In the wake of every mass shooting, the media blames guns and demands gun control, without fail. But the second Amendment has been around since 1789 and we only started seeing these mass shootings in the past 20 years, so obviously something has changed. Mass shootings are a product of modern America.
For my part, I think mass shootings are caused by a confluence of factors:
- Fatherless households: I haven’t been able to determine whether or not the two mass shooters this weekend grew up in fatherless households, but all signs point to this being the case. After all, it’s a common trait shared with their predecessors. The Charleston shooter did not have a father in his life. The Sandy Hook shooter’s parents were divorced. The Parkland shooter’s father was absent from his life. The vast majority of modern mass shooters grew up in fatherless homes. According to Warren Farrell, author of “The Boy Crisis,” 82% of modern mass shooters grew up in unstable homes. It is an indisputable and well-documented fact that growing up without a father is horrible for children. This does not mean everyone who grows up without a father is doomed to be a killer or a criminal, of course, but it does make such outcomes far more likely.
- Media incentivization: as sick as it sounds, the way news channels obsessively cover mass shootings and publicize photos of the shooters, this actually compels future shooters to action. Because of media coverage, mass shootings have become almost a sick, twisted tradition in our society. They’re seen as aspirational rituals by other the sick outcasts. It’s impossible for normal people like us to understand why someone would ever watch media coverage of a mass shooting and think to himself, “I want to do the next one,” but that’s what’s happening. For this problem there is no obvious solution. It’s impossible to expect news outlets to simply stop covering mass shootings, but at least they should do everything they can to focus on the victims and the heroes, and give as little attention to the shooter as possible. On this site, I have a policy of refusing to post their pictures or mention their names under any circumstances.
- Declining belief in God and Hell: it’s simply a fact that if people don’t believe in God, and therefore Hell, they are more likely to commit acts of evil. Shooters go on their killing sprees and then usually turn the gun on themselves, and they believe that’s the end of it all. They don’t believe they’re going to wake up on the other side to an eternity of fire and suffering. People who are truly, genuinely afraid of eternal hellfire are far less likely to be bad people.
- Psychiatric drugs: I wrote a long article about it on the old site in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, but the gist of it was that the majority of these modern mass shooters have been on psychiatric drugs–a far greater percentage than the public at large. Now, it’s still up for debate whether the mind-numbing psychiatric drugs helped push the shooter over the edge (by putting the shooter in an altered state) or whether it’s simply because mass shootings are carried out by the mentally ill, and the mentally ill are much more likely to be on psychiatric drugs. But we’ve all seen the commercials for these mind-altering drugs and we’ve all heard the scary side effects that the Big Pharma companies that make the drugs are forced to disclose: according to Vox, there are more than 200 medications produced by Big Pharma that include depression and risk of suicide as side-effects. Also listed on the warning labels of many psychiatric drugs: “homicidal ideation” and aggression. Big Pharma literally admits that their drugs can increase the chance of someone getting violent and/or killing themselves. So I absolutely, 100%, without a doubt believe that these drugs can and do play a role in pushing already at-risk individuals over the edge. Of course they’ll say the side effects are “rare” but then so are these mass shootings. It only takes one person in a nation of 320 million.
Only focusing on guns while ignoring these major contributors to mass shootings is at best foolish and irresponsible, at worst deliberate evil. Because if the wannabe gun controllers are focused on exploiting these shootings only as excuses to disarm the public and increase censorship of their political enemies, then not only are they showing no interest in solving the problem, they’re contributing to it.
If someone claims to want to stop mass shootings but refuses to discuss anything other than gun control, you really do have to question their motives.
Do they want to stop the mass shootings, or do they just want gun control?
It seems as if the media is mainly interested in mass shootings as a way to achieve its end-goal of gun control, and this is truly evil.
But while we can debate until we’re blue in the face exactly what about modern America is causing these young men to carry out horrific atrocities with growing regularity, the bottom line is that we have some very sick people out there–ticking time-bombs that represent a mortal threat to the rest of us, both to our lives and our peace of mind.
We need to lock them away.
I don’t care about “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” We need to bring back the mental asylums. We need to take these crazies off the streets.
The whole point of prison is that there are people out there who cannot be allowed to be free and living among the rest of us.
But past criminality should not be the only reason to lock someone away. Some people haven’t committed any crimes–yet–and yet still shouldn’t be allowed to be free.
There are some people who are mentally unfit for society.
It’s still early, but already stories have come out confirming that the El Paso shooter was described as a “loner” and “troubled.” In other words, his rampage probably did not come as a huge shock to the people that knew him personally.
This is how it usually goes, too. Whenever these shootings happen, everything we learn about the shooter makes it abundantly clear that he should have been locked away. He had no business living among us.
With the Virginia Tech shooter from 2007, there were warning lights flashing for a long time before he carried out his atrocity:
“Born in South Korea, [the future Virginia Tech shooter] was eight years old when he immigrated to the United States with his family. He became a U.S. permanent resident as a South Korean national. In middle school, he was diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder with selective mutism, as well as major depressive disorder. After his diagnosis, he began receiving treatment and continued to receive therapy and special education support until his junior year of high school. During [his] last two years at Virginia Tech, several instances of his abnormal behavior, as well as plays and other writings he submitted containing references to violence, caused concern among teachers and classmates.
Certain members of [the future shooter’s] family who had remained in South Korea had concerns about his behavior during his early childhood. [His] relatives thought that he was selectively mute or mentally ill. According to [his] uncle, [he] “didn’t say much and did not mix with other children.” [The future shooter’s] maternal great-aunt described [him] as “cold” and a cause of family concern from as young as eight years old. According to his great-aunt, who met him twice, [he] was extremely shy and “just would not talk at all.” He was otherwise considered “well-behaved,” readily obeying verbal commands and cues. The great-aunt said she knew something was wrong after the family’s departure for the United States because she heard frequent updates about [the future shooter’s] older sister but little news about [the future shooter himself]. During an ABC News Nightline interview on August 30, 2007, [his] grandfather reported his concerns about his behavior during childhood. According to [the future shooter’s] grandfather, [he] never made eye contact, never called him grandfather, and never moved to embrace him.
During the spring of [the future shooter’s] eighth-grade year in 1999, the Columbine High School massacre made international news and [the future shooter] was transfixed by it. “I remember sitting in Spanish class with him, right next to him, and there being something written on his binder to the effect of, you know, ‘ ‘F’ you all, I hope you all burn in hell,’ which I would assume meant us, the students,” said Ben Baldwin, a classmate of [the future shooter]. [The shooter also wrote in a school assignment about wanting to “repeat Columbine”. The school contacted [his] sister, who reported the incident to their parents. [The future shooter] was sent to a psychiatrist.”
Not only does this make it clear he was always a very fucked up individual, it also underscores my point about media coverage of mass shootings encouraging future mass shootings. The media coverage is like a siren call to other monsters out there, hypnotizing them to mimic what they’re watching on TV. Media coverage has turned mass shootings into opportunities for anonymous losers to make our busy country pay attention to them. Perhaps they feel like carrying out a mass shooting is a way to not feel worthless and insignificant anymore.
The Parkland shooter’s violent tendencies were well-known to both school authorities and police. He had a history of doing bad and disturbing things. His mother knew first-hand he was a violent psychopath. Just last month it was revealed that when he was a student at Stoneman Douglas High School, the future killer was searched for weapons every day when he arrived. He was even banned from bringing a backpack to school because he wrote the word “KILL” in his notebook! It’s well-documented that everyone who knew him knew he could one day do something horrific.
And sure enough, he did.
Nothing was done to prevent it. They knew he was a ticking time-bomb, but authorities didn’t intervene.
What could they have done, though? Put him in jail? Sure, but until he shot up his school he hadn’t done anything to warrant locking him up and throwing away the key.
So there really wasn’t any good solution to the problem. They essentially had no choice but to wait until he did the unthinkable.
Time and time again, we see the same story of the troubled-youth-turned-mass-killer play out.
Bringing back the policy of involuntary commitment to a mental asylum would help to fix that.
Right now, the choice is either jail or freedom, but what about the people who are clearly dangerous and shouldn’t be free but haven’t yet done anything to warrant putting them in jail? It’s a blind spot in our society.
That’s where the mental asylums come in. We throw them into mental institutions.
The insane have no place on our streets.
In order to assuage legitimate fears that the involuntary commitment policies would not be abused, policymakers must come up with ways to make it a legitimate process. For minors, you’d have to get the approval of school officials and local law enforcement, as well as psychiatric evaluators. It would require agreement by a number of professionals and authorities to put somebody away, and certainly the power to commit somebody could not belong to anyone in Washington.
For people who are over 18 and/or out of the school system, you’d have to devise some other way of judging them psychologically unfit for society. This would probably be done through a combination of local law enforcement, employers, family and acquaintances.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: though mass shootings get national news coverage, we must never lose sight of the fact that they are local problems and thus require local solutions. See something, say something.
Again, as we saw above, you can see these shootings coming from a mile away. People who knew the shooters will tell you it was only a matter of time.
But to anyone still asking how we can find an efficient and non-abusable way to bring back the policy of involuntary commitment of the insane, I say, “We will do it the same way societies have done it all throughout history.”
The history of mental asylums goes back centuries. Here’s a brief excerpt from the Wikipedia page describing mental asylums dating back to the 9th century in places like Egypt, Britain and Spain:
“In the Islamic world, the Bimaristans were described by European travellers, who wrote about their wonder at the care and kindness shown to lunatics. In 872, Ahmad ibn Tulun built a hospital in Cairo that provided care to the insane, which included music therapy. . .
In Europe during the medieval era, the small subsection of the population of those considered mad were housed in institutional settings were held in a variety of settings. Porter gives examples of such locales where some of the insane were cared for, such as in monasteries. A few towns had towers where madmen were kept (called Narrentürme in German, or “fools’ towers”). The ancient Parisian hospital Hôtel-Dieu also had a small number of cells set aside for lunatics, whilst the town of Elbing boasted a madhouse, the Tollhaus, attached to the Teutonic Knights’ hospital. Dave Sheppard‘s Development of Mental Health Law and Practice begins in 1285 with a case that linked “the instigation of the devil” with being “frantic and mad”.
In Spain, other such institutions for the insane were established after the Christian Reconquista; facilities included hospitals in Valencia (1407), Zaragoza (1425), Seville (1436), Barcelona (1481) and Toledo (1483). In London, England, the Priory of Saint Mary of Bethlehem, which later became known more notoriously as Bedlam, was founded in 1247. At the start of the 15th century, it housed six insane men. The former lunatic asylum, Het Dolhuys, established in the 16th century in Haarlem, the Netherlands, has been adapted as a museum of psychiatry, with an overview of treatments from the origins of the building up to the 1990s.”
In fact, virtually every society in history until us has had mental asylums. By the end of the 19th century, they were commonplace in America and Europe:
“In the United States, the erection of state asylums began with the first law for the creation of one in New York, passed in 1842. The Utica State Hospital was opened approximately in 1850. The creation of this hospital, as of many others, was largely the work of Dorothea Lynde Dix, whose philanthropic efforts extended over many states, and in Europe as far as Constantinople. Many state hospitals in the United States were built in the 1850s and 1860s on the Kirkbride Plan, an architectural style meant to have curative effect.
By the end of the 19th century, national systems of regulated asylums for the mentally ill had been established in most industrialized countries. At the turn of the century, Britain and France combined had only a few hundred people in asylums, but by the end of the century this number had risen to the hundreds of thousands. The United States housed 150,000 patients in mental hospitals by 1904. Germany housed more than 400 public and private sector asylums. These asylums were critical to the evolution of psychiatry as they provided places of practice throughout the world.”
So how will we do it? The same way we did it for centuries.
Of course, as we know, public opinion turned against the mental institutions in the past 50 years or so. This was a result of bleeding heart liberals denouncing the policy of involuntary commitment as “inhumane” and decrying the admittedly poor treatment of patients inside many mental asylums. They won the argument and we started emptying out and closing down the mental asylums in the 1960s.
The Bezos Post recently reported that the number of Americans in mental institutions has decreased by 94% since its peak in 1955:
“At their highest peak in 1955, state mental hospitals held 558,922 patients. Today, they hold about 35,000 patients, and that number continues to fall.”
But perhaps the single biggest reason behind the deinstitutionalization movement was the advent of psychiatric drugs beginning in the 1950s and 1960s: it was believed–and it is still believed today–that we no longer need mental asylums because these Magic Pills can cure people of their mental illnesses:
“The modern deinstitutionalisation movement was made possible by the discovery of psychiatric drugs in the mid-20th century, which could manage psychotic episodes and reduced the need for patients to be confined and restrained. Another major impetus was a series of socio-political movements that campaigned for patient freedom. Lastly, there were financial imperatives, with many governments also viewing it as a way to save costs.”
But it’s not true that psychiatric drugs have alleviated the need for mental asylums. The whole deinstitutionalization was based on a myth.
Drugs have not cured mental illness.
Nor will they ever.
In fact, the rate of mental illness in modern America is on the rise despite the prevalence of these drugs which are said to cure mental illness. Instead of the mental asylums, our mentally ill simply end up in jail. We have 10x as many mentally ill people in our prisons as we do in our psychiatric hospitals.
And as we went over earlier, the drug companies themselves admit that their drugs can cause increased risk of suicide and even homicidal impulses.
So we closed down the mental asylums because we believed the Magic Pills our beloved Big Pharma companies invented cured mental illness, but not only do these supposed Magic Pills not cure mental illness, they may actually make it worse.
The supposed “solution” to mental health issues ended up contributing to the problem.
Mental asylums aren’t perfect. I’m not arguing that.
But they’re better than what we’re currently doing. We have no place to put people who are insane other than prison.
It’s far more humane to commit someone to a mental asylum than it is to simply let them wander the streets until they commit a crime and then let them rot in prison.
Again, there are no easy or perfect solutions to the problem of mental illness. We’re never going to find a perfect solution. That’s not what I’m offering here.
It’s a hard pill to swallow but there are some–I’d even say many–problems we will never find a perfect solution to. Mental illness is one of them.
But we can at least do better than we’re currently doing.
It’s time to admit we were wrong to close down the mental asylums. They certainly had their flaws but they’re better than the alternative, which is allowing sick individuals to live freely among us while descending deeper and deeper into madness until one day they go over the edge and slaughter a bunch of innocent bystanders–all because we simply don’t have a proper place to put them.
We tried it the bleeding hearts’ way. It hasn’t worked.
Our ancestors had it right: the best possible thing to do with the mentally insane is to institutionalize them so they can’t harm the rest of us. It’s what people did for centuries and it’s what we need to start doing again.