A Conversation About Domestic Terrorism, Mental Health and Racist Rhetoric


At least 31 people are reported dead after mass shootings over the weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

The shooter in El Paso was reportedly motivated by white nationalist, anti-immigrant rhetoric. The shooter in Dayton was described by some Monday as a troubled young man who was fixated on killing.

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On Monday, President Donald Trump condemned the shootings, saying “hate has no place in America.” But he stopped short of offering gun control proposals.

“We must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people not only get treatment but when necessary, involuntary confinement,” Trump said. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger. Not the gun.”

“There’s very little evidence, actually, that links a mental health diagnosis with these kinds of behaviors,” said psychologist Colleen Cicchetti. She’s executive director of the Lurie Children’s Hospital’s Center for Childhood Resilience, which connects children with mental health services. “We definitely have had a few isolated stories of unmet mental health needs that have led to some tragedies, there’s no question, but … 99.9% of anyone who ever seeks mental health care will never do this.”

As to the extremist rhetoric that apparently motivated the El Paso shooter, DePaul University professor and terrorism expert Tom Mockaitis thinks that the conversation is likely to be framed all wrong.

“When Omar Mateen murdered 49 people at the Pulse Night Club, those on the right wasted no time calling it Islamist terrorism, but when Robert Bowers killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue, the same people demurred over using that label,” Mockaitis wrote in an op-ed. “These murders and assaults represent a wave of domestic terrorism. It is time to name this threat for what it is and to devote more resources to countering it.”

“Every marginalized community is under attack right now,” said David Goldenberg, Midwest regional director for the Anti-Defamation League. “Jews in Pittsburgh and Poway. African American churchgoers in Charleston. Sikhs in Oak Creek. Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. And now the Latino community appears to have been the victim in El Paso.”

Alex Medina, president of the Illinois Association of Hispanic State Employees, thinks the rise in racist rhetoric is tied to what people hear from Washington, D.C.

“Every leader at any level – local, state, national, global – is a compass of morality,” Medina said. “Our president, who without any kind of regard for human value and human dignity, speaks hatefully … that is going to inspire and fuel those that align themselves to his kind of ideology.”


Related stories:

Chicago Responds to Weekend Carnage With Condolences, Calls for Action

Chicago Latino Community Reacts to El Paso Mass Shooting: ‘Words Matter’

Mexico: Texas Shooting ‘Act of Terrorism’ Against Mexicans

Trump Vows Action After Shootings, But Gives Few Details

Historian: White Power Movement Has Roots in the Vietnam War


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