There have been two horrific police shootings in recent days. The first shooting in Dallas TX was done during a “Black Lives Matter” protest. Five officers died. The shooter, Micah Johnson, was a veteran and unaffiliated with “Black Lives Matter.” He was completely under the radar until the shooting.
The second police shooting took place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three police officers were killed and one remains in critical condition. The shooter, Gavin Long, was a decorated war veteran.
People are talking about racial divides in this country and how the shootings have turned an already fraught situation into “Blacks v. Police.” Never mind that relatives of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling (whose deaths at the hands of cops have triggered nation-wide protests) have condemned both police shootings and begged for peace on all sides.
The shootings of five officers in Dallas and three officers in Baton Rouge are less about race and more about veteran’s mental health care. Micah Johnson and Gavin Long were completely under the radar until the shootings. Had either of these veterans sought mental health care, they would have been out of luck. NPR has recently done an expose on the shabby state of mental health care for veterans in this country. Veterans not only face long wait times in reaching psychiatrists, the doctors themselves often do not get paid for the health care they give veterans.
Let us stop looking at race when examining the recent police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Race is a red herring. “Black Lives Matter” has always advocated for peaceful protests and the relatives of the dead unarmed black men who were killed by cops have also asked for peace.
The issue here is the mental health of American veterans. Gavin Long and Micah Johnson were under the radar for a reason: Mental health care for veterans in this country is terrible. It needs to get better, or we will see a whole lot more shootings.