Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I don't really have a strong disagreement with what David Brooks is saying today about spree killers:
People who commit spree killings are usually suffering from severe mental disorders. The response, and the way to prevent future episodes, has to start with psychiatry, too.

The best way to prevent killing sprees is with relationships -- when one person notices that a relative or neighbor is going off the rails and gets that person treatment before the barbarism takes control. But there also has to be a more aggressive system of treatment options, especially for men in their 20s.
What bothers me is that, although Brooks says he's in favor of tighter gun laws, he doesn't want us talking about guns after spree killings, which makes him just like his fellow right-wingers who unswervingly oppose tighter gun laws. He makes the case for dismissing the impact of weapon availability by mischaracterizing what a lot of us are saying and thinking:
The crucial point is that the dynamics are internal, not external. These killers are primarily the product of psychological derangements, not sociological ones.

Yet, after every rampage, there are always people who want to use these events to indict whatever they don't like about society. A few years ago, some writers tried to blame violent video games for a rash of killings.
I'm not advocating stricter gun laws because I'm looking for an excuse to talk about a pet peeve. I agree with Brooks that spree killers need help, and if we could get them that help, they wouldn't shoot people. (I'm ignoring Brooks's support for a party that advocates severe cuts in mental health funding.)

I don't blame gun culture for what's going on in James Holmes's head. I don't blame gun culture for what was going on in the head of Jared Lee Loughner or Seung-Hui Cho. They all needed help.

I blame gun culture for the fact that, since we can't successfully intercede in every case of incipient mass-homicidal madness, because we don't have the resources and don't have perfect foresight, the gun culture doesn't permit us to intercede in another way that might prevent the shedding of innocent blood. We can't flag mass purchases of firepower that could be signs of a massacre in the making, the way we can flag mass purchases of Sudafed or huge money transfers. We can't place even low barriers between unidentified crazy people and huge arsenals. It's like running a prison and not being certain whether a new inmate is a suicide risk, but not being allowed to take his belt away except under extraordinary circumstances, because the pro-belt lobby is so powerful.

Yes -- absolutely we should get more of these people help. But why does that preclude any other measures to reduce the risk posed by their madness?


The New York Crank said...

"It's like running a prison and not being certain whether a new inmate is a suicide risk, but not being allowed to take his belt away except under extraordinary circumstances, because the pro-belt lobby is so powerful."

Speaking of which, the gun lobby has been so successful in protecting nearly anything that's pro gun (See "Stand Your Ground" laws) that I wouldn't be surprised if their next move is for legislating permitting prison inmates to carry weapons.

Crankily yours,
The New York Crank

Victor said...

Now, no one notices if you go and buy tons of guns of all sizes and calibers, and thousands and thousands of rounds of ammunition, and full body armor.
No government "trigger mechanism" allowed - it's against that person's rights.

But, I'm worried that next year, if I have the flu, and go and buy a bit more than my share of antihistamines, like Sudafed, at too many different stores, that SWAT teams will descend upon my house like vultures on roadkill - thinking I'm running a meth lab.

So - guns - OK!
Antihistamines - BUSTED!!!
What's the matter with this picture?

The other problem is - it takes a lot to commit someone who doesn't want to be committed.
Especially since so many states have had to cut Mental Health Services.
Btw: All of this cutting of Mental Health services started with, of course, Ronald Reagan.

Mark said...

I am tired of hearing commentators saying, "Now is not the time to discuss guns". When there's an e coli outbreak, does anyone say, "Now is not the time to talk about food safety"? When there's a hurricane, does anyone say, "Now is not the time to talk about being properly prepared for storms"? However, when it comes to guns, they aren't supposed to be discussed after a horrific episode such as the latest one.

Steve M. said...

Surely 9/11 wasn't the time to discuss Al Qaeda, or airline security, or terrorism, or cooperation among intelligence agencies! It would have been an insult to the victims!

Anonymous said...

If you put minimal barriers in place -- say, no more than you do for a woman terminating a pregnancy -- I wonder what the decrease in purchases would be.

Unknown said...

this is nice,a fairly sane discussion started. My son killed 5 of 6 targets, then himself,May 30, this year. I have been thinking...

Mental health is to some the "NEW JIM CROW." This fits well with the dimmer views, considering Prison Corp of America PROMISING California an 89% OCCUPANCY in PRISON! You build it, we will bill from it. Cozy work for some.

How far do we want to go down therapy road before the "gun thang" has a moment for the others and is willing to enter the talks?

Why new laws? no damn good reason! ENFORCE and TUNE UP the laws we have. Don't abandon baby gang bangers until they finally use the guns you never gave a slap on the wrists for! That was an act of collective, SOCIETAL .. CHILD ABANDONMENT!

I am concened Brooks champions PSYCHIATRY, THE GOD OF MENTAL INTERVENTIONS. I would prefer community networks, human to human contact, some school watches, some better , or just the return of community policing and the women who used to come help infants and school kids...when mommine and daddy went to jail on that domestic fracus...That is the level I want. Psychologists, counselors and like one respondent to a news story of my son..."have a mental counseling store on every block." Beats big brother to the one size fits all program and it beats Herr Psychiatrist but only IMHO.

a case showing concered significant others should start something, and not at this point should it be drugs and a holding facility. It might or might not get to that. What we need is to start the triage now, while the plague is ...still containable.

waltinseattle,gmail, etc etc etc