MASS SHOOTING KILLERS: THE MYTH OF MENTAL ILLNESS

A SOLUTION CHASING THE WRONG PROBLEM


The essential problem is that we, us “normal” folks, simply cannot fathom that Dylann Roof, Eric Klebold, Adam Lanza and Dylan Harris were sane when they killed a total of 71 innocent people and wounded 79.  It’s unimaginable.  It simply is beyond our comprehension.  Beyond understanding, that is, for us normals.  But the reality is that Klebold, Roof, Harris and Lanza were not insane.   Troubled maybe, but none of these folks - like the vast majority of mass shooters - were not suffering from schizophrenia nor were they bi-polar nor did they suffer from psychosis or any medically recognized mental illness.  They were sane.  They knew what they were doing.


 This is what the science tells us.  In a study conducted of 300 mass killers by Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, only two out of ten killers he studied could be called mentally ill.  The rest may exhibit some degree of paranoia, anti-social behavior, callousness and/or a lack of empathy, but they are not insane.  Stone is not alone in his conclusions.  Most researchers who have studied the perpetrators of mass shootings have come to the same conclusions:  80% of mass killers did not suffer from mental illness that would somehow explain their horrific actions.  
 
This morning's Washington Post (as the news media is doing 24/7 over the disappearance of an EgyptAir A-320 on a flight from Paris to Cairo, with much speculation about whether it was a terrorist attack) has an excellent article about this topic:

MOST MASS SHOOTERS ARE NOT MENTALLY ILL

How then to reconcile the latest flurry of both Federal and State legislation to beef up our mental health systems in response to mass shootings?  There is currently a proposal before Congress supported by the Obama Administration and House Speaker Paul Ryan that would spend $500 million to improve and expand the nation’s mental health care system.  Several states, Connecticut, California and Indiana, have passed laws to identify the mentally ill and in some cases allow police to seize guns from people deemed imminently dangerous as a means to stem the scourge of mass shootings.  This effort to improve mental health systems is also popular among the American public:  63% blame the mental health system for failing to identify mass shooters before they act.  Then too, the NRA also supports this view since it deflects from the more basic problem of the arming to the teeth of America that's occurred.

But these efforts only have purchase in tagging 20% of potential mass shooters and that figure is achievable only if the system works perfectly.  In other words, what we are seeing is a solution that is irrelevant to solving the problem at hand.      

Now the wrong solution chasing a serious problem is nothing terrifically new in our fucked up political system of governance.  We cut taxes to deal with the national debt.  We jailed crack cocaine addicts for decades rather than offering treatment, as we are now doing with heroin addiction.  We respond to mass shootings by selling more guns to Americans.  There is an endless list.  And this drive to “reform” our mental health system is no different.  It salves our collective conscience that we must “Do Something” to prevent mass killings even if that “something” totally misses the mark in actually addressing solutions to the problem that causes us so much collective angst and outrage. 

The reality of mass shooters is that they are depressed about their lot in life or nurturing slights to their persons or seeking revenge for some personal insult or injury - all fairly common occurrences in the lives of most of us.   Dylann Roof expressed his life view towards African Americans in his Facebook manifesto thusly: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country.  And you have to go.”  While this view may be seen as delusional, paranoid and contra-factual, his view is not an uncommon one on right wing, White Power, web sites that are freely and readily available by the thousands on the internet.  Roof, methodically went about turning his manifesto into reality.  Troubled?  Delusional?  Paranoid?  Swayed by ultra right wing propaganda?  Surely so.  But mentally ill?  No. 

Same with Klebold, Harris, and Lanza. But the NRA line regarding all mass killers?  They are all “so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons, that no sane person can even possibly comprehend them” a line of reasoning that is defied by science but serves as pablum to allow us to cease and desist from demanding stricter gun control laws to demanding that our mental health system be reformed.  

Here’s the latest factual information about the effectiveness of these “mental health system reform” efforts.  A 2014 analysis of gun seizures as a result of  Connecticut’s newly minted law to address mass killings before they occur, revealed that 80% of the people who had weapons seized had no history of mental illness.  In fact, the profile that emerged from the analysis revealed people in crisis:  marital conflicts, grief, disputes with co-workers but not mental illness.  The risk factors were circumstances, circumstances that all of us face at one time or another, and not the person him or herself or requiring a medical diagnosis. 

Bottom line?  As  Liza Gold, a forensic psychiatrist at Georgetown University concludes, “From a psychiatric perspective, I don’t think you can design an intervention to prevent mass shootings.”

A rather chilling conclusion, right?  Which leaves the solution not in “reforming” our mental health system (that, admittedly, desperately needs it) to identify potential mass shooters, but in directing our collective attention to the nearly limitless availability of firearms all across the country thanks to the NRA’s “freedom” campaign and the Supreme Court’s ignoring that part of the Second Amendment that reads:  “"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” when, in 2008 they overturned the District of Columbia’s 1975 gun control law. 

So as inevitable as the sun rising tomorrow morning whether you or I are around to witness this celestial greeting, we can all bet that more mass shootings by “deranged, evil and possessed” men will continue pretty much unabated here in the Freedom To Bear Unlimited Arms and Ammo United States of America. 

SANDY HOOK VICTIMS

Thanks to the NRA. 



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