On Monday an evil man shot twelve people to death. Oooh, too harsh? How can I judge him? What gives me the right to call him evil?
I base that appellation on the fact that murder is evil.
I can hear it now – “But he was mentally Ill! He heard voices and had a history of disturbed behavior.”
That’s right. He did have a history of mental health problems. Just like millions of other Americans. Just like some of you reading this blog. Just like your husband, son, daughter, cousin, wife, mother, father, and kid brother. How many of them have engaged in mass murder?
The point here is the media is ready to blame the shooting on serious mental health problems and ignore the fact that perfectly rational people do essentially the same thing from time-to-time. Not all mass murder suspects have mental health problems. In fact, some of the most memorable ones in my lifetime have been judged perfectly sane in most aspects. Sociopaths, but functional and normal to all outward appearances. So what’s the special something that makes them “snap” and start burying bodies under the house, shooting people at work, and throwing bombs into Pizza Huts? I think it’s the presence of evil, not mental health problems.
Millions of Americans struggle with mental health issues every day. It’s a living Hell for them. Strong word, accurate description. They are in torment and pain from the illness. Yet they struggle successfully with controlling their actions. They get up and go to work. They provide comfort for others in volunteer roles. They worship next to you at your church and watch out for your kids at the swimming pool. How do they differ from us? They have an illness.
The mentally ill are not criminals, and should not be rounded up and “listed” in some central data base. I am genuinely disturbed (perhaps I’m mentally ill) over the rush to create a data base of everyone with serious psychiatric problems. It seems that many are willing to strip the mentally ill of their privacy, their constitutional rights, and their individuality in the rush to deal with the occasional evil person who lets loose on society. This is not the solution.
In the past five years 131 people were killed in mass shootings as listed by the Wall Street Journal (which are those which include 2 or more victims and get enough media sensation to make the list, generally public settings with lots of cameras.) There were about 17,000 homicide deaths during each of those years (using the high year as the average, as not all the statistics are available for the last two years) for a total of 85,000 deaths. So, if you double the 131 just to eliminate nit picking, we have 262 deaths from mass shootings out of 85,000 – which makes for .3% of all deaths by homicide. Another view is that we have lost 262 citizens out of 319 million due to mass shootings – .000008% of our population.
What percentage of these is acceptable? None. 0. Nada. All are a waste and a tragedy. But are we really ready to put tracking collars on people with a health problem for .000008% of our population killed? Especially when most of the deaths in that parade (I read about each incident while doing this post) were acts of evil, stupid, angry people and not the mentally ill? It’s even more ridiculous to try and make us all safe if you look at the weapons used in homicides – feet, knives, guns, blunt objects, narcotics, drowning, fire, and explosives. All of them have one thing in common – people. Evil taking hold of people. Because nowhere in that list is there a murder category listed as “mental illness.” No study, no statistical extract, nothing I could find blamed mental illness as a weapon of choice for murder.
People have been killing other people since Cain and Abel. No firearm involved there, just evil. John Wayne Gacy didn’t shoot any of his victims, nor did Richard Speck. Both, however were evil. The list is long and rather tedious of evil people who have killed others over the years. And while some of them were mentally ill, the number of people with a mental illness that haven’t so much as killed a baby bird is larger by a magnitude of orders.
Let’s all calm down and evaluate this rush to make everything in our little lives safe. It won’t be safe. Ever. That’s the nature of life. In the meantime we’re scaring tens of millions of citizens, coworkers, friends, and associates away from getting mental health treatment by virtue of this hysteria. Would you go to the doctor and have your arthritic fingers treated if it would result in you possibly losing your job, your driver’s license, your ability to hunt, your ability to take care of your own children, and your ability to defend yourself? Of course not. So why are we doing that to people with mental illness?
In general, the ones who perpetrate these crimes have a history of odd behavior and criminal activity in their past. They have disclosed to the police, a coworker, a boss, or their doctor that they fully intend to hurt someone and do it soon. I’m not talking about the “I’d like to throw that miserable creep out the window” type statements. I’m talking about the “I’m going to take a shotgun and kill every living soul in that classroom this coming month. I’ve not picked the day, but it’s coming” kind of statements. Those folks, and only those folks, should be evaluated by professionals for their own safety. But the 47 year old housewife with auditory hallucinations is another story. She knows they’re not real and fights them every day. She has a grip. Should we destroy her life and register her like a sex-offender? For what? Potential acts?
There is an issue with mental illness and the stigma of seeking treatment already. Let’s not drive our nation into an orgy of labeling people over a largely treatable disease. Instead, let’s work to identify the causes of the illness and treat it more effectively. Don’t stamp a scarlet letter “M” on those who suffer from mental illness. Stamp an “E” for evil on the acts of murderers instead. It’s the right thing to do.