Brow Beat

John Oliver on Why It’s Crazy When Politicians Discuss Mass Shootings as a Mental Health Issue

In the wake of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, GOP candidates have already begun shifting the conversation away from gun control, and onto the subject of mental illness. But, as John Oliver pointed out on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, as the tragedies fade, these politicians’ interest in our mental health system seems to disappear overnight.

John Oliver explained our mental healthcare system in simple terms: “It is a clusterfuck. Except that’s an insult to clusterfucks.” The system has been underfunded for decades, Oliver notes, which can lead to devastating outcomes. But when properly funded, Oliver said some of these programs actually pay for themselves—“which is fantastic. Government programs are like graduate students on a first date: if they are able to pay for themselves, it’s a fucking miracle.”

Oliver left the ball in the court of Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, and Ben Carson, who keep bringing up mental illness in the context of mass shootings—despite the fact that most mentally ill people are nonviolent, and the majority of gun violence is commited by non-mentally ill people. Because “If we’re going to constantly use mentally ill people to dodge conversations about gun control, then the very least we owe them,” he said, is a plan.