Meaningful Action

I agree with President Obama that “meaningful action” should be taken in the aftermath of the murders in Connecticut to ensure that horrors like that don’t happen again. After considering it as carefully as I could, my tentative conclusion is that the only really meaningful actions must take place in our hearts rather than in the laws.

As Robert Leider points out in the Wall Street Journal, the factors that the mass murders of the last several years have in common are guns and mental illness:

In addition to guns, the common denominator in most of these mass shootings has been mental illness. Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech), Jared Lee Loughner (Tucson, Ariz.), James Eagen Holmes (in the Aurora, Colo. theater), and now Adam Lanza all had significant mental health problems. As the country turns its attention to overhauling its health-care delivery system, we must discuss improving access and delivery of mental health care to those who need it. As part of this conversation, we need to update federal firearm laws as they relate to persons with mental illness—laws that currently are primitive and rooted in stereotypes.

The measures I’ve heard proposed so far would be ineffective in preventing incidents like the ones that have transpired or even in reducing their likelihood. There are already over 200 million guns in the United States. Any reasonably good machine shop can produce a high capacity magazine and banning them would merely produce a lively black market. Just as with alcohol and now drugs, anyone who really wanted them could get their hands on them.

I don’t see how social stigma can be effective in the context of television, movies, and video games that glorify violence. Or with an armed constabulary.

I presently have two firearms in my home. They’re both “long guns” and neither has been fired in living memory. One is a Civil War vintage rifle that probably belonged to my great-great-grandfather and the other is a shotgun my dad received on his 12th birthday. When my wife and I discovered a pair of pistols that had been stuffed into our basement ceiling by a prior owner, we immediately called the police and had them taken away.

87 comments… add one
  • Jimbino

    You forgot the most important common factor in the recent mass killings: none of the victims was armed.

  • steve

    The tree of liberty must be fed with the blood of tyrants, and children. We dont know how to stop this. Guns are a fact in this country and they are not going away. (I have a couple and shoot every now and then.) We have no means of determining who will become violent. Since guns are available and we value them, this is part of the price we pay for that choice. Sure, improve mental health if you want, but the huge majority of shootings in this country are not done by the mentally ill.

    Steve

  • Sam

    You can’t necessarily equate the ease of getting high capacity magazines after a ban with drugs. The big problem with drugs is that there is very little enforcement on the demand side – getting caught with a user’s amount of drugs won’t get you in much trouble. Any effective ban on high capacity magazines would have to systematically remove current magazines in the marketplace as well as impose hefty penalties on both the demand and supply sides (I’ll grant you that at this point proliferation rates makes the cost/benefit of this practically infinite). Gun laws in the U.S. are designed with big enough loopholes to fail.

  • TastyBits

    An armed public will not necessarily lessen crimes. Recently, there video of the old man wildly shooting robbers at the gaming parlor. How he did not hit somebody is amazing. Few people are trained for these incidents, and they are far from perfect.

    The number of police shooting somebody multiple times because they thought there was a weapon is alarming. If the police cannot tell who is a threat and who is not, I am certain the public will be no better.

    I am not advocating for guns to be outlawed, banned, or controlled, but I am not opposed to reasonable measures. I presently have two handguns for personal protection. In the past, some of my travels have taken me to places where it is best to be armed, and lack of a carry permit was not an obstacle.

  • PD Shaw

    The courts will also make gun control laws difficult to optimize since the government will now have the burden to prove the restriction does not impair a fundamental right. Since I think gun issues primarily involve issues of trade-offs and unpredictable risks, it may be difficult to prove anything meaningful.

    I tend to think the mental health issues are stymied foremost by the lack of knowledge or willingness of people to utilize the mental health services available. I don’t know if the facts disclosed in this particular case will support that view. The initial neighborhood observations are quite odd, particularly as to the claim that the killer lacked the ability to feel pain (burns or falls). That’s a fairly serious and unusual claim (which may or not be accurate).

  • TastyBits

    High capacity magazines would not be a hindrance to these types of incidents. Ejecting the magazine and reloading is trivial. In an firefight, it could slow down a gunman, but I doubt it would be a determining factor.

    Mental health treatment in the US is a joke. It is costly, and once branded, many things become difficult or impossible. When the insurance runs out, the patient is suddenly cured. Insurance, security clearances, and sensitive jobs become difficult or impossible to get.

    Guns have always been readily available, but nice middle class children and young adults have not always been shooting up places where other nice middle class people are at. These people are more closely related to terrorists than common criminals, and if causing mass carnage is the goal, they will find a way.

    Violence is never senseless.

  • jan

    I pretty much am in line with your thoughts, Dave. The eruption of violence, IMO, has more of an internal causation, meaning the person’s mental health and or character/values. Anyone with evil intentions can find a weapon — even with their bare hands, if need be.

    For instance, an obituary in a recent newspaper had a lengthy, praiseworthy piece written about a local woman. At the end, in parentheses, it stated her cause of death was through knife wounds inflicted upon her and her husband at the hands of a young nephew. Her husband survived the assault, while she died. Incidents like this occur quietly around the country, through home invasions, issues between family members/friends, gangs, drug use etc. The one in CT, though, has been sensationalized because of the massive loss of life, mainly little ones, in the safe haven of a school located in a idyllic, small town. It was an unlikely tragedy for such an innocent place…

    However, outlawing guns will only insure that outlaws will be the ones carrying the guns. Such a knee-jerk reaction will consequently put victims into more of a helpless position than protecting them from these potential predators.

    Also, one of the smaller known facts about Adam Lanza is that he was an avid video game player. IMO, if there is any cause and effect to be more deeply analyzed, it would be how consumed our culture has become with violence via video games, movies, and other forms of ‘entertainment.’ People act out some of their most perverse forms of behavior in Pretend-Land. How can this not help to desensitize them, when it comes to the aftermath of havoc wrecked those on the receiving end, of such actions played out in real life?. And yet, this kind of detached violence enters the national dialogues less frequently than railing against the weaponry used to carry out malevolent intentions of the user.

    My husband and I own several guns. But, like Dave, they are more relics of the past — one being my father’s — and have not been fired for years. I personally am uncomfortable around all weapons. So, any lack of support for gun control is not from me personally being a gun enthusiast. It’s more from just assessing what really is behind the finger pulling the trigger, which is usually a disturbed individual.

  • jan

    “An armed public will not necessarily lessen crimes.”

    Tastybits,

    That statement conflicts with the research done by John Lott, in showing the relationship of crimes to gun ownership.

  • jan

    Interestingly, Joe Liberman has made astute comments about looking into our culture of violence, including the contributions made by the entertainment industry.

  • steve

    @jan- There is an easier way to test this. The US has more guns than almost anyone else. How does our violent crime rate compare? Not so good. It is just a fact of life that we like our guns. When you use a gun to assault someone, you are more likely to kill them than when you use a knife or club. That is why people use them in the first place.

    That said, our violent crime rates have been dropping. The percentage of people who own guns is dropping, but they have more, and they are dedicated to keeping them. No way we get gun control, and TBH, I think there is a place for them. We can try to do things that might decrease violence, like better mental health or better safety nets and more economic opportunity, but there is no way we stop this kind of shooting. It is just part of the price we pay for the choices we have made.

    Steve

  • I think there are two distinct, serious problems: violent crime and mass murder. The issue in Sandy Hook is mass murder. Until Sandy Hook the gravest mass murders had been in Sweden and Germany, both countries with much more stringent firearms control than we have. Sadly, there is very little that can be done about mass murders without doing grave damage to fundamental rights that I think everyone would be reluctant to do.

    Violent crime is something of a different story. It’s a serious problem and worth considering. There we actually fare better. The countries with the highest rates of intentional homicide are in Africa and Latin America.

    Here in the United States the cities that have the highest firearms homicide rates are New Orleans, Detroit, Las Vegas, Miami, Baltimore, and St. Louis. The obvious factors include poverty and, sadly, culture.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    I would need to read the book and examine his book to be able to address his thesis, but I will address his answer to the interviewer:

    Criminals are deterred by higher penalties. Just as higher arrest and conviction rates deter crime, so does the risk that someone committing a crime will confront someone able to defend him or herself. …

    This is not the case for any criminal I have ever known. Going to jail is a cost of doing business. They would rather not be down, but inside is not scary.

    I would also caution anything based upon interviews with criminals. When you are locked up, there is not much to do. F*cking with people is entertainment. You really need to know how to cut through the bullsh*t.

    Criminals are cunning, but they are stupid. They do not think they are going to get caught, and therefore, harsh sentences will not apply to them. The harsh sentences do keep them off the streets, and that does keep them from committing crimes. In the case where a criminal decided to reform, getting a job is going to be almost impossible.

    Most times the deterrent is not being armed. It is being confident. Criminals are lazy, and they will go after the easiest target. When you stop acting like a victim, your chances of becoming a victim diminish, but this will not be reflected in the statistics.

    Criminals do not think like “nice” people. If they did, they would not be criminals.

  • I might add that we are not a European country. We have never been a European country. We do not act the way people in European countries do. We do not think the way people in European countries think. We do not look the way people in European countries do. For people in Europe or the places in the United States that are most like Europe to expect us to be Europe is unrealistic in the extreme.

    We’re a lot more like a very rich Third World country than we are like Sweden.

  • @TB

    Confidence was one of the street rules in NYC when I was there. Walk like you belong there, that you have a destination, and that you intend to be punctual.

  • jan

    An informative and philosophical commentary about Law and Order in the Fallen World

    Yet the sad fact is that in Connecticut, where the gun laws are some of the most restrictive in the country, it appears the Brady campaign accomplished as much as it could’ve. Newtown had one homicide in the past ten years. The guns used by the madman were purchased legally by his mother and kept safely in her home – as with most guns used in criminal acts, they were stolen. His own attempt to purchase a weapon ran into the legally required waiting period. There are just only so many steps you can take to prevent evil of this nature and still have a free society.

    BTW, Steve, you’re right that the crime rate has been going down. However, it seems mass murders are another thing. And, yes, guns, do tend to kill more people, especially in larger quantities. However, knives, strangulation and even beating a person up, are very effective, in one-on-one encounters. My godson was beaten up the night before Thanksgiving, and almost died. One of my son’s good friend’s, a jazz pianist prodigy, overdosed the night before Thanksgiving too, and died at the age of 22. It was not a good day.

  • jan

    TastyBits,

    I must confess to not having read Lott’s book. However, I have heard the man being interviewed a number of times. What stuck me as relevant is that he went into this research predisposed to thinking that the relationship between guns and deaths were based on quantity — more guns = more deaths. He was surprised when the reverse proved to be true.

  • sam

    It could be quite foolish for an armed citizen to draw his weapon in a shooting incident. If there are police on the scene, or nearly so, – or another armed citizen — having a weapon in your hand could be very dangerous to your health.

    TUCSON — Joe Zamudio was out buying cigarettes Jan. 8 when he heard what sounded like fireworks but he quickly realized were gunshots. He reached into his coat pocket for the 9mm semiautomatic pistol he carried, clicking the safety off.

    He heard yelling around him: “Shooter, shooter, get down!”

    Zamudio saw a young man on the ground and an older man standing above him, waving a gun.

    Zamudio, 24, had his finger on the trigger and seconds to decide. He lifted his finger from the trigger and ran toward the struggling men.

    As he grabbed the older man’s wrist to wrestle the gun away, bystanders yelled that he had the wrong man — it was the man on the ground who they said had attacked them and U.S.

    “I could have very easily done the wrong thing and hurt a lot more people,” said Zamudio, who helped subdue the suspect.

    Armed bystander’s reaction in Ariz. shootings illustrates complexity of gun debate

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    There is a lot of nonsense from both sides of the gun debate, and most of the conventional wisdom is wrong.

    In places where it is prudent to have a gun, people have guns. Not having a gun when you need one is worse than getting arrested for having one when you are not supposed to have it. Carry a gun, or be carried. Outlawing guns makes outlaws of the normally law abiding citizens.

    If you want to deter crime, you need an unconcealed weapon. If the criminal knows that you are armed, they will tend to avoid you. Places with armed guards or employees carrying pistols openly are deterrents. This does not guarantee that the criminals will avoid those businesses, but it will move them down the target list.

    I do not think that it follows that more guns results in more gun deaths or violence. I am not surprised by Lott’s conclusion, but his reasoning is questionable.

  • PD Shaw

    Tastybits, I haven’t yet formed an opinion on whether these murders should be seen as the result of a severe psychotic break or an act of terrorism. Setting out to kill children suggests that the mass media and ultimately “us” were the intended targets, similar to the Beslan school massacre. On the other hand, pain insensitivity suggests a underlying psychosis; its hard to imagine it was not being treated if it existed, particularly given the family’s apparent wealth.

    There is the problem of people being treated with a medical prescription, who don’t continue to take their meds. I think some of the killers listed in the WSJ article were of this type. I’ve asked my therapist-wife why there isn’t mandatory drug administration (we had a local incident of this nature) and she described how expensive that would be based upon the prevalence of such drugs in society and the problems law enforcement would have tracking down those who didn’t show up.

    Medicaid provides mental health services, indefinitely. You are right that insurance is usually capped by a number of visits, but often the cap is removed if a severe diagnosis is made. A lot of people treat the insurance limit as the reasonable limit in all cases. Some become frustrated if they aren’t given a prescription (or an answer to all life’s problems) after a single visit and refuse to return.

  • jan

    In the case of Adam Lanza, he was diagnosed with aspergers syndrome, making these individual’s almost socially ‘incompetent,’ because of their difficulty in relating to people personally or emotionally. I doubt any meds were involved in his case.

    It is also being reported that he didn’t like being ‘touched,’ which, all unto itself, isolates people from others, as far as human contact. The whole gun thing with his mother, was her attempt to find something which could create some form of mother-son bond.

    Oh how ironic life is, that the very thing she tried to get closer to her son, ended up killing her, and so many other innocents.

  • Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer recognized in the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 as a distinct disorder. It’s part of the autism spectrum.

    There is no known propensity of people with autism to planned violence, of which the Sandy Hooks horror was clearly an instance.

    As I mentioned in a previous post, this incident looks most similar to a “pseudocommando mass murder”, a type of murder/suicide. Such incidents are not typically related to a psychotic break. They are a specific kind of revenge fantasy that materializes over a considerable period of time.

  • jan

    TastyBits,

    I view guns, in the hands of responsible citizens, much like I do security systems for homes. They offer a barrier, having an intruder/criminal-type give some forethought as to whether it is worth the risk of doing harm to someone or not.

    Obviously, nothing is failsafe. But, showing a stronger stance is much better than appearing to be vulnerable. Research has even shown that how a person walks down a street, their body language, can be a deterrent to crime — confident vs weak.

  • jan

    Yes, Dave, asperger’s is actually a higher functioning type of autism, whereas people can be employed etc. Their flaw, is an inability to emotionally or socially connect with others. And, even in this syndrome, there are subsets of the disorder, where some people have mild symptoms while others more severe.

  • Yes, Dave, asperger’s is actually a higher functioning type of autism

    No, it’s not. It’s an obsolete diagnosis. No longer to be used.

  • PD Shaw

    jan, I’m skeptical of the asperger’s claim, but it is a diagnosis and if he was diagnosed with it then there would be a qualified professional who made the diagnosis and proposed a course of treatment.

    All I’ve read so far is second-hand information that suggests something other than or more than asperger’s. Unfortunately, one can have more than one setback in life. For example, a person with “avoidant personality disorder” displays a pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, extreme sensitivity to negative evaluation, and avoidance of social interaction:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avoidant_personality_disorder

    Part of my skepticism comes from a subjective feeling that asperger’s has gained some degree of social cache as a mental illness with benefits for gifted children. It might have been offered as explanation without basis (or diagnosis).

  • jan

    News articles have made this claim of Aspergers, as well as his brother Ryan. As far as an expert diagnosis — I have no knowledge of that. I don’t think any syndrome, though, can be said to be the sole cause of such untoward cruelty to young human life, as was displayed in this school shooting. It can only be speculated that some of the social/behavioral idiosyncrasies, commonly noted in people with Aspergers, might have played into a much larger and more complex picture of this young man, along with other concurrent problems, family dynamics and so on.

    As for the DSM saying this is not recognized as a distinct disorder — I consider the DSM as the major diagnostic and statistical source for mental disorders. But, IMO, it is not irrefutable in some of it’s evolving categorizations of mental frailties or disorders.

  • TastyBits

    @PD Shaw

    As @Dave pointed out, I should have said mass murder, but I do think a lot of terrorism is really more about mass murder. The perpetrator gains some gratification from the acts, and to some extent, they are living out the script they have created. They are mentally disturbed, but if the stories about not feeling pain are true, this guy seems really whacked out.

    The first issue with medication is getting the cocktail right, and this takes time to fine tune it. This requires a knowledgeable psychiatrist and willing patient, but most doctors do not have the office time needed for one patient. Treating depression in a bi-polar patient is different from depression, and it can be difficult to catch the mania portion.

    Anybody who has a illness similar to this guy will be assumed to be a potential mass murderer. I remember one of the recent ones was bi-polar, and suddenly, anyone who was bi-polar was a crazed killer. Once diagnosed, a person will be labeled as a mentally ill, and that label will be branded in for life.

    The treatment of mental illness is similar to diabetes in that the patient needs to participate. Banning big gulps is not going to affect diabetes, and banning guns is not going to affect gratuitous murder.

  • PD Shaw

    jan, according to a number of sources Ryan Lanza told ABC news that Adam “is autistic, or has Asperger syndrome and a ‘personality disorder.'” That suggests Ryan isn’t certain and that its possible that he could have suffered a personality disorder such as the one I mentioned.

  • After considering this event, my conclusion is that it also has to do with parents (at least to a significant degree). Parents don’t want to take an objective look at their kids. I admit, it is hard to do. But the basic facts are that people don’t “just snap” and become mass murders. The warning signs are there all along but people close to those who become mass murders are blind to them, probably in many cases because they are close to them.

    It could be quite foolish for an armed citizen to draw his weapon in a shooting incident. If there are police on the scene, or nearly so, – or another armed citizen — having a weapon in your hand could be very dangerous to your health.

    Unfortunately, this also applies to police as well. That guy wrestling with the suspect (Loughner) is lucky it wasn't a cop that arrived on the scene or he would almost surely be dead. And that guy wrestling with Loughner may very well have saved more people from being shot.

    Best advice when a shooting happens, get down, get away, and don't worry about anybody else, if you do your are tremendously greater risk not only from the shooter, but the cops too. Be a good sheep.

  • Dammit, forgot to close that html tag….

  • jan

    TastyBits

    You’re so accurate about the stigma of mental illness, as well as the confusion over what kind of behaviors constitute being labeled an illness, vs someone being simply considered quirky, immature, or exhibiting normal but eccentric behavior. In retrospect, though, when a tragedy happens, people seem to easily pick out definitive, troubling symptoms that should have invited some kind of preventive inquiry. But, hindsight has always been clearer than foresight. And, this is what makes these bizarre, horrific incidents so hard to predict beforehand.

  • jan

    PD Shaw

    I had not heard that entire quote from the brother. Yes, you could be right. I’m sure, before not too long, there will be much more revealed about the shooter’s life and mental health. Already a babysitter has surfaced saying the mother told him, when Adam was 9, to never turn his back on him, even to go to the restroom. That’s a little unnerving….

  • PD Shaw

    Jan, its little observations like the one you noted (don’t turn your back) that made me suspicious. I just noticed another one about how the mother told a friend that her son was burning himself with a lighter the week before this. That’s very self-destructive behavior (not simply indifference to pain that one would naturally come into contact with). It would at least be an independent problem from any spectrum disorder.

    Steve V, I largely agree, which is why I think there is some utility trying to understand what happened, even if it all seems like second-guessing and morbid curiosity. But I will somewhat disagree that people don’t snap. The brain undergoes substantial changes from around 20-24, and its usually then that a psychotic break will occur if it does occur. The ages of the four killers mentioned in the WSJ article: 20, 22, 23 & 24.

  • sam

    “The warning signs are there all along but people close to those who become mass murders are blind to them, probably in many cases because they are close to them”

    This was referenced over at OTB: Thinking the Unthinkable.

    Perhaps we need to seriously revisit institutionalization.

  • sam

    “The ages of the four killers mentioned in the WSJ article: 20, 22, 23 & 24”

    That’s just about the age range of the onset of Schizophrenia. See, Schizophrenia Facts and Statistics

  • From your link sam,

    I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

    I can’t beat that….

    I don’t believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic environment exacerbates Michael’s sensitivity to sensory stimuli and doesn’t deal with the underlying pathology. But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people.

    Fits with what I’ve been reading. When in doubt put them in prison. Whether they are innocent, guilty or have a mental illness. They are all bad, and if they are bad enough or we think they are kill them as well.

  • BTW Dave, thanks for the assist on the html there….

  • jan

    The brain undergoes substantial changes from around 20-24, and its usually then that a psychotic break will occur if it does occur. The ages of the four killers mentioned in the WSJ article: 20, 22, 23 & 24.

    It used to be thought that the brain stopped changing around 18. But, now that has been revised to 25 — especially in males. In fact, behavioral scientists are now bracketing the ages of 18-25 as being especially active — particularly the rewards part of the brain and the pre-front cortex which has a lot to do with impulse control. This seems to be the time when risk-taking and peer pressure are prominent, and may have some correlation to that WSJ article you referrenced, PD.

    Burning or ‘cutting’ oneself is a behavior that is hidden, but is more common than thought. Sometimes I think it is done to have physical pain transcend some emotional pain that is unbearable. Other times, it’s done I think to just make the person ‘feel’ something, in the midst of their awareness of not being able to feel anything.

  • jan

    Since we have been discussing behavior, as it is attributable to the CT story, another kind of behavior might be worth flagging too, that of the media.

    And when it comes time for moralizing, the media predictably assumes that the availability of guns is the problem, without considering how journalists themselves might be contributing to the coarsening of our already-violent society.

    The entertainment-media complex promotes and glamorizes violence — for profit — in film and on TV. Meanwhile, the news media ensures that killers get the attention and fame they so desperately crave.

    To be sure, a transparent society demands reporting newsworthy incidents — and this definitely qualifies. But it should be done responsibly. And that is not what we have witnessed. We have instead a feeding frenzy that is all about beating the competition — not disseminating information.

  • PD Shaw

    sam, I’ve had some suspicions about the Liza Long post, but I chalked it up to maybe they do things differently wherever she’s from. A fair conclusion is that the post is not entirely factual and the author has a flair for the dramatic:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2012/12/17/i_am_adam_lanza_s_mother_liza_lang_essay_libels_her_son.html

    I also don’t think its abusive to suggest that sometimes parents need therapy when they have a difficult kid.

  • When I was studying journalism (1987-88), we were required to read a book on Terrorism and Baader-Meinhof gang.

    News media at the time consciously decided to downplay their stories so as to avoid “aggrandizement” of the terrorists. Part of terrorism is the message.

  • sam

    “sam, I’ve had some suspicions about the Liza Long post”

    Well, perhaps. But if you go to the original site of the story, I am Adam Lanza’s Mother and read the comments, you will see that the story, embellished or no, is echoed by many of the commenters.

  • I’m a Southern agrarianist. I’m rooted to biology and the land. I’d only pull a gun on the boys in Houston if my presence didn’t make do.

    But somewhere down the line you have to learn about effectiveness, and being effective is also tied to being obedient to some morality. Pick one.

    This is an over-satiated, immoral society. Always has been, always will be. And the innocent suffer.

    There’s nothing new under the sun.

  • This one is just larger than most of them have been. There are 300,000,ooo of us.

  • So sitting around trying to rationalize that boy’s behavior is beyond stupid. He should be ostracized and exiled.

    He acted beyond any bounds that any rational people know.

  • What he did was evil, by any society’s definition. What you do with evil, I haven’t figured out yet. But I might.

  • Shame is a decent weapon, to start with.

  • steve

    Steve V- There are probably a million or more people who fit the profile. We have long known that we cannot predict which one will become violent. There is some evidence that people do suddenly snap. Many of these people are chronically depressed or disturbed, but need an acute event to tip them over.

    I dont know about the Liza Long story but one of my fellow docs has a child with attachment disorder who is actually afraid of her kid. Multiple lengthy institutional stays. He has come home when they thought he was better, but it has never lasted. Her storied sound similar to those of Ms Long.

    Steve

  • But that’s enough from me tonight.

    I truly am trying to get better, Steve V.

  • J’ai la belle dame sans souci.

  • PD Shaw

    Steve V, the Salon story left me weepy-eyed. What can I say? Or do?

    The studies so far have not shown a predisposition to physical violence among those diagnosed with a spectrum disorder, which doesn’t mean violent behavior is impossible; its perhaps less likely. Possibly the diagnosis could obscure additional diagnoses.

  • One last comment. My mother might have come off the blackland, but she knew how to wield authority.

    She taught me from day one. Maybe even in her womb.

    Where did we get lost?

  • Scare the buggers, that’s how it’s done. And reward them when they do well.

  • Parents have become so insipid.

  • It’s Roman. The Laertes.

  • They’re your precious sire, but they’re just little animals until they’re acclimated.

  • Snot machines, as Steve V might say.

  • Hitler couldn’t light a candle to Mama.

  • jan

    I read the Salon story as well, and came away with so much empathy for that mother’s plight. To love and raise a child so emotionally handicapped with uncontrolable moods and actions would be unbearable. It’s like trying to protect and help a living time bomb. Quite frankly I hadn’t tied autism or aspergers with that kind of raging bull behavior.

  • It’s the old Mithras myth. Once you figure out how to confront the bull, and take it by it’s horns, you’re home free.

  • I think, all in all, is that their women are missing.

    Co-option sucks.

  • We have been co-opted into the myth. Hell, if I will.

  • Damn, ya’ll, I read Betty Friedan when I was 12.

  • F**ck off, SteveV.

  • Somebody needs to change things around here.

  • And I don’t play chciken.

  • Or chicken, whatever it may be at his time.

  • You all get up and take responsibility for the children you dumped.

    I did.

  • Some are not recoverable.

  • Make us some men.

  • And you wonder why I’ve lost my mind?

  • Intransigent sons a bitches. Where do you stay?

  • So far, I’ve dealt with Exxon and Sunoco. You up for that?

  • Mr. Dave , we call this “blazing saddles.”

  • DO NOT MAKE ME ANGRY.

    Ring a bell?

  • jan and PD,

    I agree, I don’t think autism/aspergers necessarily leads to violence. But it does go to my point about evaluating one’s child/children and apparently the shocking lack of help available to these parents when there really is a serious issue regarding a child’s capacity for violence.

    The real issue will likely be lost in chest beating and nonsense over guns and Starcraft.

  • There is some evidence that people do suddenly snap. Many of these people are chronically depressed or disturbed, but need an acute event to tip them over.

    Really, they do “just snap”, but prior to that were chronically depressed or disturbed? Nope, nothing there at all.

    By “just snap” I’m talking about a person who is honestly happy, well adjusted and making plans as if life is going to be good then they turn on dime and go into a murderous rampage. Doesn’t happen. You even admit it yourself, they are “chronically depressed or disturbed”. Granted not everyone who is “chronically depressed or disturbed” is going to fly into a murderous rage, but one way we could try to take policy into a better direction that shitting up the airwaves with nonsense about guns, video games, and violent movies is to look at mental illness and how we deal with it in this country.

  • Ah, found the book. Violence as Communication: Insurgent Terrorism and the Western News Media, Alex P. Schmid and Janny de Graaf, SAGE Publications, 1982.

    Back blurb:

    “They dissect the value system of media news, in which Jacqueline Onassis outsells Biafra, and in which anything new, disruptive, violent, glamorous, or merely extraordinary, is given space….

    …Schmid and de Graaf are able to show not only how terrorists use media, but how the media use terrorists, and how authorities use media.”

  • Schmid wrote the following, too:

    Forum On Crime And Society: Special Issues On Terrorism December 2004 (International Review Of Criminal Policy)

    I haven’t read it. It’s available for free download.

  • PD Shaw

    Pain insensitivity might be a clue to an underlying susceptibility to schizophrenia:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11278144

    Steve V, you probably don’t want to hear it, but in situations like that in the Salon article, the police department is often the mental health care provider. We had an incident several years ago involving a man with schizophrenia who lived with his parents and was largely able to live a somewhat normal life as long as he took his medicine. Sometimes he didn’t like to take it, made him feel not quite right, and then he could go into violent rages. As the son got older and bigger and the parents grew smaller and more aged, they were losing the ability to keep him on his meds and control him when he failed. They would call the police for their own safety and to use incarceration to get him on his meds. This worked until one time the police apparently used a hold that was inappropriate for his condition and he died.

    The positive that came out of the experience was that a national mental health advocate came to town, talked to city officials and the newspapers. He didn’t cast judgment, but pointed out how frequently police deal with mental health issues and convinced the city not to simply have a few token officers trained in the mental health issues their job would increasingly entail, but have them all trained. They are the orderlies of a free society, at least one free from Nurse Ratchet. I think institutionalization should be the last choice, but it would be nice to figure out how to make such people take their meds.

  • I think it’s all related to a lack of discipline, self- or otherwise.

    My mother never whipped me but a couple of times, when I’d done things that put myself in danger. But I knew damn well not to cross her. Her looks alone would give you pause.

  • Real schizophrenia and such are something else. Medical conditions.

  • PD Shaw

    Pain insensitivity is a pretty extreme condition; the study I linked to suggests it may be predictive of future onset — more study needed.

    I suppose one approach to “mental health screenings” that people seem to mention a lot is to require everybody in America to get their DNA examined and we could start to find ways to focus resources on people susceptible to stuff. It could facilitate a lot of productive preemptive actions. It could also be one of the greatest violations of civil liberties that’s ever been imagined. (We could decide whether Steve Verdon can play games with tanks or if he can only play Ms. Pac Man.)

  • Or perhaps an extreme form of ODD.

  • Steve V, you probably don’t want to hear it, but in situations like that in the Salon article, the police department is often the mental health care provider.

    I know, and all too frequently the suspect ends up dead.

  • Balko’s been documenting that stuff for years.

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