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All4Ed Joins Leaders and Allies of the Disability Community in Joint Statement on Gun Violence Prevention Policy and Mental Health Disabilities

The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) today joined a coalition of 35+ organizations, including leaders and allies in disability rights, civil rights, education, and privacy communities, in releasing a joint statement affirming that mental health disabilities are not predictors of gun violence and that people with mental health disabilities must not be scapegoated for the acts of mass gun violence in this country.

Despite clear evidence to the contrary, President Trump and some members of Congress have recently stated that people with mental health disabilities are the primary perpetrators of gun violence. This coalition condemns this false and dangerous rhetoric and urges legislators to reject any legislative proposals that are premised on this false assumption which puts the civil rights of Americans with disabilities at risk. 

The coalition’s joint statement affirms that:

“It is hard to overstate the damage done by efforts to blame people with psychiatric disabilities for gun violence.  They sow prejudice and fear, undermining the opportunities for people with psychiatric disabilities to live, work and be full participants in their communities” said Jennifer Mathis, Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.

“Rebuilding institutions is a misguided solution to gun violence,” said Curt Decker, Executive Director at the National Disability Rights Network“Not only are people with mental health disabilities the wrong focus for addressing gun violence; the very proposition of building new institutions would be a giant step backwards.”

“Rhetoric and policies that target people with mental health disabilities does direct harm to children with complex medical needs and disabilities who are significantly more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violence,” said Erin Gabriel, Director of Advocacy at Little Lobbyists. “Proposals that would identify children early on as ‘high-risk’ would only feed a potential school to institution pipeline, violating the civil rights of these individuals while doing nothing to curb gun violence. We must address the cause of violence instead of further stigmatizing and isolating adults and children with complex medical needs and disabilities.” 

The joint statement and a list of the signing organizations appears below:

Joint Statement from Members of the Disability Community and Allies on Gun Violence Prevention Policy and Mental Health Disabilities

The recent mass shootings in our country have necessarily turned the spotlight on proposed policies and solutions at the legislative level. While the undersigned agree that public safety is paramount, the assumption that people with mental health disabilities, including those with perceived mental health disabilities, are inherently dangerous and that targeting them will solve our country’s gun violence problem is wrong. Talking points and legislation relying on those assumptions are counterproductive and only serve to further stigmatize people with mental health disabilities and the disability community as a whole.

Despite data to the contrary, the President and some legislators have stated that people with mental health disabilities are the primary perpetrators of gun violence. The President has proposed institutionalizing people with mental health disabilities and is reportedly considering subjecting them to surveillance. Some legislators have similarly suggested that people with mental health disabilities should be the primary target of gun violence prevention efforts.We soundly reject this argument.  Studies have repeatedly shown that people with disabilities, including mental health disabilities, are far more likely to be victims of gun violence than perpetrators.  In fact, recent studies demonstrate that only 4% of gun violence is connected to mental health disabilities.  Mental health disabilities are not accurate predictors of violence, a fact recognized by the American Psychological Association, among others, and should not be treated as such. Legislation that targets people with mental health disabilities will not be effective in reducing gun violence. Falsely blaming people with mental health disabilities for violence will stigmatize these individuals, violate their right to privacy, and will likely dissuade some people from seeking help at all.

All Americans, including people with disabilities, have a civil right to live in their communities and not be segregated or imprisoned simply because they have a disability. Building more institutions, as the Administration proposes, unjustly threatens the civil rights and freedom of people with mental health disabilities while doing nothing to reduce gun violence in this country.  Other proposals aimed at identifying students with disabilities at a young age as potential threats only serve to further isolate and stigmatize students. This is neither helpful nor effective in increasing safety or reducing gun violence and will ultimately harm those with mental health disabilities as well as the broader disability community.

The simple fact is that other countries around the world have just as many people with mental health disabilities, but they do not experience gun violence at the same magnitude as the United States. The problem is only exacerbated by systemic racism and hatred. Our country is faced with a rise in hate crimes targeting marginalized communities and an increase in racially motivated mass shootings in recent years. Hate and racism are not mental health disabilities, nor should they be treated as such. There are no medical providers, procedures, or medications that exist that can treat a person’s hatred. Gun violence is not clinical in nature—it is a societal problem.

It is an act of prejudice to use people with disabilities as scapegoats for the increasing incidences of mass shootings and acts of mass violence in this country.  Ultimately this will do nothing to curb the epidemic of gun violence in our nation. We will not accept or support any legislation that sacrifices the civil rights of people with disabilities in exchange for the appearance of action on gun violence.   Effective reform can and should be accomplished without compromising the civil rights of people with disabilities. We call upon all of our legislators to condemn this dangerous rhetoric and refute any related legislative proposals that will put the lives and freedoms of  Americans with disabilities at risk.

Signed in Solidarity,

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Advocacy Unlimited, Inc.

Alliance for Excellent Education 

American Association of People with Disabilities

Association of University Centers on Disabilities

Autism National Committee

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

California Association of Social Rehabilitation Agencies

Center for Public Representation

Connecticut Cross Disability Lifespan Alliance

Connecticut Legal Rights Project, Inc. 

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Disability Rights Connecticut

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)

Gift of Voice 

Hon. Tony Coelho, Author of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Keep the Promise

Little Lobbyists

Mental Health America

National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities

National Association of County Behavioral Health & Disability Directors

National Association of School Psychologists

National Association of Secondary School Principals

National Center for Learning Disabilities

National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery

National Council on Independent Living

National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools

National Disability Rights Network 

National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund 

National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse

New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services

Oregon Mental Health Consumer Psychiatric Survivor Coalition 

Pennsylvania Action: Protecting Disability Rights

Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association



The Alliance for Excellent Education

The Arc of the United States

The Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy and Innovation

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights