Edited to add a few more links
There's a lot to say about the deadly hate crime at a historic black Charleston church (yes! I know! Sickening, isn't it?) that took the lives of nine people as well as the alleged shooter responsible. I already covered a bit of my feelings on the racial component of this type of massacre when dealing with another black person getting shot in a racially-tinged incident, because apparently we must deal with issue on a biweekly schedule now. I'll still have more to say add regarding that theme later on. For now I wanted to get ahead of this particularly rhetorical sleigh-of-hand that usually follows a mass shooting, especially when the conversation turns to rather ludicrous gun control laws; and that's to diminish the gunman's massacre under a superficial diagnosis of "mental illness." (By the way you should also check out this fantastic piece on Salon that says many of the things I'm about to say in a much more thorough and insightful manner. Check it out, it's really good.) Anyway here's why we should be wary of this line of thinking.
First of all, the mentally ill are more likely to harm themselves or be the victims of violent crime, and this just reinforces the stereotype that the mentally ill are dangerous, and therefore make them less likely to seek help or get proper treatment that they need. Secondly, even putting that aside for a moment, the "it's just mental illness" excuse is still typical fallacious "parallel" thinking, which ignores that these attributes can intersect with each other. It's not either/or. Finally this ends up being a "good cop/bad cop" "front" for the type of racist thinking that the gunman exhibited. See this way, idiots who agree with his mentality, but wouldn't put it into such a brutal fashion can have cover for their toxic views ("see we're the 'warm cuddly racist,' by comparison!") And keep in mind that old friends and classmates have said he had racists views, but no one thought it s "big deal" at the time (I would even suggest that the fact that racism has become so "normalize" that we dismiss and diminish and whitewash casual exhibitions of it is the real "mental illness in our society.)
Update: If you want to see what typically happens to the mentally ill then go here. Once again it needs to be emphasized that the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violent acts (particularly by the same "well-meaning" cops that tend to see African-Americans as a similarly assumed threat) rather than the cause of it. This also gives further emphasis that the problem with Dylann Roof and his utter murderous hatred of black people is not one to be dismissed merely as "mental illness."