America has a long history of blaming something other than guns for gun deaths. We’ve had people blaming backpacks, we’ve had people saying fewer doors in schools would mean fewer school shootings, and of course, we’ve blamed violent video games.
Now, following the latest school shooting on Friday, the NRA’s incoming president has suggested that vital medication may be to blame for the school shootings, rather than the obvious culprit.
Oliver North appeared on Fox News Sunday and was first shown two clips of young students who had just witnessed the shooting at Santa Fe High School.
“I shouldn’t be going through this at my school,” one student, Dakota Schrader, said. “I feel scared to even go back.”
“It’s been happening everywhere,” Paige Curry said. “I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here too.”
In reply, North told the show that violence on TV and in movies was to blame, as well as Ritalin.
“We’re trying like the dickens to treat the symptom without treating the disease… The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence. They’ve been drugged in many cases,” he told the anchor.
“Many of these young boys have been on Ritalin since they were in Kindergarten. Now I am certainly not a doctor” – yes, Oliver, that much is clear – “I’m a marine, but I can see those kinds of things happening and endangering those two gals.”
The suspect, 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, is not reported to be on Ritalin. His attorney Nicholas Poehl said on Sunday that he was not aware that Pagourtzis was on any kind of medication at all, Business Insider reports. He was surprised that North would suggest the link, in a case that was less than 48 hours old.
But does the science back up North’s Ritalin claim? In short: No.
George DuPaul, a psychologist at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, told the Associated Press that children on Ritalin actually tend to be less aggressive.
“There’s really no evidence whatsoever that links treatment for ADHD with Ritalin and drugs like that with violence, let alone gun violence,” he said.
“What’s more likely is that kids with mental health conditions who engage in this type of violent behavior, it’s the underlying condition and not the treatment that leads to this behavior.”
“When taken under the direction of a doctor, Ritalin can greatly improve the symptoms of ADHD and allow children to perform better in school and have better relationships with their peers.” Dr Eugene Gu, a physician and healthcare columnist, tweeted.
“Blame guns for gun violence – not the medication that may help bring it under control.”
As many people have pointed out, the NRA will do anything, including blaming sometimes vital medication, to avoid blaming guns.