Brad Reedy (courtesy theawl.com)

First, let me say that certain members of society share partial responsibility for some spree killers. Adam Lanza was clearly, severely mentally ill years before he shot his mother in the head, stole her guns and opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza was abandoned by his school, mental health professionals and his parents. Aurora killed James Holmes was also known threat; the University, the ATF and local police failed to intervene. As for Salon writer and “wilderness therapist” Brad Reedy’s assertion that “we” are also to blame, bullish*t. Here’s his thesis . . .

From my experience as a therapist for adolescents and young adults struggling with mental health issues, there are two basic principles that lie at the core of solving such problems. First, we need to understand the person and why they would act out in this way.

Second, we need to look in the mirror and acknowledge our individual and collective failures that contributed to their pain. We need to embrace dialectical ideas, understanding that seemingly opposite concepts can both be true: the offenders are responsible for their actions and we have some answerability for their pain and the conditions that make such tragedies so probable . . .

. . . is there anything we can do as a larger society to change the discussion and move toward a solution? I believe we need inspired education and leadership on these subjects, rather than the self-righteous rhetoric we often hear and imagine to be helpful. We can foster a sensibility to learn to see the wounds that lie underneath these acts of violence.

Whether it is from a post on social media, an activist, or a politician, we often hear hatred, anger and rage directed at the perpetrators of violence. While this reaction is natural and protects us from our feelings of powerlessness and grief, it is not the response that will engender change.

The same sensibility that causes a problem, in this case fear and rage, cannot be employed to solve that problem. All the great flag bearers for peace in human history have taught us this principle. Dr. King expressed it this way: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

As someone who’s wrestled with depression, I feel tremendous sympathy for people who suffer from mental illness. But there is mental illness and there is mental illness.

People who experience and succumb to homicidal rage — for that is what it is in one shape or another — are “the other.” They are not like you and me. Even if they are, which they’re not, they are to be intercepted and confined as early as possible (with due process of course).

It’s dangerously naive to think that mental health care — whether in a secure facility or wandering the great outdoors — can “cure” people who are severely mentally defective, that a judicious application of love can stifle their desire to kill others without anything remotely resembling just cause.

While we — as individuals or society — may fail to identify and intercept madmen, criminals and/or terrorists, not one of us encourages these killers. Equally, it’s silly to expect people to sympathize with wanton murderers after the fact — as opposed to feeling revulsion at their destruction of innocent life. Our fear of and anger against unlawful killers of any stripe helps keep us safe. That, and a gun.

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56 Responses to Salon : Society Shares the Blame for Spree Killers

    • So Society, “The Puppy”, just couldn’t find it’s way but Industry? That was a revolution.

  1. we need to look in the mirror and acknowledge our individual and collective failures that contributed to their pain.”

    Does “we” include Salon and Reedy? And if it does, what are “they” going to do about it?

      • Stifle your negativity, young man. Awareness is the most potent force in the universe.

        Are you not aware of how Lance Armstrong singlehandedly cured testicular cancer with the awareness power of millions of rubber bracelets? Have you forgotten that it is only the awareness created by a plethora of pink ribbons that keeps the scourge of breast cancer at bay?

        Maybe we need to raise awareness of cynics like you. That’d show you.

  2. Folks, not all mental illness is the same. By wasting resources on homicidal maniacs, we are denying those resources to people who have other real problems which we could otherwise better help to alleviate.

    • Psychiatrists and/or psychologists cannot “cure” anybody of whatever it is that is obsessing them mentally. If they could there would not still be mental institutions in every state and mentally ill people roaming the streets whose symptoms (SYMPTOMS) are controlled only by powerful psychotropic drugs, and only so long as the person agrees or can be forced to continue using those drugs.

      Society is to blame for spree killers only to the extent that in the natural order such individuals would not long survive. In modern “civilized” society we go out of our way to help such people survive and then cry in our beer when they turn on us and murder innocents. It’s like keeping a tiger in your backyard and then complaining when it eats one of your kids.

    • TOEM, we don’t know who is a homicidal maniac until we “waste” the money to provide mental health care for everyone.

  3. I have to say that with Holmes he has a point. My friend and roommate worked in the same department as Holmes and we lived a few good golf swings away from the guy. I also know people who were shot by him.

    The university didn’t fail, nor did the ATF or the local police. Colorado failed as a whole because of it’s asinine rules regarding how dangerously mentally ill people are handled in this state. This information isn’t widely known even in LEO circles.

    The university kicked Holmes out and just hoped he would go away for a very valid reason: the university runs the mental health system in Denver and they know how the laws work.

    What I didn’t know until after the fact, when informed of this by my friend/roommate who worked with mental health, (specifically schizophrenics) is that in Colorado if you have good reason to suspect someone is a danger to themselves or others you can have them placed on a 72 hour psyche hold at a facility maintained by the university, in this case in downtown Denver. Sounds legit right?

    Well here’s the fucked up part. At the end of that 72 hours the law requires that the person who was placed on the hold be informed why they were involuntarily committed and by whom. It also requires that the person be informed of exactly what they need to say to get out. They literally come to you and say “If you want to leave you have to tell us that you’re not going to harm yourself or anyone else. Now, are you going to harm yourself or someone else?”.

    If the person is relatively coherent and doesn’t say that they’re going to harm themselves or others they have to be released at that point. Now, whomever put them on that hold can petition a court and use what evidence was gleaned during that 72 hour hold to get a judge to lock the person back up against their will in a process many know as “mental adjudication”. However in Colorado that usually takes six months and never takes less than about 45 days. With out new, observed behavior that can be put on legal forms, the university would then have not been able to repeatedly put him on 72 hour holds until he was adjudicated. They’d get their three days and then he would disappear from their view.

    In short the university had no choice but to cut him loose and hope he didn’t do something evil. Otherwise they were only painting a target on their facility.

    • ” . . . in Colorado if you have good reason to suspect someone is a danger to themselves or others you can have them placed on a 72 hour psyche hold at a facility . . .”

      Having had some experience with 72 hour psych holds, although most states have them they are usually not the solutions or even the palliatives people like to think they are. Just having a good reason to suspect that someone is a danger to themselves doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be committed for observation, even for a period as short as 72 hours. In Texas, for instance, an intake evaluation by a medical professional has to be made before a person can be committed for observation. If the person being evaluated is reasonably verbal and possess competent social skills, in nine times out of ten, they can simply talk their way out of being committed.

      This happens because we have the kinds of constitutional protections that place a high value on personal liberty. “Solutions” urged on us by progressives inevitably are predicated on removing those constitutional protections that make us free. Progressives may think we have too much freedom but I don’t. Individuals are responsible for what they do—not the state and not society.

      • I can’t speak for other states, the point is that in Colorado there was absolutely nothing that could be done about James Holmes. Processing him for mental adjudication requires a previous 72 hour old in Colorado. My understanding is that no judge in this state would ever even consider mentally adjudicating someone as incompetent without at least one previous hold having been placed on them.

        There is no system in Colorado to deal with someone like Holmes unless he openly admits that he’s a danger to himself or others. It’s not federal law that prevents him from being held. It’s Colorado law that specifically says that no one, not even a doctor who knows damn well the guy is dangerous can keep him locked up unless he admits that he is or a judge signs off on involuntary commitment and that process has no “Holy shit this guy’s gonna murder a bunch of people/kill himself so we need to get a judge on this today” type of provision.

        The system is so screwed up that he could attempt suicide at the beginning of a 72 hour hold and still walk out at the end of it simply by saying he was no longer a danger to himself and signing a piece of paper to that effect.

        His entire family, 2000 psychiatrists and Jesus Christ himself could all agree that he’s very likely to go do something violent, they could swear out affidavits attesting to such but they have no way of getting that information to someone with the legal authority to do anything in a reasonable time frame. Instead all those affidavits would sit somewhere for 45 days or longer before a court had the time to hear word one.

        • So, what’s your point? You want to make it easier and faster for folks to be involuntarily committed? These things take time because there is a large degree of oversight. You can speed up the process considerably by removing that oversight (including due process), but then you’re in the same territory as the asinine “gun violence restraining orders” that so many progressives love.

        • “So, what’s your point? You want to make it easier and faster for folks to be involuntarily committed?

          The point is that there should be a court ready to deal with you the minute you get out. If I called you in and said you’re crazy, you’d be free and clear after three days and I’d be legally fucked in multiple ways. If you’re really crazy and dangerous there is no reason you should be free for 45+ days after your hold.

          Sane people would want to be legally cleared IMMEDIATELY so that they could take legal action against the false accusers. Only an insane person would want otherwise.

        • “It is legal to be mentally ill. Ain’t the US Constitution a bitch?”

          Yes, it is legal to be mentally ill and the vast, vast, vast majority of mentally ill people are not dangerous.

          However, no one here is talking about violating anyone’s rights. That’s a canard and a snarky one at that.

          We’re talking about having a system in place where, via due process where you have to present evidence and convince a judge, people who are actually dangerous can be taken off the streets and given the help they need so they can hopefully reintegrate into society without killing themselves or a dozen innocent people.

          Oh, wait. That already exists! There is a perfectly legal process for mental adjudication that doesn’t violate anyone’s rights at all and never has been argued to do so other than by people who are batshit crazy themselves. The problem is that the courts are overburdened and there is no way to fast track a case where someone really is a danger to themselves or others.

        • The courts being overburdened is no excuse for the fact that a couple of hundred thousand veterans and others have been deprived of their Second Amendment rights without due process of any kind based entirely on answers to a few questions that doctors are now required to ask. And let’s not forget the secret No-Fly list that people get mistakenly put on all the time without any due process or even explanation as to why they are on it. So, the reality would certainly indicate that people are indeed being deprived of their Constitutional rights without due process.

          http://www.newsmax.com/JohnLott/veteransgunrightsWayne/2010/09/10/id/369798/

          http://www.westernjournalism.com/breaking-news-reports-about-veterans-losing-gun-rights-are-not-new/

          I disagree with the explanation that there’s no way to fast track a case involving someone who is actually a danger to themselves and others. Having sat in numerous hearings as a probation officer to adjudicate just such a situation. It’s the mental health system that is failing. A case in point being the release of one of my former probationers from a residential mental institution on Wednesday and his murder of a middle school teacher the next morning by stabbing the guy 67 times. Making these blanket determinations with no die process is not the way things should be dealt with.

  4. I assume no responsibility for natures losers. They are easily identifiable if one just listens. In ones writing or ones spoken word amongst family members. Its there and its up to the immediate family to do something about it.
    Don’t and you end up with the homicidal nutt cases in the a for mentioned article.
    Don’t blame society. I am not my brothers keeper. But if he shows signs. I will sure as hell get him the help he needs. Or be his jailer.

  5. Since I don’t know anybody, who knows anybody, who knows anybody who knows Lanza or Holms, et al. I’m pretty freeking sure I am not part of the “we” he tries to corral me into. It was wanna be therapists like Reedy who dropped the ball.

    And, Mr. Reedy, while there may not be an “I” in teamwork, there is a “U” in “fvck you”.

    • Recent research indicates that it really is only about 4 degrees of separation, no longer 6. (In the civilized world anyway.)

      Do you really might know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone…

      Just sayin’

  6. I am responsible for ME. And my kids(all grown up). I only agree about the lunatic Lanza boy.OK maybe joker’s parents could have had an intervention. Lanza’s mom had the dough to “help” him. Instead she took him shooting and aided his descent into evil. He wanted no part of dad or brother. No one else at fault…

  7. The ones that share responsibility for mass murderers deaths?

    Well, the mass murderer is primarily responsible, then anyone that authorized making certain places GFZ’s, otherwise known a mass killers empowerment zones. Then anyone that entered these GFZ’s, without a firearm, and made themselves a moving target in a free fire zone.

    Who else? Any progressive/statist that teaches that citizens are not responsible for being the first line of defense against mass murderers , and anyone that believes them.

    Yeah, there are a lot of people that share responsibility for when it comes to being responsible for allowing mass murderers free reign of society.

  8. I’m going to have to disagree with the author on this one. Violence is a cultural issue, not just an individual moral one. We recognize this when we call on inner city minority communities to deal with the problem of gang violence and the disintegration of nuclear families.

    Most spree killers and mass killers in the US fit into a particular archetype – they come from all walks of life and all races, but one recurring theme is that of the underachieving male seeking vengeance against those he perceives as either more successful or somehow responsible. The idea that such a situation can and should be answered with lethal force is a cultural one. That this force should take the form of gunfire is also a cultural artifact.

    The mass media bear a great deal of the responsibility for these cultural messages, by giving mass shooters the fame they seek, and their efforts to support the gun control agenda have only multiplied this effect.

    Not only do they signal to disaffected males that this is an effective form of cultural signaling, they also unwittingly prescribe the details for maximum effect. If I asked ten TTAGers what the archetypal firearm was for a mass shooting, I bet at least 8/10 would answer “AR-15”. If I asked what the archetypal setting would be, the answer would be “a school”. There is nothing objective about the physical world that makes these answers unique, they are artifacts of culture.

    • DaveL pegged it pretty well. I will add that we also as a society encourage spree killers by providing places where they know there will be no one to stop them by shooting back.

  9. “dialectical ideas”

    Nothing good can ever come from being exposed to anything where that phrase is used. It is Hittite for, “Unadulterated feces”

    • Cute, but no. If anything, it’s philosopher-speak for “There is no truth”.

      But the real problem is that it is descriptive, indicating how people actually deal with things. The moment you take the descriptive and try to make it proscriptive, you’re already on very thin ice; when the descriptive excludes addressing the issue of truth, you’re somewhere above the freezing water and like a suspended cartoon character just haven’t started falling yet.

  10. People want to talk blame? Here’s one.

    Politically driven partisans at outlets like Salon push mass shooting as though it were the influenza epidemic. Meanwhile, a real epidemic came to flourish–drug overdoses. But Reedy sought accolades from his elite cocktail party friends, so he stuck with the easy topic.

  11. Oy. There actually might be a hint of truth in there … depending on the precise definitions of various words.

    I believe some violent criminals would be violent criminals no matter what anyone does. I also believe there are some violent criminals who would never have become violent criminals with better parenting and/or support from extended family and friends. Whether or not this applies to spree killers I have no idea.

  12. We are responsible only to the extent that we tolerate politicians who closed the mental hospitals instead of reforming them; who demand that the most aberrant behavior to be tolerated in the name of “diversity” of ideas; and who disarm the rest of society so that they can be the victims. These ideas emanate almost entirely from the large coastal cities that are arch Hillary supporters – no coincidence there – and especially from Nancy Pelosi’s adopted home town – no coincidence there either.

  13. The courts crippled involuntary mental commitment 40-odd years back, by declaring it ‘Unconstitutional’.

    Now we reap that crop…

    • So you want the state to be able to declare you crazy, lock you up, and throw away the key? All without due process? You are completely insane….

      • Exactly. Anyone who wants the state to rule their life is indeed insane and wants the “state” to tell them what to do and what to think and whether they are worth anything.

        Not for me or you, from the way I ready your comment, but some of these people want to abdicate their free will to that of the government. That way they aren’t really responsible for anything . . . at least in their own minds.

        To me that is not life. I alone am responsible for my own decisions . . for better or for worse.

      • We used to lock them up in asylums, now we lock them up in prison – after they’ve done something really wrong.

        There need to be review processes to be sure, but the number of folks ‘involuntarily committed’ incorrectly was incredibly small. Geoff is not being statist, he’s being realistic.

  14. There will always be people who are known by others to be dangerous and mentally unstable but in a free society you can not point the pre-crime finger at them and put them in jail for pre-crime violations. The responsibility lies to a large extent with the theater that forbid its customers the ability to defend themselves. My personal policy is never to go to theaters, restaurants, and other businesses that are legally allowed to discriminate against my right to carry. Fortunately here in Georgia we have no obligation to follow any such signage and can carry pretty much anywhere we choose.

  15. Oh I forgot to mention, there will always be those folks that no one saw as about to blow a gasket and go postal. There is no way to identify these people and the danger they represent and only a a true statist would propose disarming everyone to make us all “safe” from these people. How many times are people stabbed in China? Just because guns aren’t available doesn’t make anyone safe, it only makes those who are smaller and weaker less able to defend themselves!

  16. Wilderness Therapist, heehehehahahahahahha, Reedy has discovered his head inside his own body.
    No one is responsible for the actions of others, unless we are talking about kids committing crimes because they lack sufficient parenting to teach them how not to become criminals.

    If any of you commit crimes, I am not responsible, if I commit a crime, none of you are responsible.
    What is the single true narrative with so many of these “mass shooters” is that people related to them or worked, went to school with them say that the crazy person was crazy for a long time BEFORE they killed others.

    Reedy and Salon just shet the bed, yet again, another day, another useless article by Salon. Congrats!

  17. Watch the film “Falling Down” sometime. An excellent commentary on what society does to people.

    But even at that, most of us don’t go over the edge and become monsters.

  18. Reminder that this is the same site that all but sympathized with the Paris terrorists and said Charlie Hebdo staff deserved what happened to them.

    Salon and sites like Gawker are lower than reptilian shit.

  19. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
    I’d advise Mr. Reedy not to get lost in the metaphor.
    Besides, isn’t my love of my life and the life of my family reason enough for Mr. Reedy?

  20. Grieve not, fear not. Put the murders head on a Pike in front of the nearest Court House. Run a 24/7 Web Cam for the World and wanna be famous types can watch it rot and feed the flys and maggots. SALON: How’ that for being “answerable”?

  21. Robert, Thank you for sharing your own experience with depression. Mental illness, even temporary, is seen a shameful in our country. This has been further stigmified by the “progressive” agenda (irony intended) of stripping constitutional rights from anyone who expresses the need for help from a mental professional, even if for a single session. This is part of the confiscation agenda- since most citizens have some trauma in their life that impacts them emotionally, these antigun fascists seek to use this to take away the second and fourth amendment rights in the name of “safety”. This cannot be tolerated.

  22. “Society Shares the Blame for Spree Killers”

    “Regular Salon Reading Liberals Shares the Blame for Spree Killers”

    There, fixed it.

  23. On the other hand some folks should have just been drowned at birth. I’ve met some of these sociopaths or as the were one time called “at risk youth”. The horror, the horror. All I can say is thank god I can own and carry guns.

  24. I understand where the author is coming from, but if I’m being honest, I don’t agree.

    Short story- my oldest is going through a phase where he’s scared of storms. My mom came up with the idea of letting him hang onto my granddad’s dog tags from WWII (he was 82nd) to help him feel brave because his great-grandad was super brave when things got scary for him.

    In reality of course, him holding onto these little pieces of metal worn by a man who never knew my mom or me, let alone him has absolutely no effect on the storm or how loud it thunders. However, it’s a ritual he can perform and it makes him feel as though he’s addressing the problem which helps to chill him out. It makes him feel as though he has some amount of control or influence on the situation.

    That’s what this author is doing for the spree killer event. By trying to find a reason for it and concluding that we’re all somewhat responsible, he hopes to exact some kind of control or influence on the situation when in reality, there is none.

  25. So if a person has a chemical imbalance in their brain that causes the thought patterns which we recognize as mental illness, how is society responsible for their pain? This is the problem with trying to feel and empathize your way through every problem in life. It ignores facts.

    • We are responsible in that how we deal with such people can either exacerbate or mitigate their issues and responses. But politicians are superb at applying “solutions” that only make the problem greater; as an example, recently published research concluded that for the most part, the laws concerning sex offenders could hardly be designed better to encourage them to re-offend. Of course we already know that most laws aimed at reducing “gun violence” could hardly be better designed to encourage the criminals!

  26. More of “The mass murderer is actually a victim and the rest of us a guilty of not treating him well enough.” Bullshit! I doubt that Reedy would say the same about the a-holes who ram their automobiles into other drivers in a fit of road rage.

  27. Sure. Society makes it excessively difficult to defend itself against spree killers by putting a ton of restrictions on the appropriate tools necessary to do so. It also amply supplies spree killers with the rewards they seek in the form of glorified infamy and mass media attention. And every time we try to have a discussion about spree killers, their motivations and what contributes to their evolution into action, we instead talk about gun control.

  28. well, i can see the point Salon is trying to make. just strapping on a gun doesn’t SOLVE these problems. it may protect you from them but it doesn’t solve them. seems like they are just trying to point out some areas to investigate. and i agree with them. but saying everyone is to blame for said bad guys actions EXCEPT the bad guy, yeah thats total BS and everyone knows that. its funny that people this that actually think that FEELINGS will fix all problems in life. hilarious.

  29. As an ongoing sufferer from bipolar disorder and severe anxiety disorder, I would like to point out that he has a point: a little love at the right time can change the course of a life.

    The problem is twofold: for many, even most, once it’s become obvious they pose a danger to self and others, it’s too late for just a little love; and in most cases, despite protestations of “We would have helped if we knew!”, invariably the people who claim this had all the evidence they needed to show that they needed to give some drastic help but rationalized not doing so. The most common brush-off is “They need professional help”, which almost always sounds to the person in need like “I don’t care enough to get involved; go away”.

    The solution isn’t to get all touchy-feely once someone is dangerous, it’s how to train people to reach out on a regular basis to those who are just a little different and include them so the rest of us don’t become the “enemy” at some point to the degree that guns get pointed by anyone at all. This would address a symptom seen regularly here: attacking and denigrating anyone who deviates from some personal norm — like those who would say I shouldn’t have guns because I have an ongoing mental illness.

  30. To pound once more on the old libertarian meme, “Government and society are not the same thing.”

    If you look at the list of people who didn’t do their diligence to prevent these spree shooters, they fall into two main categories: 1) their parents, and 2) various governmental factotums, including those in government schools. These are the people who “didn’t do their jobs.” Society as a whole shares jack-shit blame for these monsters.

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