Guns; Mass Shootings; And Mental Health

Mass shooting.   The first recorded as such in the US was in 1949 when in Camden, New Jersey a 29 year old Howard Unruh walked calmly through his neighborhood and shot and killed 13, wounding another 3. He was diagnosed as criminally insane. He used a German Luger that he obtained as a WWII veteran.  

In 1968 Charles Whitman, a Marine trained sharpshooter struggling with violent tendencies shot his mother, and his wife among 12 others, and injured an additional 31 people using an arsenal of weapons including semi-automatics, a Luger, and a Magnum. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

In 1982 George Banks shot and killed 13 people including 5 of his own children and their mothers. His lawyer plead insanity stating that he was a victim of racism because of his own mixed racial identity.

In 1984, James Huberty announced to his wife that he thought he might have mental problems. He had a history of domestic violence. Three days later he shot 41 people in McDonalds, 22 died.

Since those shootings nearly 300 people have died in 19 separate events as a result of deadly mass gun violence perpetrated by a lone gunman who had mental illness or by terrorists.  The weapons ranged from semi-automatic rifles, to handguns, to the use of multiple guns as in an ‘arsenal’.

THIRTEEN Presidents have served in office during this time frame.   Eleven of these 22 shootings, 50%, occurred during Obama’s reign.   253 people died during Obama’s reign as a result of mass shootings and he did nothing to change or quell these atrocities.   But somehow this is the fault of Trump and the NRA…

While there remain the naysayers who believe that mental health is not a causal factor, the statistics simply do not support this defense.   In fact, the statistics overwhelmingly do provide this fact or Truism as a core commonality.   However, while creating a mental health database for the purchase of guns may hinder or slow the ability to purchase, black markets will always abound, and as Sweden has newly discovered, perpetrators will simply find a new weapon of choice – hand grenades and bombs, which are apparently quite plentiful.

Mental health in the US is an abysmal statistic. It is believed that 20% of the US population has some degree of mental health issue with 50% suffering co-occurring substance abuse. 11.2% of youth suffer from severe depression.   And the over-whelming majority “Choose” to not seek help.   Not because it isn’t available, but because they don’t want to.

Perhaps a better query would be to ask why the US is host to so many with mental health issues?

In 2004, “the most common primary diagnostic groups were depression (27.8%), schizophrenia (19.5%), bipolar disorder (19.4%), alcohol use disorder (11.6%), and drug use disorder (11.1%), with other psychiatric disorders accounting for the remain- ing 10.5% of hospitalizations.”    Prior to the infamous Obamacare, 53% of the total medical cost was assumed by Medicare and Medicaid, the remainder was covered by public health insurance – according to Premier Perspective Community Database. This would mean that Obamacare has had no relative benefit in reducing uninsured from seeking psychiatric help.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, anxiety was the most common disorder. Miltown was the first mass produced drug distributed to inhibit anxiety and was prescribed as a tranquilizer writing a phenomenal 500 million prescriptions.   With the advent of Valium, 20% of all women and 8% of all men reported taking this new and improved tranquilizer in the 1970’s and the term anxiety was replaced with ‘depression’.

Between 1987 and 1997, the psychiatric community increased their diagnosis of depression by 300%.   A boon to the pharmaceutical industry!

Today, most treatment for mental health disorders is- a prescription.   A person may request treatment without the use of drugs, but this is quite uncommon and most psychiatrists are rather pushy in demanding drug administration.  The causes are left unfettered, and the symptoms are masked by drugs.

In 2015, there were 130 people killed in mass shootings in France by semi-automatic weapons despite a nearly complete ban on such guns.   In 2016, Ali Sonboly killed 21 people in Munich at a McDonalds. He was under psychiatric care for depression. He was said to have been severely bullied at school.  Germany has very strict gun laws.

And while there is a meme circulating that demands more psychiatrists in schools, more teachers, more counselors, more nurses, more tolerance, more more, it is so incredibly unrealistic and serves no real purpose in providing a true solution.   The core commonality of most mass shootings is mental health (outside of terrorism) whether in the US or abroad.   Among youth, school bullying is by far the most prevalent cause.  Medicating society has been the solution according to Big Pharma.  While Pharma has prospered on this notion quite lucratively, society has suffered.

The last gun law passed by the Federal government expired in 2004.   Since then, two sitting Presidents have done absolutely nothing.   Trump has stated that he will be researching ways to better monitor background checks for mental illness, but it is a difficult path with many barriers, the most obvious of which is – privacy and HIPPA. Civil Rights lawsuits would hugely impact the ability of background checks to include medical records.   And while Israel has been cited as a model, a behavioral assessment is required in order for a person to own a gun.

Still the media cites guns and Trump as the culprit while Obama gets a pass, HIPPA is ignored, and the estimate that only 15% of firearms used in an illegal act were legally obtained, is not addressed.   

In view of the ‘death threats’ promulgated by multiple Hollywood entertainers, their mental health would most certainly qualify them for prohibition… community service, and fines.  Right?

5 thoughts on “Guns; Mass Shootings; And Mental Health

  1. Your mental health statistics in the USA are my biggest argument against gun ownership, especially military-grade weapons. The human mind is simply too fragile to be in control of such lethal power.


    • Unfortunately, it would be a tight rope walk to try and regulate mental health – where do you draw the line – and making available HIPPA privacy information could set off massive lawsuits and backfire tremendously. People would stop searching for help altogether… for fear of Big Brother implications.


  2. it gets even more complicated… mental health facilities charge upwards of $1000 per day. Patients records go into the ‘system’. And the facilities push hard for drugs – very hard – which aggravates the entire situation. Had a good friend in for the three day lock down and he made a friend while there – a girl – she had been there a month – she said “I wasn’t crazy when I came in, but I am now”… It’s complicated.


  3. Thanks for pulling together all those factoids into one cohesive column. I know how difficult that is! The Columbine shooters were both on psychotropic drugs as well as others that followed. I’d written about it at the time and one of the conservative radio talkers pulled that fact up yesterday, which makes me VERY happy. Children and young adults who are ON psychotropic drugs are subject to the side-effects of suicidal ideation as well as violent urges. The saddest part is they aren’t aware of being “under the influence” and it can come on fairly quickly. Few will share these secrets with professionals. You can NOT force anyone into corrective mental health care beyond the two or three day involuntary hold, but they have to already be “a danger to themselves or others.”

    With your talent, maybe you’d like to pull together the consummate list of “school shooters” known to be taking psychotropic medications.


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