Views on Conn. shootings: Mental illness doesn't generally lead to violence; Need for more treatment options; Helping the survivors

Published on December 19, 2012 at 6:15 AM · No Comments

The New York Times: In Gun Debate, a Misguided Focus on Mental Illness
It's possible that preventing people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other serious mental illnesses from getting guns might decrease the risk of mass killings. Even the Supreme Court, which in 2008 strongly affirmed a broad right to bear arms, at the same time endorsed prohibitions on gun ownership "by felons and the mentally ill." But mass killings are very rare events, and because people with mentally illness contribute so little to overall violence, these measures would have little impact on everyday firearm-related killings (Dr. Richard A. Friedman, 12/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Guns, Mental Illness And Newtown
Since gun controls today are far stricter than at the time when "active shooters" were rare, what can account for the increase in these shootings? One plausible answer is the media. Cable TV in the 1990s, and the Internet today, greatly magnify the instant celebrity that a mass killer can achieve. … A second explanation is the deinstitutionalization of the violently mentally ill. A 2000 New York Times study of 100 rampage murderers found that 47 were mentally ill. In the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry Law (2008), Jason C. Matejkowski and his co-authors reported that 16% of state prisoners who had perpetrated murders were mentally ill (David Kopel, 12/17).

The Washington Post: We Are Not Helpless Against Gun Violence
It is sometimes argued that public policy is useless in this area because it would not have prevented this specific killing or that one. But this is not the threshold for government action. The relevant question is: What policies could reasonably be argued to reduce the likelihood and severity of such incidents over time? As in matters of public health, the goals are risk and harm reduction. This would involve better services for the severely mentally ill, who are now more likely to be found in a prison than a hospital -; as well as more stringent requirements on mental-health professionals to report possible threats. It may impose increased security burdens on schools. And, yes, reasonable gun restrictions are needed (Michael Gerson, 12/17).

The New York Times: What Drives Suicidal Mass Killers
For years, the conventional wisdom has been that suicide terrorists are rational political actors, while suicidal rampage shooters are mentally disturbed loners. But the two groups have far more in common than has been recognized. ... In fact, we should think of many rampage shooters as nonideological suicide terrorists. In some cases, they claim to be fighting for a cause -; neo-Nazism, eugenics, masculine supremacy or an antigovernment revolution -; but, as with suicide terrorists, their actions usually stem from something much deeper and more personal. There appears to be a triad of factors that sets these killers apart. The first is that they are generally struggling with mental health problems that have produced their desire to die. ... The second factor is a deep sense of victimization and belief that the killer's life has been ruined by someone else, who has bullied, oppressed or persecuted him. Not surprisingly, the presence of mental illness can inflame these beliefs. ... The third factor is the desire to acquire fame and glory through killing (Adam Lankford, 12/17).

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