It’s time for our country to talk about mental illness and gun violence

Is it a gun problem? A mental illness problem? A violence problem?

Yes.

It’s a combination of several problems, including one that will likely get overlooked as the nation comes to grips with another mass shooting at a school.

Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old, is accused of murdering 17 people at his former high school in Florida Wednesday. He used a legally purchased AR-15 rifle.

Students who knew him described him as a volatile teenager whose strange behavior had caused others to end friendships with him. The FBI had even investigated a YouTube comment posted under the name Nikolas Cruz that read: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

Like so many other mass shooters, Cruz appears to be an angry, disaffected white male. Cruz’s family life might shed some light on who he is. Cruz’s adoptive mother died in November. His adoptive father died years ago. He was living with a family friend along with his biological brother.

Cruz was an angry, hurt boy who didn’t know how to be a man. American culture does not offer much help in that department. Men are portrayed as either overly masculine, perverse idiots or emasculated wimps. It’s hard to find an accurate depiction of a man who is both loving and strong, and knows how to deal with conflict and pain. If he lacked that example in his life, Wednesday’s events are not surprising.

But that alone doesn’t explain his behavior. Anyone capable of this kind of crime is likely mentally ill. When you combine these things with access to guns, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Cruz alone is responsible for his actions, but as a country we need to address the many causes that make it easy for angry boys to destroy innocent lives.

Originally published by the Daily Leader Editorial Board

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