Is mental illness really the cause of mass shootings?

Is mental illness really the cause of mass shootings?

A common theme when trying to explain mass violence, but I have my doubts.

Do you blame mental illness for all those homicides, or just for mass murders? How do you decide if anyone that takes someone else’s life is mentally ill, whether it is one life or many lives? Is there a certain number of fatalities that qualifies as the threshold for mental illness to be blamed?

It was disturbing in the aftermath of the Orlando shootings, as it was in the Charleston shootings from last year, to see politicians, after issuing the obligatory condolences, launch into tirades against gun control, in favor of the right to bear arms, immigration, racial issues, and any number of ideological positions.

And of course, the pledge to “do something to prevent this from happening again” from all sides of the political spectrum. But when pressed to say just what they plan to do, it always boils down to spending money to promote this, that, or the other.

And they always say we must become more vigilant. Many times, people associated with a mass shooter will say he or she had become more irritable or seemed to be withdrawing from social settings in the period before the shooting.

So I guess the next time one of our co-workers seems to be pre-occupied with something, we should alert the FBI? Maybe they are planning a terrorist attack, or maybe they are having a hard time paying their bills, or they could be having marital problems, or their child may be struggling in school. Sadly, there is no way to tell the difference. Quite often, they are unwilling to share their plans or problems with you even if you ask. If they are indeed planning an attack, the likelihood of them opening up to you drops off sharply.

I wish I was wrong. I wish we could prevent anyone from getting killed in a violent act. History is riddled with stories of violent acts being committed in the name of country, religion, and just because. It isn’t likely to change.

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