Officials warn not to jump to conclusion that Middleton shooting is related to mental health

Officials warn not to jump to conclusion that Middleton shooting is related to mental health

There are still many unanswered questions surrounding the shooting that happened this week at WTS Paradigm in Middleton.

Middleton police said at a news conference Friday that they are still searching for a motive. Chief Charles Foulke said the shooter, Anthony Tong, couldn’t legally own a firearm because of a mental health incident more than a decade ago.

“We must use caution in trying to jump to conclusions that this is a mental health related shooting incident, and also we need to be cautious that we don’t paint everyone with the broad brush of ‘Everyone with a mental health issue is going to become an active shooter,’ because as we know that’s not the case,” Foulke said.

Evidence shows that after shootings, people are quick to assume the shooter is a “loner” with a history of mental health issues. Local mental health experts told News 3 that is not always the case.

“Mental illness is not a factor in most firearm deaths that are homicides. They certainly are with regards to suicides,” said Shel Gross, director of public policy for Mental Health America of Wisconsin.

Gross said he does not want to speculate whether Tong’s mental health issues from 2004 played a role in the shooting this week.

“The vast majority of people who have a mental illness do not pose any more danger than anybody else in the population, and many tend to more likely be victims of violence than perpetrators,” Gross said.

Gross pointed to a report from the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy, which says, “The evidence shows that the large majority of people with mental illness do not engage in violence against others and most violence is caused by factors other than mental illness.”

The report also provides recommendations to states. The consortium recommends strengthening state laws to prevent individuals from buying or having firearms after a short-term involuntary hospitalization, enacting new prohibitions on individuals’ ability to buy or have a firearm that reflect evidence-based risk of dangerousness and developing a mechanism to authorize law enforcement officers to remove firearms when they identify someone who poses an immediate threat of harm to self or others.

Tong’s concealed carry license was revoked while he was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, following a mental health check by police in 2004, according to officials.

“If he wasn’t supposed to have a gun for whatever reason, I think the bigger question is: How did he manage to have one, and what can we be doing about that?” Gross said.

Gross said one of mental health experts’ main concerns is keeping guns away from people who could be suicidal. He said that means guaranteeing safe storage of guns and removing firearms from the home if there is a concern that someone is a danger to himself, herself or someone else.