Gun Control, Mental Illness and Aspergers. The new Witch Hunt

I have sat back quietly watching this new gun control debate. I have listened to both sides and read every news story I can find, and I am disappointed.

Before I go much further let me make one thing very clear; I promised myself that I will not get into the control debate on any forum that focuses on Aspergers and Autism. My intention with this post is not to pick sides. Like everyone else, I have my personal views on gun control. However this is not the place for those views. This is a place to discuss the things that affect people on the spectrum. This is a place where I share my views as someone who is on the spectrum.

There is a lot of talk about ‘mentally ill‘ people in the new gun control debate. There is a fear spreading that the mentally ill are unpredictable and often dangerous. This fear is reminiscent of the days we locked away people in mental institutions. Are we regressing in that direction now in the name of gun control? More importantly, how do we define mental illness in this debate?

A bill in the Georgia Senate (SB 34)would make it illegal for mentally incompetent or addicted people to own a firearm. Think about this; addicted people, who are they targeting here? Drug dealers? No, the bill is worded in such a way that ANY addiction makes you incompetent .. if you had a DUI in high school 30 years ago- you would now labeled an addicted person, according to this bill. If the definition of an addicted person has such vague definition in this bill, who would be deemed mentally incompetent? The person who saw a marriage councilor? The rape victim who saw a therapist? The Police officer who witnessed terrible crimes and need to see a councilor? The kid diagnosed with Aspergers in school?

We are walking on dangerous ground when we use blanket terms such as ‘mentally ill‘. Not just in the gun control debate, but in any form of mature conversation. In a politically correct word where we never use the word ‘retard‘ we are quickly turning mental health into the new racism. The news media, the politicians, the NRA and the Brady campaign are all  painting mental illness with a broad brush in an effort to avoid the real issues at hand.

My fear in all of this rhetoric is that to many people will get labeled as dangerous mental nut cases. As if my little Aspie doesn’t have to worry about being bullied at school already. There are news stories of children being suspended from school for everything from Hello Kitty bubble guns Link to story here,  to an L shaped piece of paper that looked like it may have been gun shaped- Link to story here. Add the news media trying so hard to paint the latest mass murderer as having Aspergers. (to many conflicting stories on this one). What happens when a little Aspie plays Cops and Robbers and points his finger at another child? Will we be outraged when he is arrested, or will we be satisfied that another crazy person is off the streets?

My fear is how quickly we all want to find a bad guy in this gun control argument. I am worried about the modern-day witch hunt I see happening in America.

Where do we draw the line when we start going after the mentally ill?

1212mentalhealth-RW

1212mentalhealth-RW (Photo credit: Robbie Wroblewski)

Do we just go after those crazy people who live on the streets? Surely they are all crazy just like Jim Carrey.
Do we go after people who are bipolar? Sorry Vincent van Gogh but you have to go!
Do we target the Drunks? Yeah we should have locked up Ernest Hemingway!
Maybe we just target those nerdy kids who like to play with computers in their parents garage. Yeah, that’s it! We should have locked away Steve Jobs back in the day.
What’s that? oh of course we should really target those people who suffer from depression, you know people like Abraham Lincoln.
Oh wait, if you watch the news, it is those creepy people with Aspergers. You know the people like Dan Aykroyd, and Albert Einstein!

Seriously….

The truth is simple; there are bad people in the world. Bad people do bad things. Sometimes they do horrible things that the rest of us cannot understand.

Vilifying the mentally ill in such a broad term makes about as much sense as slavery and saying women can’t vote.
Saying that people with Aspergers are mentally ill is just as ignorant as saying all Hispanics are gang members.

The irony here is that The clinical diagnosis for Aspergers syndrome will be removed in the next edition of the American Psychiatric Association psychiatrists’ diagnostic guide. Will that be enough? Will they change their mind about this now?

I have Aspergers  I process things a little differently than most people. I sometimes feel awkward in social situations. I am not ill. I am not crazy. I am not broken. I am just as unique as you are.

Sometimes being different is a GOOD thing.

9 comments on “Gun Control, Mental Illness and Aspergers. The new Witch Hunt

  1. jasunhorusly says:

    A piece that will interest you, very much in line with what you are writing about here, called Autism & the Other, Neurodiversity, Media, Culture & School Shootings, see: http://auticulture.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/autism-the-other-perceptual-warfare-full-pdf-download/

  2. aspergerplus says:

    Great blog. Inspiring. So I added a few ideas on http://hansaspergerjunior.blogspot.com/2013/02/aspergers-against-mind-control.html which builds on your comments

  3. Amythest Schaber says:

    Hi aspiewarrior. I enjoyed your article and agree that the current misrepresentation of people on the autism spectrum and the mentally ill is a dreadful thing. It dehumanizes people and creates a hostile environment for anyone not exactly “neurotypical”.

    I feel like a few things in your post could use some work. For example, you point out that Vincent van Gogh and Abraham Lincoln probably both suffered from mental illness (Bipolar Disorder and Depression, respectively). Bringing light to this is good- it helps people to realize that mental illness is not a character defect, or the result of a weak will. It’s an illness, and anybody can be affected.

    However, you then state:
    “Saying that people with Aspergers are mentally ill is just as ignorant as saying all Hispanics are gang members.”

    It seems that you are using the term “mentally ill” and thinking of the words “violent”, “crazy”, “homicidal”, “dangerous”. The fact is that if a person is mentally ill, they are a person whose brain is sick. Period. It’s true that a person with Bipolar Disorder may act out violently- but that’s also true for people who do not have a mental illness. Mentally ill is not a synonym for dangerous.

    When you say:
    “The irony here is that The clinical diagnosis for Aspergers syndrome will be removed in the next edition of the American Psychiatric Association psychiatrists’ diagnostic guide. Will that be enough? Will they change their mind about this now?”

    This is again conveying a misunderstanding of what mental illness is, and about who the mentally ill are. Whether you mean to or not, you are saying that being diagnosed with an illness present in the DSM is a thing to be ashamed of.

    Also, Aspergers is not being removed from the DSM-V per say- it is being merged with Autism under the new “Autism Spectrum Disorder”. The symptoms of Aspergers will still be listed within the spectrum of Autism (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/dec/02/aspergers-syndrome-dropped-psychiatric-dsm).

    Finally, your closing statement:
    “I have Aspergers I process things a little differently than most people. I sometimes feel awkward in social situations. I am not ill. I am not crazy. I am not broken. I am just as unique as you are.”

    When use use use crazy in this way, you are both using a derogatory term to refer to the mentally ill and potentially shaming anyone who suffers from a mental illness. I know that’s not what you intended, but it could be interpreted that way.

    It’s true that Autism/Aspergers are considered neurological disabilities or disorders, and are different from most mental illnesses. But no matter why a person is “different”, whether it be a neurological disability, a mental illness, or something combination of the two, the fact is that everyone deserves acceptance.

    We must be careful not to perpetuate misinformation. We have to be careful to be sensitive to our fellow human beings- forgoing words like “crazy”, “psycho”, “lunatic”, or “retard”. It is my sincerest hope that one day, everyone who suffers from an illness or disorder will be able to get the help they need. It is my dream that one day there won’t be this ignorance, and thus hostility, towards those who are different.

    Sadly, society is fighting us one this one- as you point out in your post- so I guess it’s up to us.

    Amythest

    • aspiewarrior says:

      Amythest. Perhaps should read some of my other posts on order to better understand my position. To briefly clarify; Aspergers is NOT a mental ILLNESS. Thus my ending comments. However the New media and others are trying has to paint us as mentally ill, crazy, dangerous etc.

  4. Hi! I love reading your blog, so I’ve tagged it for the Liebster Blog Award which helps link blogs together. I’ve written more about it here:
    http://autismandtheteensibling.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/liebster-blog-awards/

    Keep on blogging! :D

  5. Has anyone thought of aproaching Congress or the government with how Autisitc poeple are treated? Easpecially the killings?

  6. BestofBipolar says:

    How is it not discriimination what they are doing on the media. I have bipolar. It scared the heck out of me how I had hit the bottom. Yet, I was a good employee (retired). I have never been arrested. I have never committed any violence of any kind. I know( through being in mental health facilities when having mental breakdowns) several schizophrenics in there because they were so scared someone would harm them. I didn’t hear any say they wanted to kill anyone. In fact they were so worried about hiding; they didn’t even think about it.

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