Here is the “mental health and mass shooting” archive of Mahablog posts, starting with the most recent:
Evolutionary Psychology and Extreme Gun Ownership (October 7, 2017)
Labeling Stephen Paddock (October 3, 2017)
Are Guns Nuts Too Mentally Ill to Own Guns? (June 22, 2016)
The Fantasies of Terrorism (June 17, 2016)
On Crime, Crazy and Culture (December 24, 2014)
Impulse and Ideology (June 16, 2014)
Thoughts on the Mass Shooting du Jour (June 9, 2014)
The Heart of Darkness (Ma7 27, 2014)
Under the Crazy Rug (May 25, 2014)
Hitler and the Gun Nuts (January 12, 2013)
Guns as Sacred Objects (January 10, 2013)
Call Us All Crazy (December 24, 2012)
Defenses: Insanity (January 24, 2011)
Culture and Conditioning (January 11, 2011)
There may be some older ones, but I think that’s enough. They all kind of make the same argument, which is:
Most of the time, mass shooters don’t have a definable “mental illness.” They do tend to have a similar complex of common personality and behavioral characteristics, however. They tend to be hotheads. They tend to be impulsive. Often they are socially awkward in some way; women may call them “creepy.” They don’t tend to have successful relationships, in other words, although sometimes they are married. Very often they have histories of domestic violence and animal abuse. They probably hoard several firearms and have for a while.
Guys like this are as common as toast. What they don’t have is any kind of brain or medically defined psychiatric illness that accounts for their decisions to kill people. They are not psychotic; they are not hearing voices in their heads or imagining that the nice people in the church are really space invaders.
And there is no way for the psychiatrists to know whether this or that creepy hotheaded asshole is the one who might be a mass shooter, or not. Further, there is no medical treatment for being a creepy hotheaded asshole.
So, labeling mass shooters as “mentally ill” does absolutely nothing to help us address the problem. It’s no different from calling them “bad” or “evil.” It’s a meaningless label that gives us no usable information.
The problem (especially argued in the most recent posts) is that this is more of a social or cultural problem than an individual one. There is something in our culture (plus the availability of firearms) that is causing this. One of those elements is our romanticization of firearms, I’m sure (see especially “Guns as Sacred Objects“). Somehow the acts of firing bullets into flesh is the “point”; mass killing by other means, such as by arson or bombs, is much less common among our creepy hotheaded assholes, which suggests those other means don’t have the same emotional appeal.
I’m also more and more convinced that the same complex of personality and behavioral traits that caused Devin Patrick Kelley to open fire in a church pushes young men elsewhere to join ISIS and other terrorist organizations. The difference between a “terrorist” and “some white guy shooting people for no good reason” is pretty damn blurry, and possibly meaningless, also. Well, except to some people.