Analysis by Kyle A. Lohmeier
Richard A. Friedman penned an opinion piece for the New York Times yesterday that was truly tragic – the poor bastard went on for exactly 304 words too long. Had he concluded with thoughts similar to the headline: “Psychiatrists Can’t Stop Mass Killers,” as it appeared he was going to do, he’d have had a very interesting and informative piece to his credit. Instead, he ruined it with a bunch of nonsensical drivel about gun-control at the end.
Early on, the professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College made some very astute points about the nature of people who commit mass-murder.
“It’s true that many mass murderers do have a mental disorder, typically a severe personality disorder or a psychotic illness. But this fact has almost no implication for how to stop them.
Why? First, a vast majority of these killers avoid the mental health care system. They are intent on murdering people, not on seeking help, and generally don’t see themselves as psychiatrically ill. Of the 92 documented mass killings from 1982 to 2017, only 15 percent of the perpetrators had any known previous contact with mental health professionals.
Clearly, whatever psychiatric evaluation and treatment this small number of perpetrators had did not stop them from committing mass murder. Even if all of these killers had been seen by mental health professionals, it is still highly unlikely their crimes would have been prevented, because as a general matter it is very difficult, if not impossible, to predict who is likely to turn violent,” the doctor wrote.
Clearly, he’s on to something there. Mentally healthy people don’t just up and decide it’s appropriate to murder a whole bunch of strangers. He goes on to also correctly point out that mass-shooting events actually contribute very little to the annual tally of overall violent crime. He adds that most murders are committed by white male gun-owners and admits that the vast majority white male gun-owners will never commit a crime. Then, he collapses to his knees and licks the jackboots of the state.
“The disturbing reality is that a vast majority of homicide is committed by healthy people in the grip of everyday emotion using guns. That is exactly what many politicians don’t want the country to think about,” reads the introduction to a whole bunch of nonsense to follow.
First, he argues that the success of installing safety nets beneath the Golden Gate Bridge at reducing suicides from 5.8 to 2.4 per year means anything with regard to regulating a half-billion firearms spread across a continent, dispersed into the homes of 80+-million people who have a few trillion rounds of ammo. That was his lead argument, then he goes on.
“The same appears to be true for homicide. Countries that limit access to deadly firearms have a fraction of the gun homicide rate of the United States. Australia, for example, severely restricted access to guns following a 1996 mass killing, and the gun homicide rate dropped by half and stayed there. In 2012, the United States had a homicide-by-firearm rate of 29.7 per million people compared with 1.4 for Australia,” he wrote, declining to mention that this miraculous drop in crime was only initially realized because the law required a massive gun confiscation program be enacted nationwide and it was actually heeded by the serfs. Go ahead, introduce that bill on the Hill, genius.
“Contrary to what some gun-rights enthusiasts claim, people who are deprived of guns do not simply find a new way to harm themselves or others. Countries that have reasonable gun control, for example, do not have a compensatory epidemic of lethal knife attacks,” Friedman wrote, evidently unaware of the existence of a place called Great Britain, which is sad since a lot of good music and TV comes from there.
Never mind the facts anyway, the doctor has a sure-fire prescription for curing America’s epidemic of gun violence.
“So let’s stop pretending we can detect mass killers in advance. But we can deprive them — and everyone else — of the deadly weapons they require to turn their impulses into carnage,” Friedman concluded, ostensibly in all seriousness.
Let’s re-read that sentence very carefully, paying very close attention to the part he felt so important that he set it off with dashes. I’ll wait.
This bootlick has openly called for people he earlier admitted would never commit a crime to be disarmed by their state. By what means? He doesn’t say. Being an academic, he likely vastly underestimates how much of a non-starter his idea is going to be among real people. I’m sure he anticipates people turning up in droves with their guns and surrendering them like the Aussies did back in the 1990s. I’m not sure he appreciates the amount of violence his ideas call for – aside even from the violence that the state stealing property from people itself represents.
I also contend that his allusion to most gun crimes being “crimes of passion” only further disproves his own argument that in such an instance another implement, or none at all, wouldn’t be used in the absence of a firearm. Our own crime stats that show many blunt and edged implements, and hands and feet, are used in violent crime in the USA more often than guns are, which sort of puts the lie to Friedman’s earlier contention.
Among the things the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College didn’t mention was that many mass-shooters in the last 20+ years were on, or had been prescribed, various MAOI and SSRI anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs. You know? The ones where the commercials say: “Gleeminol is thought to work by…” and it shows some goofy graphic meant to depict things going on in your brain. But, in my opinion, the drugs do more to exacerbate an underlying issue than cause the violence itself when it comes to those particular mass-shooting events.
It’s the underlying issue that causes mass-shooting events and can be used to explain just about every other man-made, mass-casualty tragedy as well as patterns of serial aggression and violence.
The fact is, there have always been humans among us who just aren’t cut out for civilization and society. In the earlier days of civilization, such people were either banished or simply executed. Those that were banished from whatever community or city-state they’d inhabited at least had the good fortune of there being huge, vast spaces untouched by civilization and its attendant societies. There, they could link up with other misfits and miscreants and form bands of roaming brigands, looting and pillaging the civilizations that cast them out.
Fast-forward a few millennia and now the entirety of the Western world is covered with Western civilization and society. There are still plenty of people being born each year who, for whatever reason, simply won’t be able to cope with it. But, unlike centuries ago, there is no place for them to go. Society still in effect banishes them, not physically, but in every other way – thus leaving them to sit on the very fringes and stew in their antisocial misery until it comes boiling out in a spray of gunfire.
I don’t have a solution to either problem – that a handful of miscreants are born among humankind each year or that sometimes otherwise mostly decent people succumb to emotion and lash out with physical violence. Those aspects of humanity have plagued the human condition ever since we first came down out of the trees. Thing is, Richard A. Friedman most certainly doesn’t have a solution either.
There is no means by which to collect the half-billion guns and few trillion rounds of ammo from the citizens of the USA. There is no way to restrict the ever-falling prices and rising availability of home-based CNC and 3D printing equipment that can be used to replicate 13th century technology in a person’s garage. Friedman’s grand flourish at the end of his butthurt piece was to propose the impossible and suggest no means of accomplishing it. Monty Python’s Flying Circus did a whole skit like that. That was funny. Friedman’s piece is just stupid.
As I’ve said before, there is no way to address the issue of guns and violence in the United States of America via lawmaking unless you also have a time machine – because you’ll need to go back two centuries and change the laws before the North American continent became awash in arms and ammo and populated by a people inclined to keep both. Since this defies all known laws of physics, legislating gun violence into extinction isn’t a viable solution.
The only answer, of course is for humans to get better at being human. Until humans learn to let reason rather than emotion govern their actions exclusively, there will always be violence. Emotions are often irrational. Violence that isn’t carried out in direct defense of one’s self or property is always irrational. Given this, the notion that concentrating all firearms into a group of people who have a monopoly on the legal initialization of violence will make any individual safer is asinine. After all, the state is made up of individuals, and the constant call for police body cameras and other criminal justice reforms ought remind us that all individual humans are susceptible to the same bedeviling faults that lead humans to violence – the color of their costume notwithstanding.