Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gary Palmer: Mental illness to blame for Arizona shooting

  In the past few years, there have been some bizarre allegations against Republicans and conservatives. Liberals certainly don't have a monopoly on stupid statements - there have been some dumb things said or written by conservatives, too - but nothing compares to how some liberals blame the shooting of Rep. Giffords and the murder of six other people on conservatives.

  First of all, based on what has been discovered thus far, Jared Loughner, the alleged killer, is most likely mentally ill. About all we know about his political views came from a former classmate who described him as "a pothead and liberal." Pulling together what those around him observed - his confused writings, his rants about government brainwashing and thought control and his obsession with "conscious dreaming" - it becomes apparent that Loughner's actions were those of a mentally ill individual.

  The fact that it now appears that Loughner's rampage was triggered by mental illness should not be a surprise to anyone. Other mass slayings should remind us that there always have been and will always be people so deranged that they are a danger to themselves and others. Over the years, there have been several situations where the symptoms of mental illness were ignored or tolerated and left untreated,  resulting in similar tragedies.

  Here is a summary of some that have occurred in United States:

    * April 2009 - Jiverly Wong, an angry paranoid man shot and killed 13 people at an immigrant community center in New York.

    * February 2008 - Steven Kamierczak walked into a classroom at Northern Illinois University and killed six people and then shot himself. Kamierczak, who had severe mental health problems as a teenager, idolized serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy and was fascinated by Hitler. He had been institutionalized five times for mental illness.

    * December 2007 - Robert Hawkins killed eight people with a rifle in a shopping mall in Omaha, Nebraska before killing himself. He had received extensive psychotherapy care.

    * April 2007 - Cho Seung-Hui shot and killed 32 students at Virginia Tech before killing himself, had a two-year history of problems with mental illness and gave numerous warnings of mental instability including violent writings, disturbing comments and threatening behavior.

    * October 2006 - Charles Carl Roberts, IV invaded an Amish school in Pennsylvania where he shot and killed five Amish girls before killing himself. Prior to the murders, Roberts exhibited signs of mental health problems.

    * March 2005 - Jeffrey Weise killed his grandfather and his grandfather's companion before killing five of his classmates, a teacher, a security guard and then himself at Red Lake High School in Red Lake, Minnesota.

  A Google search for mass murderers turned up Terry Ratzmann who killed seven, then himself, in Brookfield, Wisconsin in March 2005; Mark Barton who killed nine including his wife, son and daughter, and then himself in Atlanta, Georgia, July 1999; and two of the most infamous, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who murdered 13 students at Columbine High School before killing themselves in April 1999.

  But there's more. In October 1991, George Hennard crashed his pickup truck through a Luby's Cafeteria window in Killeen, Texas, then shot and killed 24 people before killing himself. In February 1988, Richard Wade Farley killed seven people at the office of a former employer in Sunnyvale, California. In August 1986, post office employee Patrick Sherrill killed 14 people at the Edmond, Oklahoma post office. In July 1984, James Huberty killed 21 people at a McDonald's in San Diego before a SWAT team sniper shot and killed him. On Thanksgiving Day 1980, Priscilla Joyce Ford deliberately drove her Lincoln Continental down a Reno, Nevada sidewalk, killing seven people.

  In 1966 Charles Joseph Whitman shot and killed 16 people on the University of Texas campus in Austin and in 1949 Howard Barton Unruh shot and killed 13 people in Camden, New Jersey. And the worst act of school violence took place in May 1927 when a bomb planted by Andrew Kehoe exploded in a primary school killing 38 children, he later denoted a second bomb in his vehicle killing himself and several adults. In all, Kehoe killed 45 people because he believed the local government was responsible for his financial hardships.

  These mass murderers had one thing in common-they all suffered from mental disorders. They were usually paranoid and schizophrenic, believing someone was out to get them or someone had caused them harm. Contrary to what many people might think, mass murder is not a problem new to modern society nor is it a problem created by provocative political rhetoric from liberals or conservatives.

  Mass murders have been perpetrated against people in the United States long before America had talk radio or cable television. To portray the Loughner murders as being politically motivated is reprehensible and dangerous.

  The Tucson shootings were the actions of an individual whose mental state made him a danger to others. Loughner gave numerous indications that he was mentally unstable but never entered into a treatment program. Consequently, he eventually reached a breaking point that proved lethal. Despite what some politicians may think, passing new laws that trample on individual rights will not protect us from future rampages.

  About the author: Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.

1 comment:

  1. Surely Gary Palmer knows of Byron Williams, Richard Poplawski, and Jim D. Adkisson from our rather recent past. Williams was an apparent mission from Glenn Beck to kill board members of the Tides Foundation and ACLU officials. Oakland police officers instead had to engage in a firefight with this heavily armed wingnut. Poplawski killed Pittsburgh police officers. He'd been convinced that Obama was going to take away his guns. Adkisson walked into a Unitarian church in Knoxville and proceeded to slaughter worshipers with a shotgun. He admitted he was after vile, evil liberals.

    Gary Palmer is right that we don't need to jump to conclusions yet the violent, often eliminationist, rhetoric coming from mainstream voices on the right from Faux News to Auburn Representative and now Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard's WANI AM 1400 hate talkers can't be ignored either. I'll close with a link to "Violent Rhetoric and the Mentally Ill" from David Neiwart at http://www.theinvestigativefund.org/blog/1450/violent_rhetoric_and_the_mentally_ill/