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Why Hillary Clinton doesn't talk about guns when she talks about mental health

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Why Hillary Clinton doesn't talk about guns when she talks about mental health

Watch: Clinton's mental health plan doesn't mention gun violence. Here's why.


In politics, there's a familiar refrain after almost every mass shooting in America: We must do better when it comes to treating mental illness.

So it may seem strange at first to learn that, in Hillary Clinton's newly released plan to combat mental illness, there isn't a single mention of guns or gun violence. (You can read the plan here). 

But experts told Circa there are actually two good reasons not to mention those words in a policy plan to address mental health.

'It's really not right to tie mental health reform to gun reform'

Paul Gionfriddo is the president of Mental Health America, a nonprofit advocacy group for people with mental illness and substance abuse issues.

He told Circa that, despite politicians' habit of blaming mass shootings on mental illness, most gun violence is committed by people who are not mentally ill. What's more, most mentally ill people are not violent.

"There's not really a strong association between mental illness and violence," Gionfriddo said.

Conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder ... They're health issues, not public safety issues.
Paul Gionfriddo, CEO of Mental Health America

According to the Washington Post, mass shooters are more often than not "ruthless sociopaths whose behavior, while unfathomable, can't typically be treated as mental illness."

Guns and mental health should be 'dealt with separately'

Because of this, Gionfriddo said, it wouldn't make sense to put language about preventing gun violence in a plan to fight mental health.

"They need to be dealt with separately," he said. "I think it's fully appropriate that a comprehensive mental health plan does not have anything in there about gun safety or gun control , just as I think it's fully appropriate that her gun safety plan doesn't have much in there about mental illness."  

Why Hillary Clinton doesn't talk about guns when she talks about mental health

Here's a clip of Gionfriddo talking about the connection between mental health and gun violence.

A political calculation, too?

Aside from the fact that it may not be appropriate policy-wise to include the issue of gun violence in a plan to address mental illness, it may also not be politically smart for Clinton.

John Hudak, a senior fellow at the public policy nonprofit Brookings Institution, told Circa that treating mental health is generally a bipartisan issue -- and talking about guns could alienate Republicans who might otherwise say yes to Clinton's plan. 


'The safest plan possible'

"Guns are an easy way to politicize [mental health treatment], and it's something that I'm sure Clinton is thinking very closely about," Hudak said.

"While she'll have positions on both guns and mental health and the ways those two connect, I think for this vision, she wanted the safest plan possible."

Clinton will still talk about both issues

A source close to the Clinton campaign told Circa that Clinton does plan to talk about guns and mental illness on the campaign trail -- at least when it comes to background checks. 

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