Yes, Mental Illness is Key, Says U.S. Secret Service

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.

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28 responses to “Yes, Mental Illness is Key, Says U.S. Secret Service”

  1. No, it’s both mental illness and availability. Many shootings, particularly in urban areas it seems, are violent responses to arguments and perceived slights that spiraled out of control — road rage, for instance. Take away the ready availability of that gun and it would be a fist-fight or a stabbing instead. Then, there are those pre-meditated, often mass, shootings by those who have lost touch with reality; these are the mentally-ill but high-functioning people who often would have acquired legal guns anyway but the ready availability of military-style weapons clearly leads to more horrific assaults and fatalities. And then there are the hate crimes, which are a different kind of mental illness combined with extreme anger, whose assaults sometimes are planned and sometimes are committed spontaneously with whatever is at hand. “It’s all mental illness” and “ready availability of a gun doesn’t matter” simply disregards human experience. All this is common sense, even to sporting gun users, and too widely understood to sweep under the rug simply because some “consultant” or another is paid to reinforce a trade-group-client’s bias.

    As a political tactic, adjourning the GA until November 18 was a cute way to kick Northam’s can down the road; but that middle finger to the suburbs strikes me as bound to push moderates of both stripes into a corner this fall, and the added motivation this gives to Democrats running to win the majority this fall seems sure, on balance, to be highly counterproductive to the future of the Republican Party in Virginia.

  2. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Well, I never said it was all mental health, nor did Secret Service, but merely responded to the claims that mental health was not relevant to the discussion. That is stupid. If you have a way to disarm two knuckleheads who get into a beef in a bar, with no previous criminal records, I’m pretty sure you’ll have a 2nd Amendment problem. If they do have a record, odds are the guns might already be illegal.

    It’s not hard to play out the chess board the Democrats were trying to set and a quick end to the session and punting the bills to a neutral forum was a logical response. Keep the issue on the front page for weeks? (Dems will still try.) Even passing half of their bills would leave them complaining the other bills, the ones not passed, were the REAL solution. It has been an issue in every election I can remember, because sadly these shootings keep happening. The only change is now the Democrats and Republicans are fully in one corner or the other, afraid of both sets of extremists.

  3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    How long does it take to change a clip in a semi-automatic pistol or rifle? Even the idiots at the Post should be able to figure that one out. What happens if you limit clips to ten rounds? A determined person can and will bring multiple clips.

    My firearms, which are in storage, are all of Civil War or earlier vintage and are collection pieces only. What I care about is the Constitution and the freedom it protects. There is a personal right to own and bear arms. It’s roots are from the 12th and 13th Centuries, along with the English Bill of Rights of 1689. We preserve our other constitutional rights that came from England. Why is this right different? And it’s really in the Constitution unlike the right to privacy that was found among penumbras and emanations.

    If you don’t want people to own guns, follow former Justice Stevens’ advice and repeal the Second Amendment. At least the old fart had the stones to propose addressing the real issue.

    And I’m still waiting for someone to define an assault rifle in terms of function.

    Our racist Governor is looking for issues to avoid answering for his own conduct.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      “And I’m still waiting for someone to define an assault rifle in terms of function.”

      No kidding. I guess it makes for good press when Nancy Pelosi or Joe Morrisey waves around an AR-15. However, terms like “semi-automatic” start to require an actual understanding of the definitions involved. By some definitions the over-and-under shotgun I use to shoot skeet is a semi-automatic weapon since I can fire twice without reloading.

  4. Steve, you’re right, the Secret Service on its face was addressing only mass shootings and those have a big mental health component. But the bills being referred to the Crime Commission cover broader territory, as did your comment “Disarming honest people will do no good.” TMT, yes, the 2d Amendment has become the issue and it will be debated. Given the tilt in the Senate and in electing the Executive toward low-population States, repeal is hardly likely anytime soon; but it will be debated heatedly in the cities and suburbs.

  5. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Just don’t put it to a plebiscite. There are a couple of elements of the Bill of Rights that might not survive a popular vote in today’s America. Heaven knows the downside of the 1st is on full display. Under the state by state decision process, I’d agree the 2nd Amendment probably stands.

  6. J. Abbate Avatar
    J. Abbate

    Too Many Taxes makes a good point. Is the 2nd Amendment still applicable today, a time that our founders would have not been able to imagine from their point in history? Did they imagine arming every citizen with powerful weaponry, when history appears to point to their establishing the 2nd to provide for the nation’s defense via a well-trained volunteer militia. We are far from that situation today. Our widespread distribution of firearms with little restriction, licensing, or training required has put America’s children, families, and citizens at a huge risk impaired their rights to a safe education and life, while we protect everyone’s right to arm themselves. I support the development of a more comprehensive national mental health program and tracking system that may mitigate some of these killings, but who will pay for that program?

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      If you look at the history of the Second Amendment, you will conclude that the intent was and is to allow private citizens to have the most up-to-date personal arms that would be useful in a militia. It started with pikes, swords, bows and arrows. It moved to black powder muskets to single shot rifles to revolvers and rifles with clips. It covers stun guns according to the Supreme Court. Any weapon that can be used for lawful purposes is protected.

      It is a personal right to own and bear arms and any lawyer who tells you otherwise is a fool or a liar. Read Professor Joyce Lee Malcolm’s To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right. Professor Malcolm’s work was cited in the Heller case. A selection follows.

      “Between the Restoration and the Glorious Revolution, the Stuart Kings Charles II and James II succeeded inusing select militias loyal to them to suppress political dissidents, in part by disarming their opponents. See J. Malcolm, To Keep and Bear Arms 31–53 (1994) (hereinafter Malcolm); L. Schwoerer, The Declaration of Rights, 1689, p. 76 (1981). Under the auspices of the 1671 Game Act, for example, the Catholic James II had ordered general disarmaments of regions home to his Protestant enemies. See Malcolm 103–106. These experiences caused Englishmen to be extremely wary of concentrated military forces run by the state and to be jealous of their arms. They accordingly obtained an assurance from William and Mary, in the Declaration of Right (which was codified as the English Bill of Rights), that Protestants would never be disarmed: “That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defense suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.” 1 W. & M., c. 2, §7, in 3 Eng. Stat. at Large 441 (1689). This right has long been understood to be the predecessor to our Second Amendment. See E. Dumbauld, The Bill of Rights and What It Means Today 51 (1957); W. Rawle, A View of the Constitution of the United States of America 122 (1825) (hereinafter Rawle). It was clearly an individual right, having nothing whatever to do with service in a militia. To be sure, it was an individual right not available to the whole population, given that it was restricted to Protestants, and like all written English rights it was held only against the Crown, not Parliament. See Schwoerer, To Hold and Bear Arms: The English Perspective, in Bogus207, 218; but see 3 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States §1858 (1833) (hereinafter Story) (contending that the “right to bear arms” is a “limitatio[n] upon the power of parliament” as well). But it was secured to them as individuals, according to “libertarian political principles,” not as members of a fighting force. Schwoerer, Declaration of Rights, at 283; see also id., at 78; G. Jellinek, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens 49, and n. 7 (1901) (reprinted 1979).

      By the time of the founding, the right to have to have arms had become fundamental for English subjects. See Malcolm 122–134. Blackstone, whose works, we have said, “constituted the preeminent authority on English law for the founding generation,” Alden v. Maine, 527 U. S. 706, 715 (1999), cited the arms provision of the Bill of Rights as one of the fundamental rights of Englishmen. See 1 Black-stone 136, 139–140 (1765). His description of it cannot possibly be thought to tie it to militia or military service. It was, he said, “the natural right of resistance and self-preservation,” id., at 139, and “the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defence,” id., at 140 see also 3 id., at 2–4 (1768). Other contemporary authorities concurred. See G. Sharp, Tracts, Concerning the Ancient and Only True Legal Means of National Defence, by a Free Militia 17–18, 27 (3d ed. 1782); 2 J. de Lolme, The Rise and Progress of the English Constitution 886–887 (1784) (A. Stephens ed. 1838); W. Blizard, Desultory Reflections on Police 59–60 (1785). Thus, the right secured in 1689 as a result of the Stuarts’ abuses was by the time of the founding understood to be an individual right protecting against both public and private violence.

      And, of course, what the Stuarts had tried to do to their political enemies, George III had tried to do to the colonists. In the tumultuous decades of the 1760’s and 1770’s, the Crown began to disarm the inhabitants of the most rebellious areas. That provoked polemical reactions by Americans invoking their rights as Englishmen to keep arms. A New York article of April 1769 said that “[i]t is a natural right which the people have reserved to themselves, confirmed by the Bill of Rights, to keep arms for their own defence.” A Journal of the Times: Mar. 17, New York Journal, Supp. 1, Apr. 13, 1769, in Boston Under Military Rule 79 (O. Dickerson ed. 1936); see also, e.g., Shippen, Boston Gazette, Jan. 30, 1769, in 1 The Writingsof Samuel Adams 299 (H. Cushing ed. 1968). They understood the right to enable individuals to defend themselves. As the most important early American edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries (by the law professor and former Antifederalist St. George Tucker) made clear in the notes to the description of the arms right, Americans understood the “right of self-preservation” as permitting a citizen to “repe[l] force by force” when “the intervention of society in his behalf, may be too late to prevent an injury.” 1 Blackstone’s Commentaries 145–146, n. 42 (1803) (hereinafter Tucker’s Blackstone). See also W. Duer, Outlines of the Constitutional Jurisprudence of the United States 31–32(1833).

      There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms.”

      If people want to change the Constitution, such as by adding and then repealing prohibition by Amendment, do it here. But being a stupid suburbanite who hasn’t taken the time to learn the law and its history, doesn’t permit one to sweep the Constitution under the carpet.

  7. J. Abbate Avatar
    J. Abbate

    Your disrespectful and uninformed ad hominem attack on a fellow U.S. citizen only demonstrates your own weakness in your understanding of how the 2nd Amendment has been viewed and interpreted throughout our history. Additionally the interpretation that provides that the 2nd allows for all persons in the U.S. to obtain a powerful weapon, whether on the terrorist watch list, mentally ill, or stalking a woman with little to no regulation has not worked well for us…and you seem to be ignorant of that data. Our wide and open access to a variety of powerful weapons easily acquired has provided for the greatest slaughter and suicide rate from gun homicides in the civilized world. Is this because we have more mentally ill people in America? Is it because we have angry and disrespectful men that are quick to lose control and turn to a gun or a pack of weapons to take their frustration out on people they deem to be “stupid” or a threat to their belief systems. My grandfather, father, and my trainers would not allow me to have a tool or weapon if I demonstrated a disrespectful attitude in my training or my use.

    I began this discussion with interest in different views and understanding about the 2nd Amendment and how its most recent interpretation has worked or not worked for all of us. I’m still interested in a full and robust discussion, since my study of the history re: this shows that there has been a wide disparity in interpretations ever since its beginning. Why haven’t you explored these interpretations before now, where is your data and facts showing how much safer and well protected we are now with a wide distribution of guns throughout our fine nation? We can return to address your lack of justification for providing guns to everyone later, since we all recognize the problem we have now with a mammoth gun homicide and suicide rate in our country, but somehow we have been stuck politically and fearfully with continuing to hand out guns to all based on an amendment that may have made sense at one time in our country when we did not have a standing army and having well trained state militias made sense. Now we sell guns with little to no training required, no registration, and no oversight or tracking…all of which is part and parcel of military and official militia use of weaponry.

    “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.”

    James Madison originally proposed the Second Amendment shortly after the Constitution was officially ratified as a way to provide more power to state militias, which today are considered the National Guard. It was deemed a compromise between Federalists — those who supported the Constitution as it was ratified — and the anti-Federalists — those who supported states having more power. Having just used guns and other arms to ward off the English, the amendment was originally created to give citizens the opportunity to fight back against a tyrannical federal government.

    As I mentioned, many studies of this issue note that Americans have been arguing over the amendment’s meaning and interpretation since its ratification, One side interprets the amendment to mean it provides for collective rights, while the opposing view is that it provides individual rights.

    Those who take the collective side think the amendment gives each state the right to maintain and train formal militia units that can provide protection against an oppressive federal government. They argue the “well regulated militia” clause clearly means the right to bear arms should only be given to these organized groups. They believe this allows for only those in the official militia to carry guns legally, and say the federal government cannot abolish state militias.

    Those with the opposite viewpoint believe the amendment gives every citizen the right to own guns, free of federal regulations, to protect themselves in the face of danger. The individualists believe the amendment’s militia clause was never meant to restrict each citizen’s rights to bear arms.

    Both interpretations have helped shape the country’s ongoing gun control debate. Those supporting an individual’s right to own a gun, such as the National Rifle Association, argue that the Second Amendment should give all citizens, not just members of a militia, the right to own a gun. Those supporting stricter gun control, like the Brady Campaign, believe the Second Amendment isn’t a blank check for anyone to own a gun. They feel that restrictions on firearms, such as who can have them, under what conditions, where they can be taken, and what types of firearms are available, are necessary.

    I would like to hear from anyone how this open interpretation has in practice, with supporting facts and data, made us and our children safer. After all, I understand that you are intelligent and rational participants here, who are ready to apply reason to the many issues that are discussed here. Can you provide a rationale based on actual fact rather than a blind belief in an historic regulation from 1791 that deserves to be questioned as to its current interpretation and benefit? Shouldn’t laws serve man?

  8. Top-GUN Avatar

    “Encouraging even more of them to carry weapons, especially those lacking real training, will do not good.”
    Well you got that wrong….
    We’re always safer when those around us are carrying,,,better to have someone with a gun than be defenseless… Far better to have a weapon that can protect you than hiding in a closet and hoping you won’t be noticed, or thinking that throwing your shoes at a bad guy will save you…
    And a bunch of rules never stop bad guys or nut cases from getting and using guns..

  9. There are stupid suburbanites, and perhaps more than a few of those stupid suburbanites are ignorant of the Constitution. But even Constitutional scholars struggle when it comes to situations where unqualified “rights,” especially those assured in the Bill of Rights, cannot simultaneously be granted. Does the right to free speech take precedence over the right to free exercise of religion — e.g., is blasphemy per se unconstitutional? Does the right to assemble peaceably take precedence over the right to bear arms — e.g., can authorities require that attendees at a contentious political rally enter unarmed in order to assure that it remains “peaceable”? Take any two of those rights prescribed in the Bill of Rights and you probably can construct a scenario where one “right” must yield to enforce another, and there is probably a court case out there where that scenario has been deliberated, and reasonable minds may someday conclude that any of those old cases was decided wrong.

    But let’s assume for the moment that the 2d Amendment as currently written unquestionably allows me to arm myself and my family with machine guns and missiles and drones armed with pounds of C4 explosive: yes, it remains within the realm of possibility, even probability, that enough stupid suburbanites, and I daresay many others, will someday undertake even to amend the Constitution if that’s what it takes to halt the outrageous civilian carnage in this Country.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Acbar, like any right, there is room for regulation under the Second Amendment. One needs ATF permits to engage in commercial sales of weapons. You cannot assemble pipe bombs. But before one starts talking about regulation, honest debate requires that one admit the right to bear arms is a personal right and any interpretation to the contrary is simply wrong.

      We don’t allow felons to have firearms. Although if we allow them to vote, what principle of law says they shouldn’t have the right to bear arms restored? I don’t have trouble with background checks at gun shows. I do have a problem when the transaction is between family members or close friends. I don’t have trouble with people with a history of domestic violence being prohibited from having guns. Although how does that fit with the concept of rehabilitation being touted by many on the left now? Are gun rights somehow different and, if so, based on what case law?

      The red light concept is more troublesome (but not unthinkable) because we authorize law enforcement to enter a person’s home and take away their personal property based on an ex parte presentation by a third party. We need prompt hearings and strong penalties against anyone making a false accusation. But even then, how do we square that with Fairfax County’s refusal to obtain an inspection warrant when they have probable cause that there is overcrowding in violation of law? Selective enforcement of law? I’d take that argument to the Supreme Court.

      Limiting a person to one gun purchase per month is absurd. What if we said, abortion is OK but you can only have two in lifetime? What’s the difference?

      If people don’t want other people to have guns repeal the Second Amendment as former Justice Stevens has argued. But it won’t stop criminals. And how well did prohibition work? I am not against reasonable exercise of the police power but ignoring hundreds of years of legal precedent (weren’t some the more liberal justices just complaining about this) because a mom says this looks too scary for me is totally unacceptable.

      And keep in mind that all of this arm waiving from Governor Blackface is just an attempt to fire up his base.

      1. djrippert Avatar

        The fellow our General Assembly always refers to as Mr. Jefferson said this:

        “The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

        I can provide many other quotes from the founding fathers which describe a broad right to bear arms. Are there any quotes, any at all, that favor restrictions on bearing arms?

        In fairness, Jefferson also believed that each generation would write their own constitution. He allowed that things might change.

        The real issue is that the oligarchs of our political class (on both sides of the aisle) have discovered that they can enrich themselves with a static constitution. Any opening of the constitution regarding the second amendment might also invite strong restrictions on money in government. They can live with quite a bit of mayhem so long as the money keeps flowing into their pockets.

  10. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “… I daresay many others, will someday undertake even to amend the Constitution if that’s what it takes to halt the outrageous civilian carnage in this Country.”

    And if that should happen, the carnage shall be far far greater. For then those simple fools who have thrown away the rights of good citizens to defend themselves under the United State’s Constitution will have disarmed the innocent and emboldened the criminals who are always present among us, opening the way to far greater slaughters by the mobs that increasingly rule so many of our urban streets today, and have spread now even into the halls of Congress.

  11. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    On July 9, Republicans in the General Assembly once again shut down any meaningful discussion on a key issue – mass shootings and gun control. That is outrageous and an insult to the families of mass shootings victims.
    Now we have another conservative pushing the same conservative argument that the real cause is mental illness, citing a recent Secret Service report. The author states that the report says that the majority of the shooters had symptoms of mental illness and that’s that. What a the report actually says is that a majority of shooters showed some symptoms of mental illness but fewer had a direct causal link between the illness and the violence. One in five Americans has shown symptoms of mental illness, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness. Most are non violent.
    We also see the usual argument that if you restrict firearms, innocents have no way of fighting back. How many times have brave concealed carry holders taken out a mass shooter. I read there are some but not many. If you are at a ground level plaza in Las Vegas listening to a concert, it would be really hard to deal with a mass shooter armed with assault rifles with bump stocks who is operating from the upper floor room a tall hotel building.
    Even if you buy the mental illness canard, there are no suggestions about to deal with it. The game is to kick the can farther down the road and do nothing. Hopefully, that will change come elections in November.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      And Northam admitted that nothing he proposed would have prevented the shootings in Virginia Beach. Bump stocks are illegal. Or do we have a situation where some people don’t obey the law?

      What’s the difference between: “If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one” and “If you don’t like guns, don’t own one”?

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        “One in five Americans has shown symptoms of mental illness, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness.”

        Yes. That obviously is because one in five (or is it four) students are raped on college campuses, according to Uncle Joe and his side kick B. Obama. When will the hysteria ginned up by progressive fairy tales end? Not until the phony grievance culture ginned up by the left ends. This most likely will not end before progressive “non profits” like the National Alliance of Mental Illness stop creating faux victims so as to make fortunes of ill gotten money based on phony claims of victim-hood, turning people into cows invented for milking money and political power out of, and for creating make work jobs and phony government grants.

  12. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    I see you got the same talking points as Blue VA….hey, once identified as a danger, or once identified as somebody who has made threats, yes real steps should be taken. To me, that is when the cops go to the home and take all the weapons, after some due process (not before.) To ignore the mental health aspect of this is indeed stupid, a deadly mistake. I don’t use the word lightly. It is truly putting politics above public safety.

  13. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Yes, I absolutely agree with Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in Blue Virginia. So what? Does that diminish my argument? What is this? Guilt by association? You can do better than that, Steve.

  14. Data should be gathered on the spiritual illness of the shooters. My guess is that no shooter was a devout Christian. If a potential shooter does not think that hell awaits him, he will become an accomplished shooter. Our country has become so morally depraved that we should not be surprised by murders and suicides.

  15. IMHO this discussion is in a much better place when we move away from visions of the Non-2d-Am. apocalypse, the confiscation of all private weaponry, the “way to far greater slaughters by the mobs that increasingly rule so many of our urban streets today.” Let’s concede that there are Constitutionally-acceptable public safety limits to the Constitutional right to bear arms, which limits can be expressed in reasonable laws and regulations. Then let’s talk about how much gun regulation would be reasonable, how much would be beneficial to society. TMT, I accept your willingness to go there even if we undoubtedly will disagree about the details; like Peter, my initial reaction to “the intent was and is to allow private citizens to have the most up-to-date personal arms that would be useful in a militia” was that you had left less room for discussion. Not sure if you are there, Steve.

  16. djrippert Avatar

    Gun deaths per 100,000 in the United States (all causes – homicide, suicide, accident): 12.1

    Opioid deaths per 100,000 in the United States (any opioid): 15.5 per 100,000.

    I guess a special session on opioids wouldn’t generate the kind of election year press that the General Assembly craves.

    1. Point made. Also consider: Motor vehicle traffic deaths per 100,000 in the United States (per Wikipedia, latest year = 2017): 11.4

      We shouldn’t make light of any of those statistics. But given the time, effort and money spent in Virginia on traffic legislation and regulation and facility construction in the name of public safety, a special Session or two on both opioid abuse and gun deaths and the treatment of mental health issues generally (as discussed in the next post) would seem to be warranted. I think the GA is overdue to reckon with how the public is actually afflicted by these issues and adjust its time and spending priorities accordingly.

    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      If you refine Don’s “Gun deaths per 100,000 in the United States (all causes – homicide, suicide, accident): 12.1,” then real life solutions, working now and in the past, begin to emerge. For example, a majority of murders occur in our big cities:

      “Crime rates in America have dropped steadily in the last 20 years. According to the Pew Research Center, violent crime rates fell over 50 percent from 1993 to 2015. Despite this overall trend, murder rates in the U.S. have gone up in the past two years. In some cities, murder rates increased at alarming speeds. For example, there were 496 murders in Chicago in 2015, compared with 762 in 2016.

      Which American cities experienced the highest murder rates in 2015? Using data collected by the 2015 FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program, the following is a ranking of cities by their murder rate per 100,000 people. Only cities that had populations over 100,000 and murder rates over 10 were included. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program defines murder and non-negligent manslaughter as the willful killing of one human being by another.

      It’s important to note that although these cities reflect a high murder rate in 2015, rates for the country overall are still historically low. Murder rates in the U.S. are down significantly from the 1980s and 1990s. Cities with higher murder rates range from large metropolises to smaller cities. Tackling crime and the murder rate in particular is a complex challenge for each city.” See which also lists the FBI most deadly cities. For example:

      #30. Waco, Texas
      Murder rate per 100k people: 16.74
      Number of reported murders (2015): 22
      Population: 131,413

      #28. Indianapolis, Indiana
      Murder rate per 100k people: 17.12
      Number of reported murders (2015): 148
      Population: 863,675

      #25. Chicago, Illinois
      Murder rate per 100k people: 17.52
      Number of reported murders (2015): 478
      Population: 2,728,695

      #24. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
      Murder rate per 100k people: 17.86
      Number of reported murders (2015): 280
      Population: 1,567,810

      #20. Richmond, Virginia
      Murder rate per 100k people: 19.47
      Number of reported murders (2015): 43
      Population: 220,802

      #16. Memphis, Tennessee
      Murder rate per 100k people: 20.52
      Number of reported murders (2015): 135
      Population: 657,936

      #11. Washington, District Of Columbia
      Murder rate per 100k people: 24.10
      Number of reported murders (2015): 162
      Population: 672,228

      #4. New Orleans, Louisiana
      Murder rate per 100k people: 41.68
      Number of reported murders (2015): 164
      Population: 393,447

      #3. Detroit, Michigan
      Murder rate per 100k people: 43.82
      Number of reported murders (2015): 295
      Population: 673,225

      #2. Baltimore, Maryland
      Murder rate per 100k people: 55.37
      Number of reported murders (2015): 344
      Population: 621,252

      #1. St. Louis, Missouri
      Murder rate per 100k people: 59.29
      Number of reported murders (2015): 188
      Population: 317,095

      And now, according to Thomas Abt writing on July 6, 2019 in Wall Street Journal:

      “Since Sept. 11, 2001, hundreds of Americans have died in terrorist attacks and mass shootings, but more than 100,000 have perished on the streets of our cities. Urban violence accounts for most murders in the U.S., but politicians focus on everything except the violence itself, instead issuing sweeping calls to ban guns, legalize drugs or end poverty.

      In a 2016 paper, my colleague Christopher Winship and I analyzed reviews of more than 1,400 studies on anti-violence programs around the world. We discovered that urban violence is sticky, meaning that it tends to cluster among a surprisingly small number of people and places. In New Orleans, for instance, a tiny network of less than 1% of the city’s population accounted for more than half of its lethal incidents between Jan. 1, 2010, and March 31, 2014. In Boston, more than 70% of all shootings between 1980 and 2008 were concentrated in less than 5% of the city’s geography. In almost every city, a few “hot people” and “hot spots” are responsible for the vast majority of deadly violence; the key to addressing the problem is to pay close attention to them.

      The surprising good news is that if we focus on urban violence, we can have peace in our streets in a matter of years, without waiting for sweeping new laws or massive budget hikes. Targeted programs can produce transformative results.

      Consider Oakland, Calif., where analysts in 2012-13 reviewed 18 months of homicide data and discovered that only some 400 individuals—about 0.1% of Oakland’s population—were at the highest risk for violence at any particular time.

      Knowing this, a group of community members, social-service providers and law-enforcement officials began meeting in small groups with these individuals, telling them that their community wanted them to stay alive and keep out of prison but that the shooting had to stop. These interveners followed up by providing life coaching, job training, educational opportunities and other forms of assistance, along with narrowly targeted investigations, arrests and prosecutions for those who persisted in committing violent offenses. Last year, independent evaluators from Northeastern University determined that the initiative—called Oakland Ceasefire—had cut the homicide rate in the city nearly in half since 2012, when the effort was launched.

      Oakland Ceasefire is modeled on Operation Ceasefire, a 1990s Boston police initiative also known as the Group Violence Reduction Strategy. The approach was credited at the time with reducing youth homicides in Boston by more than 60% in just two years. It has since lowered group-related or total homicides in Indianapolis, New Haven and Cincinnati by more than a third.

      A 2018 paper in the journal Criminology & Public Policy found that the strategy has produced positive results in all of the 12 cases where it has been rigorously studied. Each time, partnerships between the police and the community confronted those at the highest risk of violence with a double message of empathy and accountability—saying, in effect, “We are here to help you. If you won’t let us, we are here to stop you …”

      For the balance of this July 6, 2019 article see:

    3. Reed, I don’t disagree that we need solutions to urban gun deaths, where the violence is most concentrated and most entrenched. But how do we tackle urban gun abuse without doing so comprehensively, Statewide or nationwide as the case may be? Obviously we can’t just restrict gun sales within metropolitan city limits.

      The WSJ essay you cite (it’s behind their paywall but fortunately I am a subscriber) makes this basic point: “The surprising good news is that if we focus on urban violence, we can have peace in our streets in a matter of years, without waiting for sweeping new laws or massive budget hikes. Targeted programs can produce transformative results.” As a prime example of what that author advocates: “Cognitive behavioral therapy has been used for decades to help patients with addiction, anxiety and depression, but applying it to criminality and violence is new—and promising. The premise: If flawed thinking leads to aggressive or antisocial behavior, then changing that thinking can prevent it.” Again, we don’t disagree that there’s a mental health component to gun deaths. But there’s also an availability component, the fact that access to guns designed for mass killing is simply too easy, and we need to address BOTH components.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        I agree completely with the thrust of the Wall Street Journal as regards urban street violence, and related urban domestic violence. And as you say, Acbar, there is separate component altogether, mass or attempted mass shootings. Here of course the FBI study suggested some targeted remedies there as well. I will try to get back to all these issues in next day or two, but my approach is action oriented, trying to get into the communities and homes of those who are particularly in need, whether they be aggressors or victims. Its all a tangled knot of communities and cultures falling apart in my view. Perhaps too that includes many of the mass shooters too, our failure to spot them and take decisive action before instead of after the event. This too may be a sign of failures on our part.

  17. My report on gun violence, generated at the request of Del Kenneth Plum, can be found at

  18. […] The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will report on the state of federal law.  The Virginia State Police will talk about firearms transactions and ties to gun violence.  The Virginia Department of Health and the Office of Chief Medical Examiner will have hard numbers on Virginia injuries and deaths.  There will be more of a national focus in the afternoon, including a report from the U.S. Secret Service that may focus on a study already mentioned on Bacon’s Rebellion. […]

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