“More money for mental health won’t stop these mass murderers,” former Harvard Medical School Psychiatry Professor Dr. Arthur Berg and pro-gun academic John Lott declare in a New York Post editorial, Why psychiatrists can’t stop mass killings. Their logic is inescapable: most mass murderers were in psychiatric care before they committed their heinous crime. Specifically, Elliot Rodger (Isla Vista), Ivan Lopez (the recent Fort Hood shooter), Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook elementary), James Holmes (“Batman” movie theater) and Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech). Which raises two important questions . . .
Why didn’t the shrinks prevent the attacks and what can we do to stop deranged people from going postal? I think you know the answer to the second, so let’s hear what Berg (and Lott) have to say about why “psychiatrists failed to identify real threats”:
Psychiatrists have strong incentives to get the diagnosis right. Besides their own professional pride and desire to help, they have legal obligations to inform authorities of a threat. Families of those killed by Holmes sued his psychiatrist for not recommending that Holmes be confined. Similar legal action may face Rodger’s psychiatrists.
The psychiatric profession is aware that it is very difficult for mental-health professionals to accept that a patient could pose a serious violent threat. They tend to deny it to themselves. In other words, psychiatrists frequently underestimate threats to safety.
The problem is severe enough that a whole academic literature is devoted to it. Explanations include psychiatrists trying to prove their fearlessness and becoming desensitized to the dangers. It’s possible that added training to understand these unusual cases may help improve their diagnoses.
Yet it’s also simply hard to predict these extremely rare outcomes.
Monday morning quarterbacking is always easy. What seem like obvious telltale signs in retrospect are not so obvious before the attack, even to the experts.
Yes, well, we’re not talking about subtle hints here. Rodger’s shrink(s) knew about videos in which he threatened to kill people. Anyway, point taken. Hubris happens. Incompetence happens. Shit happens. To be fair, we never hear about any of the psychos psychiatrists managed to intercept before a spree killing – because they forestalled that event. And HIPPA.
Set aside the fact that half of Rodger’s killings were stabbings; it’s just not hard to get guns illegally in this country — especially if you’re willing to spend months or years planning your attack, as virtually all of these killers do.
There are no cheap or easy answers. If someone poses a true danger to others, why not lock them up? Or provide outpatient care-givers to monitor them?
No one wants a dangerous person to have a weapon. But our mental-health system simply can’t be the last line of defense. There are just too many mistakes. Potential victims need to be able to defend themselves.
And there you have it. In the New York Post, no less. A happy day for common sense firearms freedom.