic and most likely has a personality disorder as well. This video contains statements that show both grandiose and persecutory delusions. He felt he was superior and it was his duty or calling to cleanse the misguided world of all of those who received what so clearly (in his mind) he was deserving of. Most likely, he felt that this mission would have gained him respect and admiration from others, as they would have realized his superiority.

Back to the gun issue, the idea of a calling and mission is what is most concerning when it comes to blaming on gun control for these events. This troubled young man would have used a knife, a car, a bomb, whatever he needed to complete his “mission.”  Avoiding the idea of mental health as the cause to be addressed and making it a gun control issue does nothing to help change the epidemic of school and other types of shootings that seem to be occurring in America. In fact, this does the complete opposite, the misdirection being used to prove the need for gun control take the focus off the need to address mental health issues. If we put mental health to the back burner and make it anecdotal as a part of the story, not the issue to be focused upon, we will continue to see the presence of problems which are connected to mental health issues such as this type of shooting.

This is not saying that all individuals with mental health problems are dangerous, most in fact are not, but it is saying that most, if not all, violence is connected to items which are in some way connected to mental health. This is where the focus must be placed, and where the work done to create change.


Justin Nutt, LMSW

SJS Staff Writer

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