Joni Ernst blames 'mental health' for mass shootings right after experts say that's wrong


Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) ignored the American Psychological Association, which said 'blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing.'

At a Tuesday town hall, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) spread false information about mental health and mass shootings that the American Psychological Association (APA) has called "unfounded and stigmatizing."

A constituent at a Centerville, Iowa, town hall told Ernst that lack of mental health services is a major reason mass shootings have "increased tremendously over the last 30 years," in a video published by American Bridge, a progressive research organization.

Rather than correcting the statement with information from the nation's premier association of mental health experts, Ernst says, "I would tend to agree, sir."

"It is a mental health issue," she added. "So, we do have to focus more on stability and mental health support and behavioral health."

During her answer, Ernst refused to acknowledge that access to guns, not mental health, is a driving source of mass shootings in America, according to the APA.

"Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing," Rosie Phillips Davis, president of the APA, said in a statement following the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.

"Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. The rates of mental illness are roughly the same around the world, yet other countries are not experiencing these traumatic events as often as we face them. One critical factor is access to, and the lethality of, the weapons that are being used in these crimes.

"Adding racism, intolerance and bigotry to the mix is a recipe for disaster," Davies added.

Even if mental health was a motivating factor in mass shootings (which it is not), Ernst's voting record shows she is not willing to address the need for adequate health care in America. Ernst has voted multiple times to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which expanded health insurance to millions of Americans.

One key component of the ACA is protecting people with preexisting conditions when they purchase health insurance. The law prevents insurance companies from denying coverage or charging more to people with preexisting conditions, which includes mental health issues.

Further, the ACA requires health insurers to provide mental health coverage, something that would go away if Ernst had her way and the ACA were repealed.

"Joni Ernst has voted four times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and we refuse to sit by and pretend she's 'Iowa Nice' while she threatens our lives," Matt Sinovic, the executive director of Progress Iowa, said at a Monday health care rally in Iowa led by groups like Protect Our Care, Progress Iowa, and Planned Parenthood.

The NRA has spent more than $3 million helping Ernst getting elected to the Senate.

When it comes to the hundreds of people killed in mass shootings every year, Ernst falsely scapegoats mental health issues, refuses to acknowledge the role guns play, and even tries to reduce access to mental health services.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.