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Mental illness: An alternative cause of mass shootings

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Of course this is about the shooting in Fort Lauderdale. I’ve been to that airport several times, for travel, for a cruise. To me it is one of the most ordinary American locations I can think of. But the sad thing is that all locations of mass shootings are ordinary. The nine men and women killed in Charleston by Dylann Roof were in a place that was personally safe, normal and sacred.

After the Newtown shootings I saw one man interviewed with what would be considered a one off explanation and solution for mass shootings. He started by stating sadly that he would probably be a “voice in the wilderness” so out of the box was his opinion. His message made sense to me but I knew that it wouldn’t catch on. I’ve heard that particular opinion perhaps twice since. And, like that first expert, I feel that it is the answer and that we are taking the wrong path in trying to stop mass shootings.

First I’ll mention gun control since that seems to be the cure that most people believe in. I fully understand the impulse to control the sale of guns. We are a gun crazy society. People are shouting the righteousness of the second amendment when in fact it was created only to support a militia. In fact until the 1930’s the Supreme Court did not uphold the right to bear arms outside of the realm of a well armed militia. In other words the right to bear arms for every citizen in the U.S. was not the law of the land. This is not a criticism of the current right to bear arms. Only a reminder that even our most passionate claims are not pure; the U.S. in a country of turmoil and concession based on the ideas of our founding fathers.

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In my opinion gun control will lead down the wrong road. Certainly a ban on fully automatic weapons, supersized bullet clips, and special deadly ammunition might reduce shootings to some extent. But someone who is inclined to get a gun for illegal purposes will be able to get a gun; there are too many sources.

So what is the answer that this “voice in the wilderness” expert was selling? Consider this: not all mass killers use guns and the profile for mass shooters is invariably a young male, teenaged to late twenties, white and mentally ill. That last part is the key here. The Fort Lauderdale shooter admitted to the FBI that he heard voices. The FBI took his gun and eventually gave it to the local police who, in the way of American bureaucracy followed a diluted strain of the law and returned the gun to the shooter.

Other shooters, such as the Aurora shooter, took a film of himself walking through a deserted area, babbling and ranting; it was seen by a number of people. The way to prevent the odd and infrequent phenomenon of mass shootings is to detain and examine people who show signs of violent schizophrenia. I know what you’re thinking, you of high morals, and you are correct. There is more than enough room for abuse of this process, for corrupt officials to detain people they hate or who cause them trouble. To detain American citizens under false pretenses.

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This give me the same chills up my back as many of you must feel at this “opening the door” to the misuse of power that hangs over our heads at all times. So I have a suggestion: each of these detainees be assigned an advocate, a lawyer to oversee the progress of the investigation and to protect the rights of the detainee.

Expensive: yes. As an alternative, this one is far more disturbing and difficult than passing laws with a few constraints on buying firearms. But ask yourself this question. If you consider the possibility that gun control won’t, can’t stop mass shootings, what is your alternative?

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