Needle In a Haystack: Identifying the Next School Shooter Before He Shoots


Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants?
I intend to do battle with them and slay them.”

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote, 1605-15

Since April, 1999, when fifteen Columbine High School students were shot and killed and twenty-one wounded by two fellow students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, until October of this year, eighteen similar school shootings and mass murders where at least four individuals were killed or injured have been carried out by eighteen young white male shooters. Depending on which source you reference – I relied on Wikipedia – one hundred and forty-nine persons, including students, teachers, school personnel, the shooters themselves and several of their parents, were killed and one hundred and thirty-nine wounded – approximately one school mass murder every ten months, a rate that has accelerated in the last several years, particularly since the Newtown shootings in December, 2012.

To provide an even broader – and shocking – picture, again courtesy of Wikipedia – a total of one hundred and fifty-eight school-related shootings since Columbine, carried out by one hundred and ninety-nine shooters, have resulted in two hundred and twenty-four deaths and two hundred and eighty-eight injuries; a rate of one shooting a month during that almost-sixteen year period. Eighty-five of these shootings have occurred since Newtown, i.e., in little less than three years, doubling the rate of shootings to one every two weeks.

A ritualized public and political response to the shootings has evolved, particularly in the wake of the mass murders, which always attract the most media attention: shock, outrage and a demand for action to prevent a recurrence. Who are these teenagers who are doing the shootings and why? How are they getting their hands on the powerful weapons they’re using? Where are the stricter gun controls needed to deny the shooters access to these weapons?

In the face of the predictable and pointed objections to the latter from the NRA – “Only a good man with a gun can stop a bad man with a gun” – and from the U.S. senators and congressman in the NRA’s employ, all possible productive discussion of the who, what and why of the killings, even after Newtown and the murder of twenty elementary schoolchildren, has inevitably deteriorated into stock answers – the shooters are all crazy loners – and solutions – increased funding for additional mental health services is needed. If you give credence to this popularized explanation, it now appears that the answers are to be found among those persons who have been labeled seriously mentally ill, a conveniently marginalized and powerless group whose members’ protests at being labeled and scapegoated as prospective killers can easily be ignored.

Aided and abetted by the Roberts’ Supreme Court and its distorted interpretation of the Second Amendment as guaranteeing the right of individual gun ownership to all Americans, the NRA has proceeded to block all attempts to tighten gun controls at the Federal, state and local levels. Perhaps more importantly, it has succeeded in intimidating the Congress to vote down all legislative initiatives to fund research into the fundamental questions posed above, viz., who are the school shooters and mass murderers and why are they shooting.

Despite those barriers, academic researchers have attempted to construct a profile of the shooters with the objective of identifying those individuals most likely to plan and carry out future shootings that result in mass murders. So, too, has the FBI. Unfortunately, their efforts have produced a picture of past and future shooters so broad that it could encompass the great majority of white male teenagers in the U.S. It could just as easily include the Muslim jihadists, in the main young male French and Belgian nationals of North African origin, who are currently wreaking havoc in France.

To illustrate, let me elaborate on a few of the twenty-six “personality traits and behaviors” posted by Gary Kohls, a psychiatrist, on OpEd News in early October that I consider key:

  • Preoccupation with violence, particularly computer games filled with violence and, often, with guns. At least two of our shooters, Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, and Christopher Harper-Mercer, the Umpqua CC shooter, shared an avid interest in guns and shooting with their mothers, with Lanza shooting and killing his mother before departing for his rampage at the Sandy Hook School.
  • Alienation from others, including family members, schoolmates and teachers, and a corresponding mistrust of those in authority. They rarely sought help from treating professionals and the therapeutic relationships in which they did participate were invariably short-lived. For their part, psychotherapists and psychiatrists were confounded by these young men and were universally unsuccessful in engaging them in treatment.
  • Signs of depression, often evidenced by agitated behavior, and of cognitive impairment, often quite severe. It is crucial to note here the likely ill effects, i.e., hypo-manic, impulsive and aggressive behaviors and exacerbation of suicidal thinking, produced by the SSRI’s or anti-depressant medications prescribed to adolescents whose parents seek treatment for them. By FDA regulation, these potentiating side effects are highlighted in “black box” warnings attached to all SSRI’s prescribed to adolescents and young adults. The majority of the shooters under discussion here had been prescribed such medications at some time prior to the shootings they carried out.
  • Inability to form intimate relationships, particularly sexual relationships. Again, the majority if not all our shooters had never had sex, leading to feelings of personal and social inadequacy and, often, a fierce misogyny. Jihadist suicide bombers, we should remember, are prohibited from having sex and are compensated for their chastity with promises of the sexual delights awaiting them in the afterlife. As the number of U.S. shootings has mounted, more alienated and angry young men have begun to connect with one another via Facebook and invariably refer to themselves as sexually frustrated, a key point of common self-identity among themselves and with the shooters.
  • Marginalization in all areas of their lives, particularly at school and often in their families, where their complaints and expressions of frustration and rage were generally dismissed. Our shooters subsequently learned to be silent and share little of their thoughts and feelings, and earned others’ view of them as social misfits. Family members, schoolmates, teachers and school administrators  appeared to readily accept and could well have welcomed our shooters’ social distance, since few if any attempts appear to have been made to bridge that distance.
  • Accordingly, family relationships were usually turbulent, with the shooters, for the most part, left to their own devices. At school, similarly, bullying behavior by other students against these social misfits usually went unaddressed. And if our shooters sought out membership in any group, they gravitated towards other social outsiders, i.e., those individuals who shared their interests in violence, extremist beliefs, guns and, ultimately, illicit street and prescription drugs.

A pretty long list.  Which might quite accurately describe our school shooters, but which is post facto and in no way predictive, citing characteristics applicable to many U.S. teenagers. So how do you sort out those who might actually proceed to act out their failed expectations and their rage against their peers and shoot them?

You don’t because you can’t. Mental health professionals readily admit they can’t predict with any accuracy which of their patients will act to harm themselves or others based on their clinical profiles. The most plausible indicator is past behavior, i.e., assaults on others or worse and actual suicide attempts. Should the FBI and other law enforcement agencies begin to monitor the e-mails and social media posts of persons with several or more of the attributes described above, they would uncover little they could act upon – discussing acts of violence, even posting instructions on building bombs, is a First Amendment-protected right. While their on-line postings might subject those under surveillance to closer law enforcement scrutiny, no action, no arrests or detention, can be undertaken against them until they commit a crime. In the interim, the number of school-related shootings, as I cited above, has dramatically increased since Newtown, as has the number of shooters and, in all likelihood, the number of prospective shooters.

I recently read an article by Malcolm Gladwell in the October 19th issue of The New Yorker, “Thresholds of Violence: How School Shootings Catch On,” that helped me understand why that might be happening. It also prompted me to write this essay. Gladwell argues that the threshold for young white men willing and able to shoot their classmates has steadily fallen since the Columbine shootings. Young men who could never have conceived of themselves or been viewed by others as prospective shooters only a few years ago, who appeared well socialized and exhibited no aberrant behaviors that might alienate them from others, can now be counted among the actual or potential shooters.

The focus of Gladwell’s article is a seventeen-year-old high school student named John LaDue who, from all outward appearances, would seem unlikely to plan a mass shooting. When confronted in a storage unit he rented by three police officers responding to the complaint of a homeowner about a person wandering though her backyard late at night, he readily admitted he was making bombs. It was as if he was relieved to have been found out, as if he had sprinkled behind him a trail of figurative breadcrumbs leading straight to him. When taken to the local police station, he was adroitly questioned by one of the officers who had found him and provided the officer with a wealth of detail. It was good to read about a perceptive cop who quickly recognized he was not dealing with the “crazy loner” portrayed in the mass media, but with a bright and confused, albeit dangerous, kid.

LaDue answered the questions put to him directly and coherently, was not defensive but remarkably forthcoming. Yes, he was building particularly potent Molotov cocktails that he intended to place in strategic locations throughout his school. Yes, he was amassing large amounts of ammunition and powerful guns and intended to shoot classmates, including his sister, who attended the same school he did. He also intended to shoot his parents, since he wanted to account for as many victims as possible. No, he loved his parents; liked the town he lived in; and had never been subjected to bullying. He had planned to carry out his rampage, as school mass murders have come to be called, in April, but for some unaccountable reason kept on pushing the date back. The police officer duly noted these contradictions and LaDue’s apparent ambivalence.

LaDue proceeded to explain that he had become fascinated with Columbine and the Columbine shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and had studied the information regarding those shootings that was available on-line. He was intrigued by Harris’s and Klebold’s meticulous planning, the diary material that Harris had left behind, and by their exotic dress, i.e., the black dusters that they wore and under which they had concealed their weapons. He asserted that his own plan closely followed and improved upon Harris’s and Klebold’s.

Columbine has become the benchmark for modern school shootings. School shootings have periodically occurred in the U.S. over the years, one of the most notable being the University of Texas “tower” shootings that took place on August 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman, a U.S. Marine veteran, first killed his parents and then installed himself on the tower at the heart of UT’s Austin campus with a high powered rifle, proceeding to shoot and kill fourteen students and passersby and seriously wound thirty-two others. This event won notoriety as a new type of killing, the mass murder, but Columbine was the head turner, given the youth of the shooters and their victims, the systematic, even ritualized manner in which the shootings were conducted, and the trove of documents left behind, particularly by Harris, describing their motives and detailed planning and bequeathing, in effect , a set of blueprints for future shooters to follow. Which they have.

Gladwell references the highly regarded American sociologist, Mark Granovetter, to provide some understanding of this phenomenon. In “Threshold Models of Collective Behavior,” published in The American Journal of Sociology in 1978, Granovetter employs the analogy of the riot to illustrate his theory that collective actions such as riots are not irrational mob behaviors but rather the consequence of a series of sequential decisions by individuals based on each individual’s  perceived threshold of gain vs. loss. A collective action is usually kicked off by the individual with the lowest gain/loss threshold, i.e., that person who is the first to believe that he or she stands more to benefit than to suffer adversely by participating in a riot or a strike; closely followed by the persons with the next and the next higher thresholds, and so on. The more people that join in the action, the more that will have crossed their gain/loss thresholds, creating a momentum that will encourage other individuals, one by one, to join them. This series of decisions is wholly situational, with each person involved making decisions he or she would not make if alone. Conversely, if there is no individual with a low enough threshold to initiate the action, there will be no collective action, nor will there be if a sufficiently powerful deterrent, such as a large police contingent, is present.

Gladwell likens the series of school shootings since Columbine to a Granovetter riot, where more and more individuals are reaching and surpassing their thresholds for action at an accelerating pace. He summarizes several recent school shootings and underlines how different each shooter is from the other. LaDue, similarly unique, did not join the company of shooters largely because of his serendipitous encounter with the police. The latter did not charge him with a capital crime, despite his professed intent to murder, because he planned and talked about but did not act upon what he intended. He was charged with possession of bombs and bomb-making materials, a felony offense; but examining psychiatrists, observing his inability to comprehend the gruesome consequences of his proposed actions, diagnosed him as having Asperger’s Syndrome and recommended that he be remanded for treatment to a state forensic psychiatric hospital for an indeterminate period of time.

Another Granovetter paper, written several years before his “Thresholds …” paper, appears to offer an additional explanation for the growing momentum of school rampage murders and the expanding pool of rampage shooters. Introduced to Granovetter by Gladwell, I stumbled upon “The Strength of Weak Ties,” published by him in the American Journal Sociology in May, 1973. According to Granovetter, “strong ties”, i.e., the connections between close friends and with family members are usually circumscribed: what passes between friends and family members usually begins and ends there and is rarely shared with mere acquaintances or strangers. In relationships marked by “weak ties”, such as those with Facebook friends and social media connections, information shared readily extends beyond those who initially share it to their connections in their respective networks. Hence, the relative ease with which young men who barely know one another can be exposed to vast amounts of on-line information about the rampage shootings and shooters, and begin to experience challenges to their individual thresholds for violence.

It must be remembered that these individuals’ self-identity is that of marginalized individuals, shunned and denigrated by their peers and furious for it. In my estimation, these are young men in search of a self-identity that they and others can value, a self-identity indicative of significant accomplishments and worthy of respect, even acclaim. When they read about and share with one another stories about Harris and Klebold, I would suppose they must say to themselves and one another, “I can do that.” I would also suppose that they know that American culture is a culture of guns, fear and violence. Every time there’s a mass shooting whether in a school or elsewhere, gun sales spike – most Americans, particularly white Americans, appear to have bought the NRA dictum about the good man – or woman – with a gun stopping the bad guy with the gun. When Obama recently visited Roseburg, Oregon, to express his condolences to the families of the victims of the Umpqua CC shootings, he was booed because of his appeals for improved gun controls. How ideal for a young man fascinated with violence to prove his bona fides as a good American by buying guns and prepping himself to use them on those he fears and hates?

In sum, these young men are ours, homegrown American terrorists. The online culture they have created to sustain them while they fantasize about and plan their rampages is representative of an increasing number of marginalized and shunned individuals who would immerse themselves in killing and death rather than utilize the community they have created to address their and the larger society’s shortcomings. How American. Nearly one hundred years ago, the British novelist D.H. Lawrence, during a sojourn in New Mexico where he came face to face with the consequences of the violence visited on Native Americans, commented that  “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.” (1923) More recently, the American novelist and poet Russell Banks, in Dreaming Up America (2008), observed that Americans have historically preferred to pick up a gun and kill someone rather than address our society’s fundamental contradictions and hypocrisies.

Let me cite the two contradictions I consider the big ones:

  • The erasure of the core of our Declaration of Independence of 1776, viz., “… that all men are created equal,” by the three-fifths clause of the Constitution, which can be considered to have contributed to the sixty-years long schism between North and South that resulted in the Civil War and the political and cultural antagonisms that continue into the present;
  • The fabrication of the myths of Manifest Destiny and American Exceptionalism that have cloaked America’s virtual extermination of Native Americans; the enslavement and exploitation of black Africans, which has been succeeded by an unrelenting white supremacism directed against black Americans; our wars of imperialist expansion with Mexico in 1846-7 and Spain in 1898-9; periodic interventions in the internal affairs of Latin American countries until very recently; and our fruitless adventures, since the end of World War II, in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, that have caused the deaths of millions of people.

Until these are addressed and resolved, the existential consequences of these contradictions  – American imperialism; white supremacy; unrelenting misogyny; perverse economic inequality; the unceasing marginalization of powerless outsiders, viz., the working class, the poor, persons labeled mentally ill, undocumented immigrants; the denigration of science, particularly the science of climate change; and mass murders and the pervasive fear and violence that engulf us – will continue to divide us and expose our notion of American Exceptionalism and our corresponding self-identity as a free, just and progressive people as mere self-delusions. As George Carlin once said of the American Dream, “It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.” (2005)
One final contradiction, particularly pertinent to our discussion, must be considered in order to conclude it, viz., the apparent willingness of most Americans to sacrifice their own children in order to support the NRA and its advocacy of guns-for-all. Listening to Gavin Newsom, Lieut. Governor of California, on the Bill Maher show on November 20, I learned that the two thousand Americans on the FBI’s terrorist watch list, thanks to the NRA and its espousal of universal gun ownership, continue to enjoy the right to purchase and own guns. Yet, no protests, just acquiescence, even complicity. Granovetter would contend that Americans’ threshold or tolerance for violence, for guns and death has fallen, particularly since Columbine and 9/11, accelerated by the NRA steamroller and the fear that increasingly grips the country. Which is why no resolution of this contradiction is in sight. Which is why the threshold for young men for killing their peers en masse continues to drop. Which is why our needle in the haystack is nowhere to be found and the rampage school killings will not end.

* * * * *


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

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Jack Carney, DSW
Up the River: A social worker, Jack Carney writes on the contradictions and hypocrisies of the public mental health system, and promotes and applauds acts of resistance to it. In the words of the immortal Joe Hill, spoken just before being executed by a Utah firing squad, he likes to advise: “Don’t mourn, organize!"


    • DaveC,

      Since when is the issue of guns a left vs. right wing issue since many responsible gun owners have mentioned that the laws need to be tightened regarding people being able to easily access guns. Really, it is a serious health and safety issue and I am disappointed that you would turn this into a political issue.

      You are also missing the point of the article that because of these shootings, people with alleged mental health issues are being rounded up for psych treatment as they are guilty until proven innocent instead of focusing on the real issue, which is the easy accessibility to guns. If you are as conservative you seem to be implying you are, that should greatly concern you since a group of people’s civil rights are in danger of being violated if they haven’t been already.

    • It’s the gun nuts who want to round up the mentally ill and put them on watch lists. It’s the gun nuts who want anyone who has ever taken a psych med, for any reason at all, to lose their Constitutional rights. That’s a non partisan issue. If you want to rail about left wing this and that, take it to free republic.

  1. DaveC & AA:

    Murphy is being investigated by the F.B.I. Go to the article right below this one. I have been up all night brainstorming on how to help bpdtransformation & oldhead, as we have been doing a *lot* to try & help defeat this Murphy bill. This deplorable bill. I’m going to have to go take a “mental health break” (sorry, Frank) for a few days & have nothing else to do with this for awhile. See ya guys in about a week!

    Yes, MURPHY IS BEING INVESTIGATED BY THE FBI. Follow the story on the article below. Kudos!

  2. Fortunately, the mass shootings at school issue is not nearly as bad as the media makes it out to be. In other words, while it is truly terrible for the victims and their families, the number of victims is very low because these are mostly intermittent small-scale events. It’s amazing how much energy and time is devoted to this issue that steals the lives of a few hundred people a year, when 30,000 people a year are killed in car accidents, 400,000 a year are killed via smoking related illnesses, etc. It shows how the emotional and psychological impact of these gun-violence tragedies is sometimes much more important than how many people are directly affected. Hopefully parents can see that their child is in much greater danger when they are driven to school (i.e. car crashes) than when they are sitting in the classroom.

    As for stopping gun violence, the obsession with identifying people at risk is doomed to failure as Jack suggests; there is no way to tell who will snap without turning our society into a truly Orwellian state where any troubled person is quarantined and “treated”. The only experiment that might make a difference would be to greatly tighten gun control as countries like Australia did – that’s why they have so many fewer school shootings, because guns are much harder to come by especially for young people.

    It is sad that people cling to the myth that having a gun makes them safer. Although I know how to use one, I don’t own a gun precisely because I know that having one would make me less safe: people who own a gun are statistically more likely to die both by homicide and suicide; the notion that having a gun makes you more likely to survive adverse situations (on aggregate) is a myth.

    I think it will probably take a series of truly horrific events to change gun laws in the USA. For example, something like the Beslan siege would probably do it. This was the case in which a school in Russia was attacked by armed men with over 1,000 people taken hostage and almost 400 children executed with automatic weapons. If something like this happened in the USA, and given enough time with easy gun availability there is a significant chance that it will, public and political pressure might finally bring a significant change in gun laws.

  3. Attention all Americans,

    We are repealing the second amendment because the omnipotent busybody paternalistic nanny state liberals know best.

    So don’t start with that “from my cold dead fingers” stuff.

    And remember when seconds count the police are only minutes away. Just ask the people in Paris about that one.

  4. Repeal the second amendment to stop mass murder ?

    Bodies litter sidewalk outside Happy Land inferno that killed 87. At the time, the 87 souls who perished in the Happy Land Social Club fire held the record for a mass murder in the U.S. Until 9/11/01… Her former boyfriend, Julio Gonzalez, came in around 3:30 a.m. to try to win her back.

    No gun used >>

    When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.

    On the 29th August 2011, a US judge thankfully threw out a case involving a woman who was arrested back in March for simply being a mum. Detroit mother, Maryanne Godboldo, was charged with using a gun to hold police off as they threatened to take her daughter from her, unlawfully….

    All of this happened because Maryanne refused to give her daughter a dangerous antipsychotic drug. She felt this was the only way she could protect her child from being forcefully medicated with Risperdal, a neuroleptic antipsychotic medication with a list of serious side effects, such as abdominal pain, vomiting, aggression, anxiety, dizziness and lack of coordination. We can easily see why Maryanne didn’t want to give this gem to 13-year-old Ariana!

    Read more

    They want to take away the peoples access to weapons and take away those already in their possession not because of maniacs in theaters or classrooms, but in order to render us helpless against the violence of the state.

    The tyrants would love it if they could just go door to door snatching kids or doing whatever without the worry of a being offered hot lead sandwich to chew on.

    • The Cat,
      As I’ve said to you several times – and you’re someone that I generally agree with on other things – the little gun in your hand is not going to be any use when:

      1) The government sends its fleet of M1 Abrams tanks to blow up your neighborhood block.

      2) An F-35 drops a 2000 lb bomb onto your house.

      3) The military brass goes crazy and shoots tactical nukes at your city.

      In other words, if the US government wanted to oppress you like the Chinese government did to its citizens in the late 20th century, it easily has the resources to do so whether or not you have a gun. We citizens are simply no match for the American military as long as that military is controlled by our government. Even if every American citizen was a skilled gunslinger they would be no match for the US military’s armada of tanks, planes, nukes, and aircraft carriers.

      In other words, the reason we feel relatively safe a lot of the time is not because we have guns, but because we have some level of trust that the people in government won’t turn crazy en masse and start using the military against us, and will instead use that military to defend our borders.

      • “Even if every American citizen was a skilled gunslinger they would be no match for the US military’s armada of tanks, planes, nukes, and aircraft carriers.”

        Are you kidding ?

        Look at the Syrian war on YouTube, War In Syria 2015 – Compilation Full HD 1080p | Combat Footage

        An armed person they could take out easy, an armed population is a completely different thing.

        Nation state Vs Nation state is about tanks, planes, and aircraft carriers but when it comes down to defeating the people its always small arms on the ground.

        Do you really think they would pay any attention to say BLM or the anti police brutality movement going on if the population was not armed ?No way, it would be back in your houses, never ending curfew, state of emergency first amendment suspended till they say otherwise.

        I can’t believe that after countless examples of genocide and evil totalitarian governments throughout history that anyone would believe it wont happen again cause humans have somehow evolved past that type of thing .

        Oh sure we “evolved” to the point the United States
        has over 2 million people in cages right now mostly over their “drug war” and motorist extortion revenue schemes busting people for “driving wile poor”. Its like a holocaust that uses prison instead of death.

        Americans should be disarmed because some sick kids bug out and murder people once in a wile ? Ya sure .

        Syrian Troops Open Fire on Protesters in Several Cities
        MARCH 25, 2011

        Modern-day North Syrian gun laws are outlined in the Firearms Ownership Law, or Bill NS-35 signed into law by King Fahad Abdul-Issam on April 1, 2015. This law repealed the Peaceful Citizens Act that banned all civilian ownership of firearms from 2011 up until 2015.

        Ferguson Riot Police Open Fire Into Peaceful Protest

        Have I made my point yet ?

        • No, because in any given situation, the government can wield overwhelming force against a group of citizens if it wanted to. The US is a massive, quite sparsely populated country (relative to other large nations), and in any given local area, the government could bring to bear devastating military force far greater than what any local group of citizens could. So guns are only really useful for 1 on 1 encounters (and even then, they probably reduce the chances of survival, since they make the authorities with the heavy weaponry more likely to shoot); they won’t stop the government from cracking down if it wants to. In any case it’s a moot issue because the government in our country simply doesn’t function this way; it’s not a totalitarian government. Nor are governments of other countries that don’t allow guns, such as Australia or Japan.

          And you didn’t address the nuclear weapons; there is no answer to the 10,000 or so nuclear bombs that our government controls through small arms. The number of bombs we have is enough to destroy all cities worldwide more than once. We have to trust that our leaders in government will manage them responsibly.

          • Nuclear weapons, OK

            The military men won’t kill there own families with nuclear weapons . It won’t happen.

            These 2nd amendment threads always get a mile long and it always comes down to what the founding fathers said, an armed population prevents tyrannical governments.

            Preserving liberty is always more important than any social problem including twisted kids shooting up schools. So find another solution.

            This thread could get 5 miles long and nothing anyone can say will convince me that governments can be trusted not to abuse the hell out of an unarmed population. Its not my opinion, history has proven they cant be trusted over and over and over again.

        • Not arguing with your general drift vis. a vis. the lethality of our enforcers; what I noticed is this:

          Americans should be disarmed because some sick kids bug out and murder people once in a wile ?

          Unless I’ve mistaken you for someone who doesn’t accept the concept of “mental illness,” do you see how easy it is to describe crazy violent behavior as “sick”? The point is how “sick,” i.e. implied “mental sickness,” is so easy to use as an epithet. Psychiatry takes the same sentiment and imbues it with the added “legitimacy” of a specific “diagnosis.”

      • we have some level of trust that the people in government won’t turn crazy en masse and start using the military against us

        Who is this “we”?

        They already are using the military against us; local police departments are being given military weaponry, drones and tanks and are closely hooked up with your favorite federal “security” agencies.

        • We is most Americans; if most people truly believed that there was a high chance the government would turn the air force and nuclear arsenal directly on us, and felt existentially threatened with that extermination, they would probably go bonkers and get labeled schizophrenic by deluded psychiatrists!

          Things are not that bad, oldhead; this is not North Korea or Iraq. I recently finished reading the book The Science of Fear by Gardner, which is about how people tend to overfocus on the bad news and on emotionally-charged dangers which are actually not huge risks, and not appreciate how in many ways we are safer today than 100 or 200 years ago. Life expectancy is much longer, chance of dying through violence/war is much less than past centuries, most dangerous diseases are much more treatable, etc. The biggest dangers to our lives are actually silent things that few people are discussing – driving one’s car down the road, eating unhealthily, not exercising, and having high levels of anxiety and depression, often by over focusing on how bad things supposedly are.

          Here are some links.

          • Oldhead, I reject your characterization of my comment. As usual you haven’t addressed most of the substance of what I said; instead choosing one isolated thing to disagree with. First of all, your implication that these countries have not invaded another is mistaken: Iraq did invade a small neighbor, Kuwait. Second, North Korea and Iraq have usually not had the economic and organizational ability to mount large-scale invasions of large neighboring countries. But they are able to murder hundreds of thousands of their own citizens; perhaps you would care to acknowledge that… one is in much more physical danger living in those countries than living in most parts of America; that was my point.

            My points above about recent decades statistically being the safest in human history for people in advanced nations still stands, and about poor lifestyle habits being much greater dangers to your wellbeing than what the American government is doing militarily, also stands.

          • And don’t forget receiving standard medical care, the third leading cause of death in the USA, behind heart disease and cancer, and an almost completely preventable one. MUCH more dangerous than terrorism!

            — Steve

          • You’re technically right, Saddam did that, though he was basically given the green light and set up by the U.S. Ambassador, probably to create a pretext for later military action.

            But how did we end up talking about all this crap? I think I’ll start a new comment so it doesn’t look like I’m directing it at you, which I won’t be. 🙂

  5. Oh look, another tough guy ranting on the internet. Muh gunz.

    Do you honestly think your little pop gun will stand up to what the State will level against you if there is an insurrection?

    The State will never fear you. You gave up your rights long ago. What’s left is an illusion. Most of you stay home on Election day anyway so your words are just that…words.

    By the way, I’m a gun owner, too…but not a deluded one. I know I don’t stand a chance in hell against anything the State can wield against me.

  6. Until these are addressed and resolved, the existential consequences of these contradictions – American imperialism; white supremacy; unrelenting misogyny; perverse economic inequality; the unceasing marginalization of powerless outsiders, viz., the working class, the poor, persons labeled mentally ill, undocumented immigrants; the denigration of science, particularly the science of climate change; and mass murders and the pervasive fear and violence that engulf us – will continue to divide us and expose our notion of American Exceptionalism and our corresponding self-identity as a free, just and progressive people as mere self-delusions.

    Correct. So how does the problem all come back to…guns? I don’t have one so it’s not a personal thing, but they’ve been around all my life and we didn’t have a mass shooting every two weeks for the great bulk of that time.

    What you may not have considered is the exponential escalation of violence by this system in recent decades being programmed and absorbed into the population’s value systems, and being reflected in these incidents.

    You also seem to ignore the fact that most of these “crazy” shooters have had psychiatric drugs in their systems, which according to Peter Breggin, can enable disturbed people to materialize the darkest contents if their id which would have otherwise been relegated to the dream or fantasy state.

    Lots to consider here though.

    • It is obviously not guns alone, because lots of other countries have lots of guns and don’t have this problem. it’s also obviously not about “mental illness,” because we are assured by the Church of Psychiatry that mental illness prevalence doesn’t vary much from country to country. Why would the USA, the most “treated” population in the world when it comes to “mental illness,” have these ridiculously higher rates of mass murder? (Unless, of course, the “treatment” was a factor, but I’ll let that rest for now.)

      There is clearly something CULTURALLY DIFFERENT about the USA that allows and encourages these events to happen. The argument against the Murphy Bill is almost absurdly easy: “They have mental illness in France, don’t they? Germany, Italy, China, Japan, Australia, right? So why don’t they have mass shootings then?”

      • I’d be interested in breakdown of gun owenership in different countries and how that relates to gun violence. Is there a correlation or not and if so how strong?

        There are obviously cultural issues and psychiatric drugs appear to have a role too but I’d like to see if there is numeracal corelation to gun ownership – or not.

        Also, all this violence is committed mainly by men. As a man that makes me squirm slightly.

        • See and N.B. – third paragraph: Gary Kohl -“personality traits and behaviours”

          –“Agitated behaviour” aka misdiagnosed ( as usual ) AKATHISIA.

          “Cognitive impairment produced by SSRI’s or antidepressant medication prescribed in adolescents – -”
          Which also cause impaired sexual function in up to 50%.

          When will prescribers ever achieve adequate knowledge, awareness, understanding and diagnostic competence re AKATHISIA?

          This a life threatening, common, prescription drug toxicity.

          AKATHISIA + AK 47 = an appalling combination.

          Why no high intensity C.M.E program of awareness of worst of SSRI toxicities for all prescribers of these extremely dangerous medications?

          Diagnose akathisia competently and reliably, and monitor the benefits to tormented individuals and to society.

          Retired Physician.

      • The argument against the Murphy Bill is almost absurdly easy: “They have mental illness in France, don’t they? Germany, Italy, China, Japan, Australia, right? So why don’t they have mass shootings then?”


        Except of course that they don’t really have “mental illness” anywhere.

      • Yes Steve, as John says below, I think the easy availability of guns in the US is so much more than in other nations that it amplifies the chances for young, troubled men without social skills to easily acquire weapons. In other countries, guns are still available, but the bar is a bit higher – one must usually be in with a gang or a minimally accomplished criminal or make a sustained effort to find one on the black market to get a hold of one. Also, due to the lack of supply and barriers to access in those countries, cost may be a bit higher.

        In the US there are just so many easy ways to get a gun without having to know anyone. It is a strong pattern how young, disaffected, white, isolated young men are the ones committing these crimes, and not gang members, skilled criminals, terrorists, etc.
        I too would like to see the studies John H is referring to, which I’m sure exist, but am not going to search for them right now. I bet that they would show some interesting correlations.

      • “Why would the USA, the most “treated” population in the world when it comes to “mental illness”, have these ridiculously higher rates of mass murder? ( Unless, of course, the “treatment” was a factor, but I’ll let that rest for now .”
        USA also most “treated” when it comes to VACCINATIONS (btw forced now in California will that spread ? )Authorities deny actual vaccination poisoning and call it , ASD autism-spectrum disorder, what used to be called Aspergers except authorities continue to cover-up for the sake of the guild the Church of Modern Medicine .Let us not forget The Most Wholely Church of the Side Effect Modern Pharma Toxic Substances Engineered and Distributed For Human” Health”.
        USA also most “treated” when it comes to so called silver amalgam tooth fillings contain 50% mercury that is continuously being emitted into the body and brain. Also thanks to the Church of Unadvanced Dentistry the cover-up continues .
        Germany, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, France, Norway, Canada, and the United Kingdom have either curbed or restricted the use of mercury amalgam dental fillings that contain 50% mercury.
        Imagine the 2 above factors plus “mental health treatment” acting together differently but weirdly in each individual while being covered up and the Murphy BS being pushed as the final solution if you really want to puke .Yes it’s unimaginable but it’s happening .

    • Might I add that I often see Americans using the gun laws in Australia as an example of how to reduce these mass shootings.

      Australia is not a country governed by a rule of law. Public officers (security/mental health) have been given carte blanche to deal with ‘problems’. The image of a sun burnt country, with kangaroos hopping merrily in the sunset is a myth. I think anyone making such comparisons would be better to use the number of mass shooting in Stazi Romania as an example. Yes the data would certainly make it appear to be better, but would you really want to give up the freedoms you enjoy for that?

  7. I think when people are raised to feel powerless and undeserving of love, warmth, nourishment, etc., then they seek to feel empowered any way they can. This would seem like a natural response to me.

    Although some seek to feel power over others (starting with instilling fear, bullying, etc.), regardless of the consequence to others, rather than simply empowering themselves personally, with their own self-awareness, personal creativity, and sound evolution.

    There are many flags to indicate this need to have power over others, way before it escalates to anything either emotionally or physically violent. People with absolutely no regard for others are often appeased by those around them who simply want to avoid being demeaned, stigmatized, and marginalized. (Which, of course, the appeasement of such behaviors already indicate a lack of self-regard and/or fear of consequences, which is a terribly oppressive and double-binding reality).

    When this is challenged, the conflict gets worse and the stakes go up, as far as who has power over whom. That becomes a mine field. This happens a lot in the ‘mental health’ system, power is appeased out of fear. What if it were to not be?

  8. Stricter gun laws have been shown to not work. Probably the psychology/psychiatry professions have a much greater responsibility here than the gun enterprises. The medications do not really work and cause people to feel crazy and sometimes act that way as well. How many of the sensational shootings really took place and how many were hoaxes is a subject worth researching. Better homes, better food, saner schools, good jobs, less emphasis on the oddities of human nature in the media, etc. would help greatly. Keep in mind that pharmaceuticals and corporations like Monsanto with their herbicides and GM’s are big money compared to the gun business. Given the number of persons killed by cars no one ever suggests stricter auto rules. Again money dictates what we go after. Americans are very shy of the truth.

      • There are a number of academic studies–I believe one by a professor at Brown and one from the U of Chicago, as well as numberous articles available on line. You need to just look around and do some research on how gun control has worked in the UK and Austrailia. When you enter Mexico you are alerted to the prohibition of guns and ammunition, and yet Mexico has about 20, 000 murders by gun annually. The other troubling thing is that it is usually one of the first things a tyrannt does — confiscate guns. And finally death by guns has been in decline for about two decades now. You have to ask yourself why it is such a big item in a nation that has killed between 20 and 30 million people since WWII? and whose President has a kill list that he reviews every Tuesday. He really likes the drones which kill about 10 civilians for every so called terrorist.

        • Ok, but there are also studies of advanced nations like Japan, Australia, and Northern Europe, where strict gun control correlates with highly reduced rates of gun violence. Mexico is a poor, poorly governed partially failed state so it’s not surprising that its gun laws don’t work. So I’d say this matter is not settled.
          I actually agree with you that gun control should be such a big deal. As many people are killed in car crashes each year, but that’s not in the news. And 10 times as many people die from smoking related illnesses each year as gun violence. But how often do we hear about that…

          • try this interactive map on gun owenership per head of populations and number of gun releated homocides. It show the USA has very high gun related homocides and low gun ownership countries have low gun releated homocides.

            Also, non violent revolutions, ie those without guns, are more likely to succeed and have better outcomes in terms of democracy and human rights than violent ones. I could link to the book based on an academic study on that and can do if people want – I have read it. So the argument that guns are protection against the state does not hold up to academic research

          • Yeah John, thanks, I think you can see from this map that probably the combination of institutions/relatively good governance and strict gun laws keeps gun violence down in Europe, Australia, Japan. Whereas in South America, Mexico, South Africa, even though there are not so many guns, the prevalence of poor government/policing and drug trafficking probably results in a lot of gun violence per capita/per gun. And in the USA, there are not as many gun deaths as you might think, but still significantly more than Australia/Japan/Europe. The US has relatively good governance and policing (making for less total gun violence than borderline failed states like Mexico and South Africa), but it has poor gun control; so that is probably the factor making it have more gun deaths than Europe/Japan/Australia.

    • “According to the nonprofit Violence Policy Center, there were just 258 “justifiable homicides” involving civilians using guns in 2012, as opposed to 8,342 criminal homicides committed with a firearm. ”

      OK so the criminals will still get guns or try to do harm in other ways so all this really means is that 258 more people would likely be dead.

  9. Assuming very tight gun control in the USA it would probably proceed just a successfully as the prohibition of alcohol and later on of drugs. Do we want to look forward to a thriving black market of guns? Should the US embark on another large social experiment costing a fortune to see if the result is what we would like; or should we leave well enough alone? I think gun control is a red herring like Climate Change. Meanwhile we have the popular herbicide Roundup with glyphosate, GM corn, soy, etc. nuclear power plants which are aging and in bad locations, nuclear waste turning up all over the place as in St. Louis. We have a very questionable medical world which is highly drug oriented. Oh, not to forget we may have an extinction level event in the Pacific due to Daiichi Fukushima about which MSM hardly ever makes a mention. And so on. Gradually one comes to the conclusion that neither the gov nor the corporations really have our best interests at heart or even our second or third best interests!

    • indeed the corporations intetion is to make profit and from the 1980’s onwards the government has increasingly seen it’s job as to facilitate that.

      However those fighting this are generally not armed.

      Gun control is not banning guns just as restrictions on alcohol sales is not banning alcohol.

  10. “Political power grows from the barrel of a gun” Chairman Mao

    The next school shooter?

    “Better to be King for a day, than Schmuck for a lifetime” Rupert Pupkin

    The situation in Australia is not as it seems. The removal of the Whitlam Govt by the CIA and ASIO was witnessed by the man who removed the guns, John Howard. The possibility of Whitlam starting a civil war must have frightened him, greatly. Along comes Martin Bryant and he took the opportunity (with the help of our ’emperor’ Murdoch) to disarm the public.

    • I’ve no doubt oldhead that I would feel very different if it was my boot, and anothers’ neck lol. And my experience of the US was pre 9/11, so have no idea how those events have affected things.

      It has got to a point here though that people are being snatched off the street and drugged unconscious before they even get the opportunity to speak with their next of kin. The laws simply do not matter as there is no avenue for appeal, none. The powers of the Mental Health Act are being used for purposes which are strictly prohibited, and a blind eye is being turned for the sake of dealing with some ‘problems’.

      I do know that the kicking in doors, weapons drawn only started AFTER they took the guns back.

  11. Progress is mostly a Christian idea or ideal. Somewhat muddled. While some things get better, others get worse. Essentially people look outwardly for happiness and salvation. To look in is to encounter darkness inhabited by the bad past and who knows what else. Some demonic version of oneself. Who might I actually be? And all of this has gotten tangled up with consumerism and industrial psychology to the point where people’s minds are inhabited by a multitude of confusing suggestions which each year multiply. Presently we have a global conference in Paris, site of a recent terrorist attack? where the big people are discussing the phantom of climate change. Turkey has unwisely shot down a Russian plane and Russia has brought in what they call the “Monster” which has effectively created a no fly space over Syria. And is now telling the world frankly the role Turkey has played in helping ISIS. Alas. With no doubt a nod from the USA, that is, the USA has allowed Turkey this strangely destructive role without interfering. It is not easy in this malestrom of lies to stay mentally healthy. When the world leaders are probably some of the best instances of psychopathy, sociopathy, bi-polar, and what have you. But we have the three smilers: Obama, Hilary and Pope Francis. All must be well. Agreed? Do you suppose they all had the same smile coach?

  12. two I consider fundamental, the historical unwillingness of Americans to grapple with those contradictions and the “existential consequences”, all of them illustrative of the U.S.’s use of violence with guns

    You are conflating the U.S. government with the U.S. people, the vast majority of whom are nonviolent.

  13. I. Introduction

    The Debate is Over

    Concerns about the impact of television violence on society are almost as old as the medium itself. As early as 1952, the United States House of Representatives was holding hearings to explore the impact of television violence and concluded that the “television broadcast industry was a perpetrator and a deliverer of violence.”

    By age 18, a U.S. youth will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence. – American Psychiatric Association

    This is the source of the violence.

    I can’t prove it but think about it By age 18, a U.S. youth will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence on TV

    If I WANTED to make the population violent I would expose them as children to 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence on TV !!

  14. Gun violence is really a very minor concern for this nation. Radiation which will only keep increasing as other nuclear reactors melt down in the future, as nuclear waste accumulates, etc. GMO products and herbicides like Roundup will eventually have devastating effects on the health of people. It seems obvious to me that if you can keep people focused on minor issues like gun control, gender identity, offensive words and phrases and so forth, then the big issues can slide along without resistance. The media always hypes what is of lesser importance. What about Turkey and its solid support for ISIS? what about the US military pretending to fight ISIS but not really doing anything at all? So I think gun control needs to be shelved and these more important issues addressed. Even on this site. How much longer will doctors give out drugs far more dangerous than the psychedelics?

    • This is mostly true; issues like invasions of foreign countries leading to millions dead, potential long-term outcomes of climate change, long-term depletion of fossil fuels leading to possible collapse of the economy again, even diet/exercise, are barely talked about…. in their place, gun control, offensive language, policemen’s behavior, abortion, etc are talked about as if they were nation-defining issues. Pretty sad.

  15. As Americans we need to develop a more balanced perspective. Each week hundreds die in Iraq and often thousands in a month; and the USA can take most of the blame for these deaths. A vast number of Iraqis have died since Desert Storm. Under Saddam Husein this would not have happened. Since Obama’s famous “Assad Must Go” in 2011 over 200,000 Syrians have died and 12 million have become refugees. Again the USA must bear most of the blame. So just how much concern ought we to take for the occasional school shooting? How much drama is a shooting in Paris worth? Are Iraqis worth significantly less than Parisians or Americans? Middle Easterners, excepting Israelis, are mere statistics, numbers without meaning. And they are also the gateway to big profits for the military industrial complex which seems to dominate along with banks the American way of life. And who now is the current Enemy of Choice? Why Russia of course. After a barrage of distorted news from Ukraine, etc. Russia is the obvious choice. No wonder someone came up with the term Sheeple for the American citizen. The uninformed man and woman of no critical thought capacity. Now of course there is nothing wrong with hoping to find a way to stop school shootings, but we need to keep it in proportion. We may need to toss out the term democracy which seems to be the justification for destroying other nations like Libya. How many deaths are the so called free elections worth? Ones where a dictator our leaders like gets elected? The best way to eliminate shooting is for everyone who is able to get a concealed carry permit so that any time some one starts shooting there will always be someone present with training to stop it. Eliminate all gun free zones that do not have armed guards; no more soft targets. You go into a school with a gun to shoot it up and the teachers and principal stop you immediately. Same at concerts, restaurants and homes. The Wild West was not all that wild.

  16. OK I’m going to try to articulate something I may not quite have my finger on, which is my reaction to this whole thread (and others in the past)…

    I don’t think this is a good place to debate about guns, abortion or even climate change. For example, I’m tired of liberals blaming the existence of guns for every crazy violent act. But neither am I going to get sucked into some histrionic hyper-“macho” paean to the glories of personal weaponry. And I think insistence on agreement on these matters divides us if our primary mission is supposed to be ending psychiatric oppression.

    I think liberals should leave the spirit of the Second Amendment alone. And I wish those with right-wing tendencies would stop using code words like states’ rights, etc. to make their arguments and would spare us the militia rhetoric. Finally I wish everyone would find something more directly relevant to argue about. I realize of course that “hot-button” issues may be sometimes be raised tangentially to illustrate a point and I don’t mean they should be “censored,” or claim that I’m above the fray, but people should learn to avoid being diverted into debating the vicissitudes of matters which will never be resolved here.

    (I acknowledge though that the first “shot” in the present argument was fired in the article itself.)

  17. The latest mass shooting, just yesterday in San Bernardino, seems to have been committed by an employee of the social service agency where the shooting took place. My thoughts and prayers with are everyone concerned. How to bring light to this very dark madness?

    • Of course, I mean “my thoughts and prayers are with..” not ‘with are.’

      Really, I just came back to this to add one thing that this tragic situation makes me think about, a quote I’ve heard attributed to Harriet Tubman (given that we talk so much in here about the underground railroad) which I’m intuitively feeling is relevant—

      “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

  18. here is a video on the an analysis on this problem. It concludes there are cultural issues and that the availability of guns is exceptional in the USA but that tackling this will be very difficult, as the above thread shows.

    It does not identify anti-depressants, however I think this is worth investigating as a recent article by Robert Whittiker shows.