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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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Abuse and the law: Law Enforcement.

This is a post on a group called “Abuse and the law” on goodreads. We are reading “Torn from the inside out” by Sara Niles, a true account of a woman in a marriage plagued by domestic violence. This post discusses how law enforcement deals with domestic violence situations. I will invite all of you who are concerned with domestic violence to join the group on goodreads.

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 I have been moving slowly through Torn from the Inside Out but have been able to pick up speed and have gotten to the point in the book where I had planned to begin posting. Up to the point the story has been a very poetic rendering of a young girl’s upbringing, which, while it has its dark moments, is a somewhat idyllic tale of a young girl’s life in the rural south. It establishes Sara as a normal, somewhat sheltered, young woman by the time she meets her abuser. While no one is prepared for complete chaos of domestic abuse, the Sara in the book is not a street smart, worldly young woman which makes her ugly introduction to the insanity of a sociopathic abuser all the more disturbing.
Since we are on Goodreads I feel obligated to speak about the book itself. It is well written with a poetic style that is not overly florid. I am always a sucker for a large vocabulary which Sara possesses. The story is paced well and doesn’t bog down in literary flights of fancy or tangents. Through the book I have gotten a good feeling for the flavor of the time, the region and the culture that Sara was immersed in as a child. The book is very evocative.
While this group is about “the law” I feel that it is extremely important to define what the law should be charged with mitigating which is the psychological aberration of domestic violence. I will emphasize the term “psychological aberration” because this defines the need for harsh laws. Domestic abuse is a personality disorder and the result of psychosis, worthy of a listing in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) which is a listing of recognized metal disorder that are addressed by mental health professionals. While a mental defect such as pedophilia is considered a mental disorder and generally considered to be incurable, a propensity for domestic violence is not. While vigilance regarding pedophilia is considered necessary by law enforcement and a number of specific laws and legal remedies are part of our body of laws, domestic violence is viewed as a personal, family issue. It is a moving target in terms of our legislature and the laws pertaining to domestic violence are highly variable, as is the enforcement of those laws.

If domestic violence were viewed as an incurable mental illness, with predictable horrific outcomes, we would be forced to regard it as a the plague it is, much like pedophilia, and our laws would reflect it. That is what this group is about.
The reason that I’ve chosen this book as our first read is because I knew that, as a true story of domestic violence, it would touch on law enforcement and the courts and their perception of abuse. Early on in the evolving cycle of abuse, Sara runs from her abuser, fearing for her life. She chronicles her thoughts are she is running down the streets, barefoot, considering her options. As she considers reporting her abuser to the police she immediately concludes that there would be skepticism on the part of the police that anything serious had actually occurred. She muses that they would ask her what she had done to “tick him off” and if she had made him angry by” burning his dinner”. In other words, while fearing for her life and hoping to preserve it, the young Sara immediately eliminates all of law enforcement as her first and best resort. 
This is significant in that law enforcement really is the only entity in our society that is capable of effectively and permanently protecting someone from a violent offender. A family member or friend who tries to enforce justice is likely to break laws and become criminals themselves. 
What we are discussing is the only legal line of defense that any of us has to preserve our safety and our lives. And the young Sara, understandably, dismisses law enforcement immediately. The inability of the law and its agents to effectively protect domestic violence victims and their children is the reason that an average of four women die each day at the hands of abusers in our country (this statistic from a study distributed by the police department where I live). Essentially the first line of defense victims have is often completely ineffective. And that is how the disaster of domestic violence begins for most women.
My wife, a domestic violence victim herself, recently told me that she had once called the police when her abuser was showing signs of becoming violent. The police asked her, in front of her batterer, if she was “okay”. Of course, with her husband standing right near her, her answer was, “Yes”. Recently, she spoke to a group of police cadets about her experiences and told that same story. They had asked her why she hadn’t called the police more often and that was her answer. Though Sara’s ordeal began in the ‘70s and my wife’s in the ‘80s, thing have not changed much. Police are often unaware how to handle domestic violence situations and the same questions (“Why didn’t you just leave”, “Why didn’t you call the police”) are still being asked. 
I thank Sara for being brave enough to tell her story. I invite others to read her book and contribute to this group. 

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