In The Politics of Autism, I write:
There is no evidence linking autism to planned violence, but in recent years, mass shootings by young men have led commentators in the mainstream media and on the Internet to suggest such a connection. After the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, for instance, news reports said that the shooter was on the spectrum. The speculation made little sense to anyone who understood autism. Whereas autistic people have language delays and deficits, the killer had learned English as a second language — and learned it well enough to major in the subject in college. Later on, it turned out that he had an entirely different problem, a social anxiety disorder. Adam Lanza, who committed the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, may have had an Asperger’s diagnosis, but his father emphasized that his behavior stemmed from the psychiatric illnesses that he also had. Nevertheless, the media speculated about Lanza’s place on the spectrum, which worried autism parents. One mother of an autistic child wrote: “This is the first time I'm truly afraid for him. Afraid of what may happen to my son with autism at the hands of a stranger; a stranger who has chosen to buy into the media-fueled misinformation that individuals diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder are dangerous and capable of horrendous acts of terror and violence.”From the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network:
In light of the recent announcement that the Obama Administration intends to utilize the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Representative Payee database to feed the names of people with psychiatric disabilities requesting assistance in managing their financial affairs into the National Instant Criminal Background Check system to prevent firearms purchases, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network has grave concerns as to the precedent this sets regarding the rights of people with disabilities.
In the aftermath of the tragic shootings in San Bernardino, Newton and elsewhere, many have sought to scapegoat people with psychiatric disabilities for mass shootings, contrary to a wealth of evidence in the scientific literature demonstrating no link between mental health and violence. People with psychiatric disabilities are already far more likely to be the victims of violence than people without disabilities, and deserve better than to be stigmatized by inaccurate and harmful rhetoric.
The representative payee system is designed for the sole purpose of allowing individuals to select a trusted person to assist them in managing their finances. The precedent of deeming an individual incompetent to assert any other right as a result of representative payee status is deeply concerning and might lead to further restrictions on key rights, such as voting or parenting, in the future. The proposed measure might also make it less likely that those who require financial assistance will be willing to utilize the SSA’s representative payee system.
Such a proposal tells Autistic Americans, seniors with dementia, youth with Down Syndrome leaving school and people with countless other psychiatric and neurological disabilities of all kinds that struggling to manage their finances means they are to be deemed incompetent in other areas of life as well. This is unacceptable.
We urge the Obama Administration and the Social Security Administration to reconsider this course of action and remove this measure from further consideration.From the American Association of People with Disabilities:
The recent proposal announced by the Obama Administration to reduce gun violence contains certain provisions falsely assuming that people with psychiatric disabilities have a propensity for violence. As cited in AAPD’s publication Grounded in Faith, the MacArthur Study of Mental Disorder and Violence – the most rigorous scientific study conducted to date by the country’s leading experts in mental health and violence – found that a person with a psychiatric disability is no more likely to be violent than a person without one. In fact, people with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be the victims of violence than people without disabilities. The disability community deserves better than to be stigmatized by inaccurate and harmful rhetoric.
Specifically, AAPD opposes the Obama Administration’s plan to utilize the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Representative Payee database as a way to identify ‘dangerous’ individuals who should be prevented from purchasing firearms.
“AAPD supports the President in taking commonsense steps to make our communities safer, but utilizing the representative payee database as a way to identify people who are likely to commit gun violence is a useless and harmful proposal” said Michael Murray, AAPD’s Chief Operating Officer. “It unfairly stigmatizes millions of Americans with disabilities who make tremendous contributions to our society and pose no threat of violence. The likely effect of such efforts will be to discourage many from acknowledging and seeking support for a psychiatric disability, while having absolutely no impact on gun violence. The proposed measure might also make it less likely that those who need financial assistance will be willing to utilize the SSA’s representative payee system. This is unacceptable.”