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Mental Illness and Mass Killings
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If only gun bans or background checks could have kept Elliot Rodger from murdering six innocent people.
He passed three background checks for gun purchases despite having seen mental health counselors for years. This in a state where people are banned from having access to a gun if they are institutionalized, even briefly, or make specific threats while in counseling with a psychologist, psychiatrist or licensed therapeutic counselor.
Sadly, supposed adults around the country publicly sought other people and objects to blame for this tragedy.
Predictably, politicians and liberal media pundits came out screaming about guns, somehow overlooking the fact that Elliot killed his first three victims with a knife and planned more carnage by using his car as a weapon.
A reactionary, emotional columnist at the New York Daily News went so far as to blame the NRA for Elliot’s murderous rampage.
An equally reactionary, emotional Ann Hornady at the Washington Post blamed Seth Rogan and Judd Apatow for the killings based on their sophomoric comedic movies.
Rep. Peter King (R) of New York fulminated over the failures of congress to pass a background check law while Elliot passed California’s background checks.
Liberal media all across the nation trumpeted banning guns, which has already been tried in Chicago and Washington D.C., where gun bans resulted in more gun violence.
Some people blame the police who interviewed Elliot at the request of his father because Elliot was able to charm the police. The police had no probable cause to search his apartment.
It also wasn’t their job to look at his videos, according to forensic psychologist Dr. Katherine Ramsland. They did their duty.
Dr. Ramsland is a university professor of forensic psychology who also teaches criminal justice. She holds a master’s in forensic psychology, a master’s in clinical psychology and a master’s in criminal justice. She had written 50 books and 1,000’s of articles.
Since we would all like to prevent tragedies like this from occurring, I asked Dr. Ramsland how it might be done.
She says not all anti-social behavior is potentially deadly. Killers like Rodger and Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook Elementary School) often have a multitude of mental afflictions. And while both have been reported to have Asperger’s syndrome, people who happen to have some level of Asperger’s are not violent. They may get as frustrated as anyone else who having trouble communicating, but it is not an indicator of any violent behavior.
When someone does make specific threats against specific people or targets, especially indicating specific times for the attacks, that is when friends, family or acquaintances should immediately seek professional help for that person before they cause harm.
Someone without the professional training should not try to counsel the person themselves.
Elliot’s parents followed that prescription at least twice.
Dr. Ramsland advice is sound and unsatisfying to those who seek simple solutions such as banning inanimate objects or institutionalizing everyone who exhibits behavior they find troubling.
Among the families suffering the wrenching, senseless loss of their loved ones’ lives are the parents of Elliot who have been wrestling with their son’s mental illness for years. They were the first to reach out to police through a mental health hotline back in April when they discovered his disturbing videos.
Elliot Rodger’s father, Peter, is correct in his tearful statement that more needs to be learned and publicized about mental illnesses.
We can ban cars and guns and knives all we like but the illness seeking its devastating outlet remains, finding other tools to achieve its deadly desire.
Rick Jensen is Delaware’s award-winning conservative talk show host on 1150AM WDEL and 93.7FM HD3. Contact Rick at, or follow him on Twitter @Jensen1150WDEL.