Mass shooting in Buffalo highlights guns vs. mental health debate

I don’t need to tell you what happened. As we all know, 18-year-old racist assclown Payton Gendron traveled 200 miles from his home in Conklin, New York to Buffalo. He targeted a predominantly African-American neighborhood in the city and committed a mass shooting at a local supermarket. Before he surrendered to police, he had killed 10 people, with most of his victims being African-American.

Initially, I wasn’t going to write about this story. I’m having trouble writing the stories I normally do without adding this one. Then I learned that Gendron had previously threatened a school shooting, and that led me down a rabbit hole of the guns vs. mental health debate.

For context, Gendron was 17 when he made this threat. When responding to a school assignment about what he planned to do after graduation, Gendron allegedly responded with the phrase ‘murder-suicide’. This caused Gendron to be taken to a hospital by authorities for a mental evaluation. He was held for a day and a half before being released. He was not charged with any crime, as police said that the threat was too vague to warrant any further action.

Just being held for evaluation does not trigger New York’s red flag law. For that to happen, a suspect needs to be specifically admitted to a facility for mental health reasons. Not that the mental health evaluation Gendron underwent had any real teeth to it. If Gendron is to be believed, he just lied his way through the exam. In one of his own written diatribes, Gendron said that he told the examiner he made the murder-suicide remark to get out of class, even though he had full intentions of carrying out such a crime. Also, according to Gendron, the exam itself only took fifteen minutes, while the rest of the day and a half spent at the hospital was mostly waiting.

None of this prevented Gendron from legally buying an AR-15, the gun of choice for mass shooters. While New York state law prevents the sale of large capacity magazines, this didn’t stop Gendron from possibly traveling out of state to pick up 30-round magazines. And while not a fully automatic machine gun, the AR-15 can still fire 45 rounds a minute.

So, the ‘responsible gun owners™’ of the country like to argue that mass shootings like this are a mental health issue and not an ‘any assclown can buy a gun’ issue. But as the infamous taco commercial asks, ¿Por qué no los dos?

Here’s the thing. The same people who say that gun violence is a mental health issue don’t actually believe in mental healthcare. They mostly stigmatize mental healthcare as some kind of weakness. These are also the same people who say universal healthcare is some form of communism, thereby limiting the access to mental health providers in the first place. So essentially, they’re saying gun violence is a mental health problem, but they don’t want to do anything to fix the problem.

However, there is an inherent problem with red flag laws and individual rights. At what point is a person deemed a danger to others? Where should the line be drawn between supposed prankster and violent sociopath? Should there be a federal red flag law to prevent those who trigger the law in their state from buying a gun in a state where they don’t?

Or, you know, hear me out, we could make guns less accessible as a whole. Crazy thought, I know. But as long as hate like this continues to exist in our society, some coward will always see the gun as their only means of disguising their own inadequacies.


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