The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Santa Clara County is deeply saddened by the horrific and senseless school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. This tragedy touches everyone in our country and impacts the mental health of our entire nation.
No state, county or city appears to be safe unless everyone is looking over their shoulders. Our own county has experienced this traumatic pain twice—a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in 2019 and the Santa Clara County VTA light rail yard a year ago. Fourteen people died and 17 were injured from these events. Most recently, the mass shootings at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York and a church in Laguna Woods, California added to these numbers.
In California alone, someone is killed by a gun on average every three hours, according to the Giffords Law Center. That equates to eight people a day, without a mass shooting. Our state has more than 3,100 firearms deaths per year from homicides and suicides.
Yet nothing changes. The debate over the right to bear arms without oversight about how these arms are used continues to fall on deaf ears. AR-15 rifles, the most popular firearm purchased in the country, is the same weapon used by the 18-year-old shooter in Uvalde. Purchased right after he turned 18.
Soon after this tragedy, in the same sentence with these killings came the whispers and declarations that it must have been mental illness.
Mental illness is not the problem. This connection only adds to the stigma and discrimination of mental illness. In fact, individuals with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of a crime than people who commit the crime. Tying gun violence to mental illness criminalizes individuals with brain disorders.
The real problem is gun violence, which in the United States has been declared a public health crisis by various organizations including the American Medical Association.
We urge our lawmakers to take a common sense approach and pass meaningful gun law legislation to end this senseless pain and suffering.
No child should fear going to school. No adult should worry about purchasing groceries, and no family should feel apprehension when entering a house of worship. We need to come together as a nation and solve this problem. Too many lives have been needlessly lost.
Rovina Nimbalkar is executive director of NAMI Santa Clara County. Uday Kapoor is board president of NAMI Santa Clara County.