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    • As the son of a mentally ill mom, I cringe when I hear the angry, racially-charged talk of politicians like Trump. The mentally ill believe the outrageous claims they hear and they show up at places like a pizza parlor in D.C. and fire a weapon because they heard Hillary was running a child sex ring in the non-existent basement.

      The shooter in Florida was fond of his MAGA hat and and racially-charged statements.

    • Most murderers are not mentally ill and most mentally ill are not murderers.

      As a mental health professional with 30+ years experience working with people with mental illness (and as a gun owner), and having read extensively on this issue, I know that mental illness is clearly NOT the most important place to focus when talking about strategies to reduce gun violence. It's an old NRA trick to deflect reasonable talk about violence and gun control by focusing on mental health and insinuating that homicides are comitted primarily by the mentally ill (of course their other tactic is to maintain the laughable assertion that such crimes are committed only "by criminals", which is of course correct since after the commission of a murder, the killer becomes a criminal, conveniently avoiding that before the murder they were just a law abiding gun owner). The mentally ill are so badly stigmatized they make an excellent decoy.

      In looking at the relationship between mental illness and homicide one might ask why 89.5% of all murders are committed by men, while women make up a substantially larger proportion of those with mental ilness ((21.7% females to 14.5% males (NIMH 2016)).

      While most of us might agree that anyone who would be so anti-social so as to murder another human must have something wrong with their mental health, only very few murderers (including mass shooters) might be identified or diagnosed with mental illness before they acted, thus having little impact on the overall rate of homicide. Further, there is no technology that yet exists that would allow us to accurately identify a potential murderer ahead of time and take their guns or otherwise prevent them from committing a crime (and one might ask what the consequences of such technology might be (e.g., "The Minority Report" by Philip K. Dick)). Current law (which varies by state) already requires "mandated reporters" (e.g., doctor, psychologist, social worker, EMT, etc.) to report to the police anyone who appears to be a danger to themself or another; and they then are involuntarily hospitalized and evaluated.

      Finally, despite all the blame mis-placed on the mentally ill for this carnage, our country has consistently horribly under-funded mental health care; during my lengthy career I have seen this only worsen over the years. The current "safety net" is almost non-existent.

      I think making it more difficult for the mentally ill to buy guns would have very little impact on overall gun homicides (though it could potentially reduce suicides). Funding better mental health care would go further to reduce this, but given my experience I do not expect that to happen. The focus should be on laws that would have the most impact on reducing gun violence, and those laws should limit which types of firearms can be purchased by anyone. Eliminating the sale of assault rifles would be a start. Eliminating the sale of hand guns would have the most positive impact.

      Here is a good article: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/06/untangling-gun-violence-from-mental-illness/485906/

    • Fascinating! Thank you. From The Atlantic article:

      “We’re a pretty violent society here in America and the conversation really ought to focus on what can be done to make America a less violent society,” Honberg says. “But because that discussion is so fraught with emotion and divisiveness and political disagreements, it almost seems like the conversation has devolved to a relatively small subset of people who engage in violence, namely people with mental illness.

      Katy Tur covered the Trump campaign from the beginning and wrote a book about it. Some things she said in interviews about it stuck in my mind:

      I mean, there were times where he'd say things like, "Bowe Bergdahl should be executed for abandoning his platoon or his troops." And I remember thinking, this is a presidential candidate who's advocating for a service member to be executed. I mean, I can't believe that I'm hearing this. This is not something that I thought I would see in 2015, 2016. And have an entire crowd of people cheer this idea of somebody getting killed. But they did. And he kept going with it.

      How much do you think rhetoric like that contributes to violence? I'm asking because I don't know.

    • Thanks for this.

      I migrated to the US in 1997 and over the years I have experienced the rise in mass shootings, the commonality of it. One day after another massacre I stopped to actually read the 2nd ammendment, only to be shocked by how twisted its modern interpretation had become. Where is the militia? Where is prudence and regulation? Where is the connection between the right to defend oneself and freedom here?

      Frankly, I am not interested in another crying fest or pity party. How can we show these congressmen what real loss feels like? How can we change the business model of campaign donations to shift the balance of power to families and away from NRA?

    • "How can we change the business model of campaign donations to shift the balance of power to families and away from NRA?"

      IMO the first thing you'd have to do is overturn the "Citizens United VS FEC" decision (here is a really good podcast about it: https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/citizens-united/). Essentially because of one man's mission to "preserve free spech", Justice Kennedy, the future of all legislation in the USA was placed primarily in the hands of donors with the most $$.

      Anyone think there is some way to do undo Citizens United?

    • @flei, what a find. That podcast was utterly fascinating.

      It so happens that the other day I listened to another podcast with Floyd Abrams, perhaps the most prominent free-speech lawyer in the country. He famously defended The New York
      Times against the Nixon administration in the Pentagon Papers case.

      Starting at 45:00, he defends the Supreme Court's decision in Citizen's United, much to the chagrin of his liberal supporters. His point is we shouldn't restrict free speech no matter who is doing the speaking—the media, nonprofits, individuals, or companies. Already individuals contribute far more to campaigns that companies do.

      The money in politics is very troubling and unfair, but better ways to handle it are through transparency and finance laws, not via free speech laws, in his opinion.

    • While the issue of "free speech" could easily be a whole other thread, and i don't want to disrail this thread, i do not see Citizens United as simply an issue of free speech (though that is how Justice Kennedy saw it). The decision is also about money, power and influence in politics. I agree in theory everyone (individuals, the media, nonprofits, or companies) should be allowed to speak their views (though whether "hate speech" should be allowed is another matter for debate); to my way of thinking, i am not so sure that buying votes with money and favors constitutes free speech.

    • If it's not a mental illness, what is it called when someone feels and acts the way the FL shooter felt or the pair who carried out Columbine or Sandy Hook and decides the only solution/way to be relevant is to kill their classmates?

      YouTube near confessions, observations by others (and reported to authorities), the school was concerned enough to advise its staff this kid was not allowed on campus with a backpack demonstrate that you don't need technology to read the handwriting on the wall and see there were opportunities to stop this before it happened. In total, the police visited his house at least 39 times for various complaints including an attack on a neighbor's car, "mentally ill person", domestic disturbance, child/elder abuse, shooting at the neighbor's chickens, etc. Aside from the police, he wasn't well liked by many of his neighbors either.

      He bought the gun 3 days prior to shooting 17 people dead yet there is a pattern over 39 visits by police, two reports to the FBI spanning several years where something could and should have been done however, nothing was. What failed?

      I am willing to entertain sensible changes as long as we agree that in many cases, it's not gun laws or even guns that are the real problem-it's more to do with failure to enforce existing law and that something should be done about that too.

    • I am willing to entertain sensible changes as long as we agree that in many cases, it's not gun laws or even guns that are the real problem-it's more to do with failure to enforce existing law and that something should be done about that too.

      I'm not aware of any existing laws that this particular shooter broke, up until he carried an AR-15 into a school and started shooting people. Are you?

      It's important to make a distinction between people who are mentally ill and people who are diagnosed with a mental illness. Most mass shooters had not been diagnosed with a mental illness before their crimes, but that's not surprising given societal stigmas against seeking mental healthcare and the fact that many people couldn't afford it if they wanted it.

      It's also important to distinguish between mental illness that indicates a person may be a danger to oneself or others and mental illness that's not dangerous. As @flei says, most people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness aren't murderers and aren't a danger to anyone.

      We definitely need to make it easier for mental health professionals, teachers, and others to report people who they believe are dangerous, and to make it easier for authorities to act on those reports. But even if we could prevent all known dangerous people, mentally ill or otherwise, from obtaining firearms, it still wouldn't prevent mass shootings because it's not uncommon for shooters to have no history of suspicious or violent behavior.

      The Las Vegas shooter who killed 58 people last year in the deadliest mass shooting in US history showed no prior signs of dangerous mental illness and had no record of violence. Everyone who knew him said they were surprised by what he did. To this day nobody knows his reasons. But he clearly decided he wanted to shoot a lot of people, and he was able to legally purchase an arsenal of firearms and ammunition with which to do it.

      The one thing all mass shooters have in common is that they all use guns.

      There are many things that can (and should) be done to help eliminate mass shootings, but by far the single most effective thing we can do is limit the availability of firearms. We know this is effective because every single country that's tried it has succeeded in drastically reducing or eliminating mass shootings.

    • "We definitely need to make it easier for mental health professionals, teachers, and others to report people who they believe are dangerous, and to make it easier for authorities to act on those reports."

      As a mental health professional I am aware that it is already very easy to report someone who is dangerous and we are in fact legally obligated to do so. All we have to do is make a call to a psychiatrist, they file a "Section 12" and the police and an ambulance show up and take the dangerous person involuntarily to a hospital for evaluation. They can initially be held against their will for 72 hours (and then longer if deemed necessary by a doctor).

      If you think the present system is ineffective and want to change it, you need to ask some questions: Who gets to decide what constitutes "dangerous"? (Example: They think that "9/11 was a conspiracy" and advocate the overthrow of the government). How might "free speech" be impacted? Who decides what constitutes "mental illness" (currently it was decided by 27 members of an APA task force)? Who decides what to do with this "ill" person? Can/should they be involuntarily hospitalized? For how long? Who decides when they are "better" (e.g., they tell the doctor they changed their mind about killing) before you let them go?)? IMO this can be a very slippery slope. Remember how in the USSR, dissidents who were critical of the government were called "dangerous" and "mentally ill" and were sent to gulags? There are places this is still practiced.

      Further, as I stated earlier, there is no "science" of human psychology that yet exists that would allow us to accurately identify a potential murderer ahead of time (unless they tell us they plan to kill someone (and they mean it)). Do you think that every person who posts such threats on social media should be evaluated? Hospitalized? Incarcerated? If so, we had better start building many more hospitals and prisons.

      Finally, although they keep getting blamed, people with mental illness do not commit most of the murders in this country. I am certain that permanently locking up every person with a diagnosable mental illness would have little to no impact on gun violence in the USA. If you want to make an impact, as demonstrated in numerous other countries, a much better solution is actually simple: stop selling assualt rifles, large magazines and hand guns.

    • As a mental health professional I am aware that it is already very easy to report someone who is dangerous and we are in fact legally obligated to do so. All we have to do is make a call to a psychiatrist, they file a "Section 12" and the police and an ambulance show up and take the dangerous person involuntarily to a hospital for evaluation. They can initially be held against their will for 72 hours (and then longer if deemed necessary by a doctor).

      I'm not a mental health professional, but my stepfather is, and he feels very differently about this. Specifically, he points out that only people who have actually been formally committed by a judge lose their federal right to buy a firearm, and the bar for committing someone is so high that this rarely happens before they hurt someone.

      I don't agree with everything he wrote in support of his position (for instance, I disagree with his stance on the ineffectiveness of assault weapon bans), but I do believe him on this point given that civil commitment is his specialty.

      But in general I think you and I agree that while mental illness may play a small part in gun violence, guns play by far the largest part, and far more blame has been placed on mental illness than is warranted.

    • You would think 39 visits to his home by police, 2 reports to the FBI about his intent or the seriousness of the school administration's fear of him should have lead to his involuntary commitment under the Baker Act for making terrorist threats. Doesn't get any easier than that.

      Chris, do you want to tell the story about Pep?

    • "...only people who have actually been formally committed by a judge lose their federal right to buy a firearm, and the bar for committing someone is so high that this rarely happens before they hurt someone."

      OK, so.... Who gets to set that bar? The government? How low do you want it to go (do we pick up the guy who posts on Facebook "I'd like to kill _____ for what he did to me")?

      We are focused on gun violence by the mentally ill because the NRA and gun advocates WANT us to focus there. They want us to believe that only "crazy" people use their guns to kill so that they can buy more guns.

      So just how many of the 14,925 murders by firearm in 2016 do we think were committed by the mentally ill?

      The facts worth reading (from: https://psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.5555/appi.books.9781615371099)

      "Mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides. 

      The overall contribution of people with serious mental illness to violent crimes is only about 3%. When these crimes are examined in detail, an even smaller percentage of them are found to involve firearms.

      Laws intended to reduce gun violence that focus on a population representing less than 3% of all gun violence will be extremely low yield, ineffective, and wasteful of scarce resources.

      Perpetrators of mass shootings are unlikely to have a history of involuntary psychiatric hos- pitalization. Thus, databases intended to restrict access to guns and established by guns laws that broadly target people with mental illness will not capture this group of individuals.

      Gun restriction laws focusing on people with mental illness perpetuate the myth that mental illness leads to violence, as well as the misperception that gun violence and mental illness are strongly linked."

    • I agree. It's completely ridiculous that this person was allowed to own firearms.

      You argued that "it's not gun laws or even guns that are the real problem-it's more to do with failure to enforce existing law". But what existing law wasn't enforced? What existing law says that the police who visited this man's home 39 times should have — or even could have — taken away his guns?

      As far as I'm aware, there isn't one. But there should be.

      You say we need to enforce existing laws. I say we need these laws to exist so we can enforce them.

    • He was a threat to others. That was enough to hold him for evaluation and not just for his videos purporting his professional desire.

    • My father was a big strong guy who was a golden gloves heavyweight boxer in the Navy. He had an explosive temper. I remember when my sister locked herself in her room because she was mad, and he broke the door down.

      He kept a loaded shotgun beside his bed and was very vocal about how he would shoot an intruder if one ever broke in. One did, but dad wasn't home at the time. However, when I had to get up in the night to pee and tiptoe down the hall past his bedroom, I thought about that gun. How much did dad drink last night and could he mistake me as an intruder?

      He had a thing about regulation and he would rant about the government mandating seat belts for cars. He refused to buckle up. Cars weren't designed to kill, and yet despite my dad's rantings, he couldn't stop the parade of safety features from shoulder harnesses to airbags and child safety seats—and requirements to take driving tests, get inspections, and obey an endless list of rules while driving.

      And yet a 19-year-old can walk into a gun shop and buy a terrifying machine that is designed for killing, with endless supplies of ammo, in just a few minutes.

    • Don't mean to hijack further, but Citizen's United did just lose an appeal to get around New York's transparency laws. They claim some organizations won't donate if they can't keep the donations private. They are threatening to go to the Supreme Court again.

    • Australia legislated in 1996 after some mass killings and it worked.

      link

      and wikipedia for more in depth

      I served in the army, was in a civilian gun club, enjoy shooting targets, clays, plinking. I'm not an anti - gun person but my 8 year old niece, in NJ, practices a drill twice a year for a shooter in the school. That is terrifying and unnecessary.

    • I've had several conversations on the matter during the past week, mostly with people who are fearful of having their second ammendment rights stripped from them.

      I think the first thing we need to do is evaluate the second ammendment and what it says: "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

      While some people see the second ammendment as an obstacle to gun control laws, I actually think there's a lot of legislation that we can pass that would decrease the odds of school shootings without violating second ammendment rights. The main reason I think this is that states with stricter gun laws have fewer gun deaths per 100,000 people. California, New York, and Illinois get criticzed for having lots of gun deaths but in truth, the number of gun deaths they have per 100, 000 people is well below the national average. Chicago gets criitized for all their gun deaths, but their biggest issue is people purchasing firearms in Indiana and then coming back into the city.

      I don't think there's any law that can eradicate gun violenece, but there are common sense steps we can take. Some of my ideas include increasing the age limit to own a firearm to 25 unless you are in the military or law enforcement. Increasing the age limit would ensure that people purchasing firearms are people with fully developed adult brains. A lot of these school shootings are done by tennageers who are very emotional and irrational. An age limit increase to 25 would make it so that some moody teenager would have a harder time getting their hands on a gun. Secondly, there are certain guns that private citizens just don't need to have. AR-15s and other types of semi-automatic weapons are simply not needed if all you want to do is protect yourself from a burglar.

      I have more ideas, but these are two that spring to mind at this time.

    • Definitely agree.

      I'd also like to see all gun purchases require a federal licensing and training process similar to the strictest concealed carry licensing processes currently enforced at the state level.

      Firearms capable of firing high velocity rounds should either be banned completely or should require the strictest level of licensing. High capacity magazines should be banned.

      Gun show and private sale loopholes should be eliminated. Guns should only be transferable by responsible, licensed dealers. If you want to sell a gun to someone and you're not a dealer, you should be required to process the sale through a dealer similar to how interstate sales work today.

      And I'd like to see a real computerized national gun registry. Gun owners should be required to register their guns and update their registrations every few years just like we do with cars. Law enforcement officials should be able to easily look up a gun's serial number and description in the registry to trace ownership of firearms used in crimes.

      If someone is convicted of a violent crime or is the subject of a restraining order or a serious harassment or abuse charge, it should be easy to consult the registry to see if they own any firearms, and they should be required to surrender them (either temporarily or permanently depending on the nature of the charge).