Guns, Crime, and Dangerous Minds: Assessing the Mental Health Turn in Gun Policy Discourse

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Abstract

In the wake of recent, high profile mass shootings, the "deranged mind" has become a common discursive ground for policy makers, pundits, gun enthusiasts, and gun control advocates alike. Interested parties on both sides of the gun control/rights debate have agreed that laws restricting gun ownership should be assessed according to their ability to protect the innocent citizen from the unpredictable criminal violence of the insane (despite the fact that mass shootings account for only one tenth of 1% of all homicides committed with a gun). Contextualizing this development within both distant and recent U.S. history, we argue that policy proposals that tie contemporary gun violence prevention to mental health care can be seen as part of a confluence of technologies of social governance that includes: a turn from therapeutic to risk-management approaches to mental health care; a turn from retrospective/forensic to prospective/preventative approaches to criminal justice; and, a broader turn toward a "criminological" view of civic identity. Furthermore, by shifting the locus of violence from the gun to the interior world of the potential violent criminal, the "mental health" turn dematerializes the gun at the very moments when its "thingliness" is most vivid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-151
Number of pages5
JournalCultural Studies - Critical Methodologies
Volume17
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

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mental health
offense
violence
discourse
health care
risk management
homicide
justice
governance
citizen
Law
ability
history
Crime
Discourse
Mental Health
Healthcare
Risk Management
Civic Identity
Ownership

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Cite this

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abstract = "In the wake of recent, high profile mass shootings, the {"}deranged mind{"} has become a common discursive ground for policy makers, pundits, gun enthusiasts, and gun control advocates alike. Interested parties on both sides of the gun control/rights debate have agreed that laws restricting gun ownership should be assessed according to their ability to protect the innocent citizen from the unpredictable criminal violence of the insane (despite the fact that mass shootings account for only one tenth of 1{\%} of all homicides committed with a gun). Contextualizing this development within both distant and recent U.S. history, we argue that policy proposals that tie contemporary gun violence prevention to mental health care can be seen as part of a confluence of technologies of social governance that includes: a turn from therapeutic to risk-management approaches to mental health care; a turn from retrospective/forensic to prospective/preventative approaches to criminal justice; and, a broader turn toward a {"}criminological{"} view of civic identity. Furthermore, by shifting the locus of violence from the gun to the interior world of the potential violent criminal, the {"}mental health{"} turn dematerializes the gun at the very moments when its {"}thingliness{"} is most vivid.",
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