Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Why they kill—The real solution to mass shootings

Everybody’s searching for answers in wake of the latest school shooting in Florida. The gun-grabbers not withstanding, I believe most people genuinely want to stop the shootings. We just have different ideas of how to get there. However, it’s becoming obvious that the debate is focused on the wrong thing.

Naturally, anytime there’s a shooting the emphasis is going to be on the gun. It’s funny how the object of the murder is never the issue when it’s not a gun. When there’s a stabbing, the target is never on the knife. When some crazy person runs people over in a vehicle, the focus is never on the vehicle. Let me demonstrate why the issue here should not be guns, then we’ll move on to the real problem.

There are over 300 million guns in America. Whether or not you like that fact, it’s still a fact. There are about 30,000 gun deaths a year. That includes homicide and suicide. That means that 0.01 percent of guns are used for evil. 

If you think the fact that America has more guns per capita than any country on Earth makes us the murder capital of the world, think again. Even though we have 101 guns for every 100 people (you read that correctly), we're only 99th for murders. Honduras has only about 6 guns per 100 people and they have the highest murder rate in the world.  Obviously, the problem is not the guns.

The path that led me to the epicenter of the problem is interesting. I knew all the facts that went into my epiphany. I had just never aligned them this way before. A friend of mine once joked on the radio while interviewing a hit songwriter that he knew all those words. Just not in that order. That’s sort of how I felt.

I don’t know if you know this, but back in 1975, the Supreme Court ruled that you could not be held in a mental institution against your will unless you were a danger to yourself or others. I had known that fact because it’s why the homeless population exploded in the ‘80s. The liberals blamed it on Reagan. Kenneth Donaldson sued his doctor and the mental hospital claiming he had been held against his will. He won.

I also knew that multiple victim shootings seemed to have exploded in the last couple of decades. I wanted to know when that acceleration began to see if I could draw any conclusions. Statisticians have an expression. “Correlation does not imply causation.” The homeless explosion is an example of that. Just because homelessness grew dramatically during the Reagan administration doesn’t mean Reagan had anything to do with it. However, correlation and causation are oftentimes related.

In order for this to be a fair comparison, I looked at the mass shootings in the 43 years prior to 1975 and the mass shootings in the 43 years after 1975, which would bring us up to 2018. I excluded gang killings for obvious reasons. I also excluded robberies and terrorist attacks. These aren’t motiveless crimes. This also doesn’t include U.S. territories nor does it include serial killers. We’re trying to figure out why crazies are randomly killing people in the United States of America.

Here’s what I learned in the course of my research. In the 43 years prior to 1975, there were 4 mass shootings resulting in 29 deaths. That's an average of about one per decade. In the 43 years after 1975, there were (get ready) 150 mass shootings resulting in 864 deaths. That's an average of 38 mass shootings every ten years. If that’s not startling enough, in the 43 years since 1975, there have only been 6 years when there wasn’t a mass shooting.


People want to point to the breakdown of the family unit or increased use of psychotropic drugs. They could certainly be contributing factors. Especially when it comes to psychotropic drugs. One has to wonder if, in the absence of being able to commit someone to a mental hospital, we over-medicate them instead. That's certainly a possibility. Everyone involved in these multiple-victim shootings was mentally unstable. It's distinctly possible that they were also on medication. Whether it was the mental illness or the medication that caused them to become violent is the age-old chicken or egg question. 

However, one would be hard-pressed to discount the Donaldson ruling in 1975 as a major turning point. There are simply too many dangerously mentally ill people roaming the streets. By the time they actually kill it's too late. That doesn't mean we need to start locking up anybody and everybody somebody deems crazy. However, in every one of these mass shootings there were danger signs in the killers that people simply chose to ignore. Or maybe they had no choice since our justice system now makes it extremely difficult to act. But act we must unless we want to continue the carnage.

Imagine if everyone who knew the Florida school killer was a threat had acted. Not only would 17 people still be alive but we could possibly help this disturbed person recover. Instead, we act as though it's someone else's problem. Until it becomes the nation's problem. Right now, mental competency hearings are usually held before someone goes on trial for murder. What a difference it would make if we had mental competency hearings before they kill. Can you imagine the Florida school shooter would've made it through a competency hearing and still been allowed to buy a gun based on all we know now? 

Let's get the dangerously mentally ill off the streets before they kill. That is where our efforts should be concentrated.


Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning, nationally syndicated talk radio show, 
The Phil Valentine Show.


20 comments:

  1. Our paternalistic government also emptied the homes where the mentally challenged were cared for. This was he immediate cause of a death in Franklin Pa., when a young woman was killed when she tried to cross a street and stepped in front of a moving car. (about 1970). Too many well-meaning people are devoid of common sense.
    Clarence McDowell

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  2. Good read! Now, how do we get this done?

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  3. Good stuff! It is a society issue. We are a "free" country. With freedom comes many challenges.

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  4. Medical privacy laws also have to be changed. If memory serves, the Aurora, CO shooter's psych doc was in the process of reporting him, hadn't do so earlier for fear of losing her license.

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  5. Hence the reason I am all for government paid mental care. We pay for it anyway from crime and prison costs
    Might as well pay for treatment and meds so they are productive and pay taxes.

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  6. How many potential School shooters are locked away in all these mental hospitals in Canada? That's more than likely the reason our neighbors to the North have less.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Psychiatric_hospitals_in_Canada

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  7. What about mental competency check before purchasing a firearm? Any thoughts?

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  8. The real number is 0.0001%. Not to be a stickler but it illustrates a bit better the tiny percentage of guns used for bad things.

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    1. Yes, I had that figure originally but was told I needed to move the decimal over two places. Whatever the true figure, it IS a tiny percentage.

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  9. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/266592639_Mental_health_care_across_two_nations_-_Switzerland_and_the_United_States_of_America

    might be worth a read it will be interesting to see what happens since 2013 in Switzerland.

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  10. Someone just need to tell these people that schools are gun free zones and they cannot go shoot there.

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    1. If it were only that easy...Common sense isn't so common

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  11. Great point and one I have tried to express, although less eloquently. I’m not a statistician and I apologize if I use the wrong terms, but in your research, did the population growth post 1975 to now have any impact? Is the number of increased shootings independent of the population growth?

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  12. "Everyone involved in these multiple-victim shootings was mentally unstable. It's distinctly possible that they were also on medication." Or not. Those medications actually work for many people. I would expect that the most likely scenario involves people who aren't on meds but should be. Add to that the medical community's response to Opioid and mental health drug crises - because some people misuse/abuse them nobody gets to have any. Ask the people who are being denied much-needed medications who have been told 'NO MORE' by their doctors. How many of them will end up on the front page?

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  13. The most powerful piece of legislation to affect negative behaviors is the 1975 education IDEA. This law has brought radical changes in the concepts of acceptable behavior.

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  14. It makes no sense for politicians in Washington DC to decide how to keep public schools safe when their children are in private schools. There is no way a one size fits all approach will work with all the different areas of the country. Let local and state school officials and teachers work with the administrators to create a local solution. A rural school in TN or KY may have teachers who have grown up around firearms and would prefer to be able to protect themselves and their students, but teachers from other areas with no firearms experience may be more comfortable with armed police or school security guards.
    Politicians need to listen to the people in the schools who may be in harm's way - don't try to dictate a solution from Washington DC - where they have their own armed guards.

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  15. In my opinion the realistic video games in which killing gives rewards for body counts desensitizes players from realizing the community terror and injury in real life. The loss to families is not a part of the game. Some studies deny a correlation - but I am unconvinced.

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    1. Grossman from "killology" agrees fully with your assertion. His book "On Killing" is an excellent text.

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  16. I work in the mental health field. Many times CRISIS (mental health hospital gatekeeper) will not see a person and screen the referral out and will call the following day to check on the person. There are times CRISIS does come to check on the patient but there is such a delay in the intake counselor arrival, the client has calmed down and is no longer making the threats of harm. These people know what to say to prevent commitment to the hospital. My belief is there is financial gain to the gatekeeping program by keeping folks out of the hospital who need to be in the hospital. The next problem is insurance who will certify very short stays 3-5 days. So what is the answer? The local mental health providers give their all but their all is not enough sometimes

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