Reading Between the (Head)Lines

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Another Mass Murder

Rather than scream for gun control, let's look at the real common denominator in these recent mass murders. Read More

Even the photo of this young

Even the photo of this young man makes him look like something is off, although I know rationally that you can rarely tell anything by a person's face.

Like all the other school shooters, video games was a central pasttime. No, the video game isn't the culprit any more than guns are, but any parent ought to have better sense than to let their kids of any age play the graphically violent ones -- and yet it seems to me that most of them just gave up and let them do it. Parents need to do their jobs and start parenting and controlling what their (even older) kids watch, because of all the media out there, violent video games seems to contribute to the most problems, and not without reason. It's a repetitive exercise not unlike ones used in military and police training to build an automatic response and make people not flinch when faced with gore and trauma. They can remove you from the reality -- and we already know that young people's brains are not fully formed to be able to predict the consequence of their actions until they're around 25, so why are we letting them play with something some of them will inevitably want to try out in the real world?

Guns are another can of worms. I don't approve of parents training their children to fire weapons at a young age like so many fathers do, for any reason. If they have a gun in the house, they need to teach them they'll lose every privilege they have if they're ever caught even touching the family gun. I speak from the perspective of a woman who as a young girl was held at riflepoint by my 10-yr-old male cousin, while I was hiding under the bed with his sister trying to keep from getting my head blown off. His dad had taught him to hunt at an early age. WTF?

Dr. Archer is right. A psychotic person is going to find some way to act out if they aren't treated. Without video games and practice with the weapons, which their parents allowed, they wouldn't be good enough with a weapon to do much harm. Any policeman can tell you it's not easy to hit the target.

Bottom line is we need to lift civil liberty restrictions which can be used to prevent forcing psychiatric intervention on a troubled child and their family once reported by the school, by CPS, or whoever. The polygamous compound a few years ago and how helpless we were to stop the incest and abuse is the perfect example.

In the US, we only react to sensationalism and after the fact, but then we never fix anything to prevent it. The only way to prevent something like this is to intervene when this child first began having problems, whether it be depression or cutting or bullying or horrible grades or lack of ability to concentrate in class, to pull not only the child but the entire family into mandatory family therapy and find out what is driving the problem and start working on it then. We need to empower the system to be able to intervene with these children when their parents will not, because many times the parent is just an adult messed up version of the child and incapable of making good decisions. When a kid is really messed up, there is always hope, but you can't treat him and him alone. The whole family must be assessed.

It's a sad fact that you cannot trust the judgment of every mother out there to take off her blinders and see that there is something really wrong with her child. I think we all know that, don't we? Mothers can never see their children's flaws, can never believe they have a mean bone in their body, never think it's THEIR son or daughter who is the bully? So let's stop pretending that parenting is so sacrosanct that we can't intervene until someone has already gotten hurt.

We need trained counselors in every school to spot and report these problems and we need the law to allow us to address the issues early, rather than waiting for tragedy and then pointing fingers in hindsight.

There is so much evil in this

There is so much evil in this world and it is free to act. It is at such tragic cases that we realise how easy it is, for a life to be destroyed, for someone's dream to be demolished, for a family to wake up, look round and see, one of their beloved was taken, violently, by evil. This is not a society of angels... and the devil is having a party. There are no words to describe the sadness. Dear Dr. Archer, I hope you had already landed when you heard the news. It would have felt so awful to learn this while in the air...

Guns are a BIG problem!

Guns are the most efficient way to kill the highest number of people in the shortest time...admit it!

It annoys the heck out of me when people say...if not a gun they might use knives or even vehicles to kill people. Which would you sooner try to protect yourself from a gun or knife. It's damn hard to out run a bullet. If you are being attacked by a madman with a knife you might be able to defend yourself with a chair, a stick or a rock. Good luck doing that if he has an assult rifle and two hand guns.

Guns kill and a madman with a gun can kill hundreds before anyone can stop them.

If you don't think guns are a problem compare the U.S. to countries with tight gun controls? Japan has almost no gun deaths.

I will agree that getting help to people who are mentally ill before they do anything would be most helpful. And restricting their access to guns is essential. But lets not try to excuse this insanity of easy access to guns (especially assult weapons)because it is a BIG problem!


Guru, you hit the nail on the head...that was my first thought while reading this. Yes, of course mental illness should be recognized & addressed. But that everyone has easy access to assault guns is a form of insanity in itself. Let a lone knife wielding psychopath loose in a crowded movie theater, shopping mall or elementary school & see how long it takes for the person to be disarmed or escaped from & the ultimate death toll. No comparison. Here in Michigan a law was just passed making it legal to carry a concealed weapon in churches, schools, etc. Of course EVERY person who exercises that right will have the necessary license & NO evidence of any mental illness, right?!? Somehow I feel NO safer. Wake up, people!

Really Guru?

Every hear of the Oklahoma City BOMBING? Why they don't have as much murder and mayhem in other countries such as Japan probably has more to do with culture than access to guns. Evidenced by Obama`s re-election despite the horrific economy the average IQ in this country keeps heading down as the level of entitlement heads up.

Japan doesn't have the 2nd

Japan doesn't have the 2nd Amendment. Why not focus on Hollywood and the violent movies and the violent video games...

Guru, you are missing the point . . .

It is easy to talk about how you would have a chance to defend yourself or others against an assailant wielding something other than a gun, but the facts are, 1) you wouldn't, 2) that argument misses the point Dr. Archer was making, and 3) the framers of the constitution, whom I will wager have a good bit more wisdom than those of us posting on this page (myself included) wrote the Second Amendment for some very important and very relevant reasons.

1) A skilled attacker with any number of simple weapons, whether bladed or blunt, can easily incapacitate and kill those not similarly trained with such weapons. For example, knife attackers pose an amazing danger to people that most often encounter them, i.e. our law enforcement officers. This is the reason knife wielding attackers often end up being shot. It can incredibly dangerous to be within 20 feet of an attacker armed with a knife; officers are often forced to disarm the attacker with lethal force.

2) Looking at the history of mass killings it is plain to see that even taking a particular weapon out of the equation, these individuals do not seek to attack those that are armed and can defend themselves. Rather, they purposefully seek and find victims that have little or no chance of defending themselves. This was the case in the Aurora Co Theater Shooting, in the Dunblane Scotland shooting, the 2011 attacks in Norway, in the attacks Dr. Archer mentions in China, in the tragedy in Newtown, and in virtually all others reported.

The point is, mass murderers will always seek out victims with little or no chance of defending themselves; like the killer in Newtown did. Positing that removing guns from the reach of all criminals - if this was even possible - would solve the issue is naive and dangerously misdirects the energy that should be applied towards creating real solutions. Were it even possible, limiting access to a particular class of weapon will only cause these killers to choose a different weapon. There are so many ways a determined mass murder can kill - poisons, fire, explosives, firearms, bladed weapons, etc. Think about the hazardous substances that area part of our daily lives (liquid and gaseous fuels, ammonia refrigerant, pool chlorine, ammonium nitrate fertilizer, etc, etc) even absent firearms, it is easy for killer to use common materials to wreak havoc on society.

3) The second amendment was put in place by the founders because they recognized that for free people to remain free, the people had to be able to defend themselves from threats both foreign and domestic. The second amendment preserves the people's right to self defense; whether that be people defending themselves against violent predators (including mass murderers) people defending their country and borders against foreign forces, or those defending themselves against a government run amok with tyranny. The second amendment was put in place to be the "teeth" in the constitution that ensures the rest of the amendments could not be stripped from our grasp without a fight. For all the talk of the "powerful gun lobby" (i.e. the NRA) the fact is the NRA's is derived from its members, ordinary voting citizens who understand the importance of protecting the nation from the depredations of politicians intent on passing "feel good" legislation that thrusts their social agenda on the nation by abrogating the rights enumerated in the constitution.

The other poster mention assault guns, this is inaccurate, and is a pet peeve of mine. The term "assault weapon" has been hijacked by various anti-gun groups and politicians, helped along by a sensationalism driven media that refuses to do its job. An assault gun is a weapon with full automatic fire or burst-fire capability. Anything with full-auto or burst capability has been illegal for ownership by ordinary (law abiding) civilians since the National Firearms act of 1934 - period.

Lets not kid ourselves that simply making something illegal will stop criminals from breaking laws, it doesn't. The common thread that connects mass murderers is their complete lack of compliance with laws; all of them violated multiple laws during their crimes. Disarming law abiding citizens, which is what proscriptive gun laws accomplish, does nothing to make society safer, it only emboldens criminals to attack the defenseless law abiding people around them.

I have friends with concealed carry permits and I know the seriousness and level of care with which they approach the obligation of carrying a firearm; indeed, when was the last time you read about a person with a license to carry committing a gun crime. I know none of them would want to be thrust into a situation where they have to draw their weapon, but should that be the case, they will respond. I personally feel far safer knowing that, God forbid but should something go awry and law enforcement isn't present, there are law abiding citizens in the general populace that can and will intervene, and I can't help but wonder what sort of difference it would have made had there been concealed carry holders present during any of these mass murders.


You forget that any of those crazy people with knifes who injured 20 something people, all of those 20 something people would be dead if they had a gun. To say gun control is not the issue is naive and arrogant.

And dude who wrote a long thing about trained knife attackers or whatever...look at the where near the amount of people were killed when a knifeman tries to commit mass murder.

Are you really a Dr?

To say that a gun control is not a factor is irresponsible. The fact is it is illegal for this boy to have a handgun in the US bc he was only 20, if someone would have properly locked up their weapons it might not have happened. Common denominator is it is a societal problem and we as a society need to prevent it, it sickens me that as a society we can put guns in the hands of insane people. Prevention is the goal.

We really are missing the point

I think it's a foregone conclusion that the murderers are mentally ill. In another article by the same author, he indicates that there has been a sharp spike in mass murders since the year 2000. And, in that article he also indicates that the shooters are mentally ill. But what is causing this spike? Why are there so many more psychotic individuals now than in previous decades? What is causing this? That is the heart of the problem and I don't think anyone is addressing it.

The Common denominator is

The Common denominator is psychiatric drugs. Big Pharmacy! As incidents like Sandy Hook have increased in the past few decades so have the medications. I think I would prefer more gun control then people being treated by the psychiatrists.

The majority of mentally ill people in this country are poor, and do not receive mental health care because they can't afford it. This being so, it would stand to reason that the majority of poor, mentally ill people would be committing the majority of these types of mass murder (Sandy Hook, Colorado Movie shooting, most recently) but they are not.

Who is committing Sandy hook type mass murders? It's The mentally ill who are already getting treatment from the psychiatric profession and most likely under the influence of medications.

The real questions should be; what were the drugs Adam Lanza and James Holmes, were either on or withdrawing from? The list is long of similar mass shooting incidences involving young people, already being treated by the psychiatric profession and who had taken medication in the past, were taken when the incident occurred, or were withdrawing.

It takes a mind bending drug to commit such a horrific mind bending act such as Sandy Hook, and the Colorado Movie shooting. If we don't understand these acts maybe it's because we don't fully understand how the drugs these mentally ill people take, work.

You asked, if we get rid of the guns, do we really get rid of the senseless violence? I ask you to also consider If we treat more mentally ill people with mind bending psychiatric drugs, do we really get rid of the senseless violence. Do we really understand the effect on brain chemistry that these drugs produce? Until we do, give me more gun control and less mental health care.

I would agree with you Jay. I

I would agree with you Jay. I think too many practitioners, particularly not those in the mental health field, hand out drugs with very little real need. One example is the CDC estimate that while only 3-5% of American children are actually diagnosed as having ADHD, over 50% of American children are on drugs to control ADHD. I believe this is also the case with depression. Anti-depressants are lauded as the magic bullet, so to speak. And they are all too often given out to people who could be helped by talk therapy alone. But I also think that there is an underlying social cause in addition to pharmaceuticals. Read an interesting article from 2007 in Scientific American in which a criminologist discusses the causes of these mass killings. He points to a number of causes including drugs and the already violent American culture. Add to this bullying, especially committed on kids with no coping skills, and you have a bomb waiting to explode. I think we have to look at all these aspects in order to prevent these problems in the future. One factor alone is not going to do it. But, I agree that putting more people on mind-altering drugs is definitely NOT the answer.

Drugs are indeed the common denominator

Somebody please also research this and discover what I have found. Look at every single mass murderer on US soil in the last 40 years and there is indeed a common denominator in all of them. They all used recreational drugs, and EVERY SINGLE ONE of them that I can find (besides maybe Malik the Ft Hood shooter) smoked a lot of marijuana in years prior. Yes, MARIJUANA, that so -called harmless drug, in the history of all of them- you name them, Manson, Gacy, the Colemanes, Dahmler, right up to Loughner, Holmes (marijuana and cocaine) Lanza (who modeled after the pot growing/smoking mass murderer from Norway) and now the Tsarnaevs. Everybody says marijuana has a "mellowing" effect, but it's probably more like a desensitizing effect, altering the brain's chemistry so these folks don't care about human life. The Tsarnaevs were apparently heaviliy immersed in marijuana, smoked it, dealt it, grew it, and very likely murdered others in drug trades.

Tim McVeigh, who was purported in the years prior to the OKC bombing with a man named Michael Fortier, smoked "copious" amounts of marijuana. And like the Weather Undergound, all of these bombers had similar traits: they were angry young individuals who hated the US government, who smoked lots of marijuana, and vented their hate thru bombing public places.

Prescribed drugs for certain individuals, drugs taken in addition to marijuana, or marijuana alone, may be affecting mentally pre-disposed individuals. In any event, some how, MARIJUANA is the common denominator in just about every one of them.

Mathematical coincidence? Well do the probability math- some 49 our of 50 individuals who comprise the noteworth top mass murderers in recent decades (there are probably hundreds more, whom I can virtually guarantee you withhout looking, smoked marijuana in prior years). So, say 1 in 4 of the general population (being generous) smokes sizeable amounts of marijuana, What is the likely that 49 of 50 (and likely imo 50 of 50) all smoke marijuana? Setting aside the behavioral component, mathematically the odds are equivalent to one molecule in the solar system.

It is sad that innocent

It is sad that innocent people suffer from the hands of the ill. I seriously believe that you could lock up every gun, knife and weapon made, and if a unstable person wants to do damage to someone they will find a way. Do I want a lunatic walking around my child's school with a gun? No! But to remove all guns is not the answer either. People that want to commit a crime will find a way too, then the innocent may not have the protection from them. There is not a win, win situation for this problem.

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Dale Archer, M.D., is a clinical psychiatrist and author of The New York Times bestseller, Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional.


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