Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has already pivoted to blaming Tuesday night’s mass shooting on the U.S. “mental health crisis,” despite pushing policies that would actually have a detrimental effect on mental health care.
Six people were killed and another four wounded when a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia Tuesday night. The shooting comes just a few days after an attack on a queer club in Colorado Springs, and less than two weeks after a shooting at the University of Virginia that left three students dead.
Youngkin, who has said he thinks there should be no gun safety measures in his state, has avoided saying the words “shooting” or “gun” when discussing any of the three most recent tragedies.
He said Wednesday that all three are “a moment to reflect on the state of mind of America and Virginia and this mental health crisis that we know we’re in the middle of.”
Mental health is often highlighted when looking for reasons behind a mass shooting, particularly among Republicans. But health experts say that doing so simplifies the circumstances that lead to such attacks. Meanwhile, widespread access to firearms and stalled gun legislation reform—most often the result of Republican opposition—are also to blame for mass shootings.
And to make matters worse, Republicans don’t actually seem to have a plan to address the mental health issues they’re so quick to cite after mass shootings.
Virginia’s latest budget, which Youngkin signed into effect in July, does include increased funding for mental health care, including start-up funding for a crisis response center and a pay raise for state and state-sponsored mental health workers.
But Youngkin’s proposed policies to roll back the rights of transgender students could have a devastating effect on teenage mental health statewide, experts say. He has also vocally opposed the expansion of Medicaid, which many rely on for mental health purposes.
In June, President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law. The legislation, the first major gun reform bill in three decades, was also the biggest single expansion of mental health care in U.S. history since Obamacare and a huge expansion of Medicaid. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, the bill’s main architect, said that Republicans had initially wanted to address mental health separately from gun safety, despite constantly linking the two.
Republicans have also been working constantly to gut Medicaid, as well as the Affordable Care Act, which was the single biggest expansion of mental health care when it passed.