Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reflections Two Weeks After the Isla Vista Rampage

I feel for the Isla Vista victims and their families. To lose your children to a crazed lunatic is incomprehensible. The renewed cries for gun control ring out. It’s not guns! States and countries (England and Norway) have strong gun control measures, but still experience mass shootings. States with loose gun laws experience the tragedies. It’s mental illness! The problem is that even psychotherapists cannot usually determine which patients in fact pose a deadly risk to others. Once again we witnessed a nut job seeking his 15 minutes of infamy. It could be Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris at Columbine, Jarad Loughner trying to kill a Congresswoman, or James Eagan Holmes shooting up a theatre in Aurora, Colorado. We have, as a society, long since past the days when we would lock up someone who might pose a risk, and then throw the key away. We started in the 1960’s to deinstitutionalize our mental institutions. We lack both the capacity and will to reopen them. It is not guns per se. 16 year old Alex Hribal on April 9 this year in but a few minutes wounded twenty students and one security guard by wielding two knifes at the Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. China has a recent history of mass murders by knife, often with school children as the victims. Elliott Rodger pulled the trifecta of guns, knifes, and cars, possibly also drugs and toxins at Isla Vista. While at first glance his rant, and initial approach on the Alpha Phi Sorority House indicated an anti-woman animus, his first three victims were men, all of whom he knifed to death. He then shot to death two women and a man and wounded 13, and then proceeded to use his car to mow down four others, hurling one 100 feet Rodger’s car paralleled a tragic incident in Isla Vista 12 years earlier when a UCSB freshman, David Attias, went off his meds and driving his car, plowed down pedestrians on a popular Isla Vista street, killing four and injuring one. A jury held he was criminally insane. California released Attias from his psychiatric confinement two years ago. The concern of schools until recently was students committing suicide. Now it is murder-suicides or mass murders. Schools cannot prevent these senseless acts by disenrolling students on psychotropics or who are otherwise seeking counseling. Statistics tell us these characteristics affect a large percent of our college students, especially at the nation’s most elite, pressure-filled colleges. Indeed, Elliott Rodger was not even a student at UCSB. Nor did his rampage occur on a campus. The victims were UCSB students, but he was enrolled at, but did not attend, Santa Barbara Community College. Steve Kazmierczak graduated from Northern Illinois University and then enrolled in graduate school at the University of Illinois. He returned 1½ years after graduating, entered a large lecture hall at NIU, and opened fire, killing 5 and wounding 17. No one foresaw this tragic shooting. One means by which several of these attacks were prevented was though authorities, often based on a warning by other students, checking social media. Many, but nor all, of these psychopaths tell a few classmates and post their plans on social media. Santa Barbara Deputy Sheriffs though visited Rodgers, and found nothing amiss. They did not though view the videos in making the assessment although they knew of them. Nor did they check to say if he was in possession of firearms. They missed their chance. Many of these lunatics seek attention, their 15 minutes of infamy by slaughtering others. Some, such as Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School, focus on killing children. Some have a hit list. Jarad Loughner hated Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and tried to kill her at an outdoor rally. He failed, but fatally shot a United States federal judge, a nine year old girl, and 4 others. Others act out of religious fervor, such as Major Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood. A few, such as Rodger and the Unabomber prepare rambling manifestos. Some are loners, perhaps staying in their room playing video games. Some claim to be bullied. Others can’t handle rejection. Some of the perpetrators are on drugs, others may be on the wrong prescribed medications (psychotherapy is not a science), some should be on meds, others have dropped off their meds, many we just don’t know. The common denominator in most mass school killings is that the attacker is a young male.

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