Bagnall: Gun Violence is a Public Health Crisis / by Charles Yeganian

Heather Bagnall is a member-elect of the Maryland House of Delegates, and the first Democrat to represent District 33 in two decades. She won, like all successful candidates profiled here, by running on the issue of gun reform rather than away from it. Today, she wrote an op-ed on that subject, appropriately published in the Capital Gazette:

However, mass shootings, though they garner the largest portion of media attention are a fraction of the bigger picture of gun violence, another reason we need an educational arm to gun safety. Two-thirds of all deaths by gun violence are suicide.

You will hear many politicians every election cycle and after every shooting talk about mental illness, but when is the last time you heard even one talk about mental health? They don’t because mental illness is a talking point to pull focus away from the real issue which is access. We need to address mental health as a parallel issue not only because mental illness is not a predictor of violence and violence is not a predictor of mental illness but also because every time we fob shootings off on mental illness we stigmatize people in crisis, and make it that much more difficult to report, to seek help, and for families to intervene.

I am a huge proponent of the Red Flag Law because it is a tool for families, for law enforcement, and for mental health professionals to hit the pause button without permanently stigmatizing someone who had what may have been a moment of crisis, whether it’s mental illness or violence. The law does not require we distinguish between the two.

Bagnall is one of eight LEAPers to win election to the House of Delegates earlier this month, and will be part of a veto-proof Democratic majority.