The United States Secret Service, probably not a tool of the gun-loving American right, has just issued a report on 2018 mass shootings with a strong focus on the mental health problems displayed by the shooters. Clearly it didn’t get the same memo received by our friends at Blue Virginia, who think any such discussion unfairly stigmatizes the mentally ill and distracts from the real villains: guns themselves.
Let me get this right: Democrats don’t want to stigmatize the mentally ill, but are all too happy to blame the millions of law-abiding gun owners and subject them all to new regulations or restrictions, up to and including search, seizure and confiscation?
Of course, this is about mental illness. Half of gun deaths are suicides. Many of the mass attacks analyzed by the Secret Service were perpetrated by people showing obvious signs of mental instability, to the point that other people were afraid of them. The Virginia Beach attacker seems to have caused fear in co-workers.
This new report came out the day of Virginia’s abbreviated special session and got low visibility coverage on an inside page of the second section of the Richmond Times-Dispatch while Firearms Theater played out on the front. It is the kind of data needed for a real discussion of this issue and possible responses, as distinguished by the hysteria of the ideologues inside and outside the Capitol who either hate or love guns.
Having irritated both camps with an earlier post and demonstrated my own lack of information on many fine points, I jump in again just to point to this fresh take on the data from a source we can all admit has the right motives. The key findings:
- Most of the attackers utilized firearms, and half departed the site on their own or committed suicide.
- Half were motivated by a grievance related to a domestic situation, workplace, or other personal issue.
- Two-thirds had histories of mental health symptoms, including depressive, suicidal, and psychotic symptoms.
- Nearly all had at least one significant stressor within the last five years, and over half had indications of financial instability in that timeframe.
- Nearly all made threatening or concerning communications and more than three-quarters elicited concern from others prior to carrying out their attacks. (Emphasis added.)
“Two-thirds of the attackers in this study, however, had previously displayed symptoms indicative of mental health issues, including depression, paranoia, and delusions. Other attackers displayed behaviors that do not indicate the presence of a mental illness but do show that the person was experiencing some sort of distress or an emotional struggle. These behaviors included displays of persistent anger, an inability to cope with stressful events, or increased isolation. A multidisciplinary approach that promotes emotional and mental wellness is an important component of any community violence prevention model.”
And most of the attacks were anticipated by somebody:
“For the majority of the attackers (n = 19, 70%), the concern others felt was so severe that they feared specifically for the safety of the individual, themselves, or others. Some of those concerned for their own safety acted on that fear by filing for divorce, ceasing communications, filing for restraining or protection orders, asking loved ones to stay with them out of fear, changing their daily routines, moving, or warning their own family and friends about their concerns. In one case, a person shared photos of the attacker so that others could remain alert and call the police if needed…
“In many of these cases from 2018, members of the general public successfully performed their role in the “See Something, Say Something” process, by reporting their concerns to someone with a role in public safety. At that point, the responsibility is on the public safety professionals to “Do Something,” namely assessing the situation and managing as needed. By adopting a multidisciplinary threat assessment approach, that standardizes the process for identifying, assessing, and managing individuals who may pose a risk of violence, law enforcement and others are taking steps to ensure that those individuals who have elicited concern do not “fall through the cracks.”
Having engaged in political grandstanding on the Virginia Beach situation almost since the smoke cleared, the Governor and his team should not have been surprised by the political two-step used by the Republicans in reply. Gun control is now squarely an issue among many on the November ballot.
In the meantime, the bills heading to the Crime Commission review will continue to pile up (you can see the list here) and each of them should be compared to that Secret Service report to see if they allow or enhance an effective response to a credible report that somebody poses a threat of mass violence, whether in a place of worship, a school, a workplace or in some other location.
Disarming honest people will do no good. Encouraging even more of them to carry weapons, especially those lacking real training, will do not good. But there may yet be some good ideas on the list.
Virginia law allows private employers to prohibit guns in their workplaces and parking lots, and courtrooms usually have that rule, so it doesn’t offend me that a government entity might want the same for its other public buildings. But that simple suggestion brought shouts of apostasy and betrayal down upon the Republican legislators who introduced those bills. Having their gun when facing a government clerk is somebody’s idea of fun, apparently. One more reason to do all you can online.There are currently no comments highlighted.