In recent years, a number of devastating mass shootings have sparked nationwide debate concerning guns, mental illness and what might be done to prevent similar attacks. Thursday, A&M students and staff will have a chance to learn more about various factors involved in this debate while examining potential courses of action for the nation’s future.
Jonathan Metzl, professor of sociology and psychiatry from Vanderbilt University, will present a lecture called “Changing the Terms of Debate about Gun Violence: Mental Illness, Mass Shooting, and the Politics of American Firearms.” The event will be presented by the Glasscock Medical Humanities Working Group and co-sponsored by Aggie Agora, the Department of Communication, the Department of English and the Sociology Colloquium.
Metzl said the lecture will primarily focus on how preconceived notions about mental illness have impacted the national discourse on gun violence and mass shootings.
“Most of the talk will be about the implications for the relationships between our assumptions about guns and stereotypes, particularly stereotypes of mental illness,” Metzl said. “Because a lot of times there’s a big push to push for more weapons because of mental illness, so I’ll be — hopefully — debunking that stereotype, and asking the audience to think a bit more deeply about the relationships between guns and mental illness.”
Metzl will speak about the future Trump administration’s potential approach to gun policy, as well the possible impact on college campuses.
“I will be talking about a couple of things,” Metzl said. “One is the kinds of gun policies we can expect going forward in this Trump administration. The second — briefly — will be the implications for college campuses, because campus carry has been an issue on many campuses, but particularly here in Texas.”
According to Metzl, Texas’ highly visible position within the nation-wide dialogue on gun policy makes it an ideal location for discussions like these.
“I think that Texas is at the center of a big national debate about how [we can] balance gun rights with safety and people’s sense of safety,” Metzl said.
“So I think that this is a perfect place to be having this kind of conversation.”
Metzl said, in his view, it is crucial to take a well-balanced approach to these topics, even in the face of increased polarization.
“As we expand gun rights, my personal position is that we need to find middle ground positions between, on one hand, respecting people’s second amendment rights, and on the other hand, making sure that everyone feels safe and secure,” Metzl said. “I think that in a way our conversation has been incredibly polarized and hopeful that going forward, we can work toward finding a common-sense middle ground that respects gun rights on one hand and take into account all of research on gun violence prevention on the other.”