BuzzFeed News

Reporting To You

John Oliver Breaks Down America's Problem With Gun Violence And Mental Illness

"Finding out jails are our largest provider of mental health treatment is like finding out Lil Wayne lyrics are our greatest source of sexual education."

Posted on October 5, 2015, at 11:50 a.m. ET

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver / Via

Last Thursday's mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, which left 10 people dead, rekindled debates about gun violence in the United States.

John Oliver on Last Week Tonight tackled the argument that mass shootings are more about mental illness, not guns.

In Oliver's 12-minute monologue, he says that bringing up mental health after a mass shooting just steers the conversation away from gun control. He adds that "the aftermath of a mass shooting might be the worst time to talk about mental health," because the majority of violence in the U.S. is committed by people without mental illnesses and, statistically, people with mental illnesses are often the targets of violence.

The country's mentally ill are blamed for violence and simultaneously stripped of any public safety net for treatment. Oliver explains how a 1963 bill signed by President John F. Kennedy closed the dilapidated asylums for the mentally ill, once called "snake pits." But the country failed to fund the local community mental health programs that were intended to replace the old hospitals. The result is that, still decades later, people with mental illnesses are either treated by the country's jail system, sent to nursing homes for care, or in some cases, like patients at one Nevada hospital, are simply bussed out of town.

Oliver challenged conservative politicians, like Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, and Ben Carson, who argue that mass shootings show the country needs to get better at treating people with mental illnesses.

"Ok fine, do it then," said Oliver. "Because if we’re going to constantly use mentally ill people to dodge conversations about gun control then the very least we owe them is a fucking plan."

Watch the entire segment here:

View this video on YouTube

Support our journalism

Help BuzzFeed News reporters expose injustices and keep quality news free.