Gun control and mental illness: mental health advocates say focus can be misplaced

Mental Health Association CEO says

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A new gun control Senate deal has some advocates saying the focus on mental illness may be misplaced.

Pamela Gionfriddo, Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County, is an advocate for mental health.


Gionfriddo supports the new compromise, which would expand criminal background checks for gun buyers. But she doesn't agree with any background check that would automatically keep a gun from someone with a previous mental health issue.

"It's a health issue. It's not a crime issue," said Gionfriddo. "People with mental illness can be depressed, they can be anxious, they're not necessarily violent."

The Senators who drafted the agreement say it would help keep firearms from criminals and the mentally ill. Gionfriddo admits someone with untreated mental illness could become violent, but she argues it's usually the other way around.

"People with mental illness are more likely to be the victimized, than they are to be the perpetrator of violence," she said.

Gionfriddo said lawmakers should create separate conversations for mental health issues and gun control laws.

"They can recover from mental illness," said Gionfriddo. "It doesn't necessarily mean that we have to treat them differently from other people."
 

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