On Mental Illness, Medication and Guns: A Modest Proposal

Alleged school shooter Nikolaus Cruz posted this selfie on Instagram before carrying out his crimes.

It’s another week with another school shooting in America, but this time it feels different. The Republican strategy of offering thoughts and prayers, along with admonitions that now is not the time to talk about gun control, has been met with outrage from the community of Parkland, Fla., after yet another troubled teenager armed with an assault rifle gunned down 17 of his classmates in cold blood. There’s a sense in the air that now, finally, something will be done.

Having been through this ritual countless times since the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999, I have my doubts. Indeed, the responses to such incidents, from both proponents of gun rights and gun control advocates, have become a part of the ritual, with overly broad claims that purport to be solutions to the crisis—there’s no doubt this is a crisis—which have little if any chance of ever being enacted. Social media platforms have been burning up all week with such suggestions, with a sort of perverse glee.

In the wake of the bloodbath at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, gun proponents have un-ironically suggested the solution to the problem is more guns: Arming teachers will act as a deterrent to would-be school shooters emboldened by gun-free safe-zones in public schools. How exactly this is supposed to deter individuals who are often suicidal, or whether teachers would willingly go along with this plan, is not explained.

Gun opponents, besides calling for the predictable renewal of the ban on assault weapons such as the AR-15 used by Nikolaus Cruz to murder his former classmates at Stoneman, have gone as far to indict the entire white male patriarchy, observing that once again, the shooter was a white male. But banning assault weapons won’t stop deranged kids from using, say, a handgun to carry out their crimes, and condemning half the population, namely males, for perpetuating “gun culture” is not likely to yield positive results politically.

I, of course, plead guilty when it comes to offering my own overarching prescriptions for what ails society on social media and elsewhere. When it comes to school shootings—and many other mass shootings involving mainly young male perpetrators—the first question I always ask is: What kind of medication was that guy on?

That’s because one of the defining characteristics virtually all school shooters have in common is a history of taking psychiatric medications, specifically serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. These drugs, which are used to treat depression and other disorders, first became widely available in the late 1980s, when Prozac first came to market. There are many variations of SSRIs on the market today, and most of them now come with a “black box” warning, courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration, because they are known to cause suicidal ideation and bizarre, life-threatening behavior in some individuals, particularly young people, whose brains are still physically developing.

But in the early 1990s, before its relationship to suicidal and violent behavior became apparent, Prozac was being hailed as a miracle drug, because it helped millions of people recover from depression, a mental disorder that had been traditionally defined by an observable constellation of physical and mental symptoms delineated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association, the DSM-5, now in its fifth edition.

Back then, the manufacturers of Prozac, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, claimed depression was caused by a chemical imbalance in the body, namely a lack of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is an organic chemical compound essential to neurotransmitters that is produced in the gut. Eli Lilly’s claim was based on patients’ positive reactions to Prozac, not on any actual measured chemical imbalance in clinical trials. Nearly three decades on, the chemical imbalance theory has come under heavy criticism, most notably from psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin and medical journalist Robert Whitaker.

I was one of those people suffering from depression in the 1990s who found relief in Prozac. In my case, I was diagnosed with dysthymia, chronic “mild” depression, a disorder I would much later discover was more related to the fact I had been living with undiagnosed Hepatitis C since the late 1970s than any supposed chemical imbalance. But at the time, Prozac was a godsend for me. It was like a cloud had lifted from my mind, and all my previously untapped potential was unleashed.

I quite specifically remember riding my motorcycle to work one day after the medication had taken effect, beneath a blazing azure sky, with a sense of well-being I hadn’t experienced since childhood. Suddenly the odd thought occurred to me that with a simple tweak of the handlebars, I could swerve into the oncoming traffic and end it all and that would be totally OK by me. For the first time in my adult life, I felt … free.

I have never been a suicidal person, so I rolled that idea around inside my head with some level of bemusement. I’ve always been possessed by an acute sense of my own mortality, and here I was riding down the divided highway, with a totally new mindset. I didn’t consider how the person I’d crash into might feel at being the harbinger of my end, or how my own family and loved ones might react. Nothing mattered, not even my own death.

It was the purest form of nihilism I’ve ever experienced, and while this feeling lessened over time, the Prozac-induced change in my head led to risk-taking behavior that caused me numerous personal problems, to say the least. As Breggin and Whitaker have documented, I am by no means unique when it comes to my reaction to these drugs. It wasn’t until I was cured of Hepatitis C several years ago that I finally got my mental health issues sorted out.

During this whole time period — the 1990s until the present — numerous school shootings began occurring, and it did not escape my notice that many, if not most, of the young perpetrators were on or had been on SSRI medications.

The first one I recall reading about was Kip Kinkel, the 15-year-old who first killed his parents then killed two students and wounded 25 others at Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore., in 1998. It turned out Kinkel had been treated with Prozac and was withdrawing from the drug when he committed his crimes.

The following year, heavily-armed teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Kiebold killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Colorado before committing suicide. Harris, it was later revealed, had been prescribed the SSRI antidepressant Luvox.

In 2007, Seung-Hui Cho, a Korean student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University with a history of mental issues, killed 32 people and wounded 17 others on campus. Cho was prescribed Prozac prior to his rampage.

In 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, armed with an assault rifle, first killed his mother and then 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. Two years later, it was revealed that Lanza, who had a long history of emotional disturbances despite his young age, was treated with the SSRI medications Lexapro and Celexa.

After each of these mass shootings, and many, many others—not always at schools, but often involving young men who had previously been on SSRIs or some other psychiatric medication—the inevitable cry of “Why?” rang out. When I’d later learn that SSRIs were involved, having experienced personally how these drugs can shape what we might call our conscience, our concept of right and wrong, our sense of self-preservation, that was answer enough for me.

While my viewpoint is biased because of my own experience with these medications, it is validated by ongoing scientific research, not to mention the FDA black box warning that now comes with virtually all SSRI medications. A 2010 peer-reviewed study using the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System found a correlation between 31 commonly prescribed psychiatric drugs and violent behavior toward others, with three of the most widely used SSRIs topping the list, followed by amphetamines, which are used to treat conditions such as ADHD.

Interestingly, Charles Whitman, the Texas Tower sniper who killed 17 people in Austin, Texas in 1966, was later determined to be on amphetamines prior to and during the shooting. Stephen Paddock, the 64-year-old Las Vegas shooter who killed 58 people and injured 851 others after he opened fire from his hotel room window on a crowd of concert-goers below last November, was later determined to be on the sedative Valium, which also made the list of 31 prescription drugs linked to violent behavior.

However, as the statisticians say, correlation is not necessarily causation. Millions of people take SSRIs and are satisfied with their medications, which enable them to lead happier, more productive lives. While many patients experience the same side effects as I did and discontinue SSRIs, the vast majority who remain on medication don’t commit suicide or perpetrate mass shootings.

Similarly, the millions of legal gun owners in the United States are by and large responsible gun owners, although it’s worth noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that two-thirds of the 38,000 firearm deaths recorded in the United States in 2016 were suicides, mainly by men.

It’s also worth mentioning that the pharmaceutical industry maintains one of the strongest lobbies in Congress, financially more powerful than the highly vaunted National Rifle Association. Any attempt to restrict or otherwise regulate the use of incredibly lucrative antidepressant medications is certain to meet heavy resistance, just as the NRA will surely oppose any attempt to curb its view of Second Amendment rights.

All of this goes to show school shootings are a complex social phenomenon that defy an easy political solution. Last year, gun control proponents roundly criticized President Donald Trump when he rescinded an Obama era initiative requiring severely mentally ill people to register for the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Trump’s move was applauded by the NRA—and the American Civil Liberties Union, which complained the policy, put in place after Sandy Hook, perpetuated the stereotype that all mentally ill people are potentially violent, when clinical evidence suggests the opposite.

In the wake of the latest school shooting in Florida, Trump has attempted to shift the conversation away from guns and toward mental health treatment. While this may indeed be a deflection designed to please his gun-supporting base, as Trump’s detractors claim, it could turn out to be a move in the right direction.

That’s because the evidence is mounting that mental health treatment may have played a roll in Nikolaus Cruz’s decision to mow down 17 people, students and adults, with an assault rifle. As with past school shooters, Cruz appears to be a troubled young man with a history of severe emotional and behavioral problems. His adopted mother reportedly sought treatment for him, and according to acquaintances, he was known to be on medication.

What exact medication Cruz took, if any, remains a mystery at present. Due to patient privacy concerns, such information is guarded closely by treating psychiatrists and often doesn’t come to light until years after the incident, as in the case of Lanza. But I will not be surprised in the slightest if it turns out Cruz was at some point on an SSRI medication, like many of his predecessors.

What can we do about this, presuming SSRIs are a contributing factor to school shootings? Considering that millions of young people and adults are helped by these medications and don’t commit acts of violence, an outright ban on SSRIs would be both unwarranted and unfair to those who are helped by these drugs. It would also be vigorously opposed by the formidable pharmaceutical lobby, which has billions of dollars at stake.

But we could modify our treatment approach to young men like Kinkle, Harris, Cho, Lanza and Cruz. As Dr. Breggin has repeatedly pointed out, as a society, we’ve come to rely more on the quick fixes offered by modern pharmaceuticals, rather than more traditional talk therapies that in many cases prove safer and more effective in the long run.

Perhaps when we place such young men on these powerful medications, we could establish a mandatory waiting period, during which the patient would voluntarily forfeit any weapons in his possession and be prevented from purchasing any new ones, until it can be determined that he’s responding normally to the medication.

This, to me, seems like a productive avenue to explore. We don’t have to ban all guns, we don’t have to prohibit certain medications. Somewhere along the way, perhaps by actually talking to them, we might discover why so many young men have become so alienated from society, and why a small number of them strike back with extreme, incomprehensible violence.

Unfortunately, until we find those answers, this will almost undoubtedly happen again, and the ritual will repeat itself.

R.V. Scheide
R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas. He can be emailed at RVScheide@anewscafe.com.
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112 Responses

  1. Avatar Cass says:

    ” school shootings are a complex social phenomenon…” only in America. Other countries don’t have this problem.

    • Avatar Tim says:

      School attacks are neither a recent, nor a uniquely American, phenomenon:

      1856 USA 2 dead hands, gun
      1868 USA 3 dead guns
      1891 USA 0 dead 14 injured gun
      1898 USA 6 dead several injured gun
      1902 Austria 4 dead 3 injured gun
      1913 Germany 5 dead 23 injured gun
      1923 New Zealand 2 dead 8 injured guns explosives
      1925 Poland 5 dead 10 injured revolvers & explosives
      1927 USA 45 dead 58 injured bomb
      1939 Bulgaria 4 dead 0 injured revolver
      1959 USA 6 dead 19 injured bomb
      1962 Taiwan 7 dead 3 injured pistol
      1964 Germany 11 dead 22 injured flamethrower
      1975 Canada 3 dead 13 injured rifle
      1975 Canada 3 dead 5 injured shotgun
      1982 Hong Kong 5 dead 43 injured knife
      1983 Germany 6 dead 14 injured pistol
      1986 USA 2 dead 79 wounded bomb
      1996 UK 18 dead 15 wounded guns
      1997 Yemen 6 dead 13 injured assault rifle
      2001 Kenya 67 dead 19 injured fire
      2001 Japan 8 dead 15 injured knife
      2002 Germany 17 dead 7 injured pistol & shotgun
      2003 China 4 dead, 3 injured knife
      2003 Brazil 1 dead, 8 injured pistol
      2003 Thailand 2 dead, 4 injured pistol
      2004 Argentina 3 dead, 5 injured pistol
      2004 China 9 dead, 3 injured knife
      2004 China 4 dead 12 injured knife
      2005 Japan 0 dead 58 injured bomb
      2006 Germany 1 dead 37 injured shotgun, bombs
      2006 China 12 dead 5 injured knife, fire
      2007 Thailand 3 dead 7 injured bombs
      2007 China 2 dead 4 injured knife
      2007 Finland 9 dead 1 injured rifle
      2008 Sri Lanka 17 dead 14 injured bomb
      2008 China 3 dead 4 injured knife
      2009 Germany 16 dead 9 injured pistol
      2009 Swaziland 2 dead 10 injured spear
      2009 Belgium 4 dead 12 injured knife
      2010 China 8 dead 10 injured machete
      2010 China 2 dead 5 injured meat cleaver
      2010 China 10 dead 11 injured meat cleaver
      2010 China 3 dead 7 injured knife
      2010 Philippines 4 dead 6 injured knife
      2011 Brazil 13 dead 12 injured guns
      2011 Puerto Rico 0 dead 37 injured hypodermic needle
      2012 France 4 dead 1 injured guns
      2012 Italy 1 dead 5 injured bomb
      2013 Nigeria 42 dead 6 injured guns & fire
      2013 China 2 dead 44 injured bomb
      2014 Russia 2 dead 1 injured rifle
      2014 China 4 dead 5 injured knife
      2014 Philippines 4 dead 3 injured gun
      2015 Brazil 0 dead 43 injured chair
      2015 Sweden 4 dead 1 injured sword
      2016 Canada 4 dead 7 injured gun
      2017 Mexico 2 dead 3 injured gun
      2017 Brazil 2 dead 4 injured gun

      • I notice the concentration of school shootings in the U.S. since the 1990s is not on your list.

        • Avatar Tim says:

          I did not include any US shootings after 1900. The list was long enough and its purpose was to show that this is a long-term problem worldwide with varied methods.

          Few know that the deadliest US school attack was not a shooting, but a bombing; fewer still know the perpetrator’s name (which is how it should be).

          I also hoped some might notice the element of contagion to locations/methods.

          • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

            Had you included US shootings after 1900, recent decades likely would have made it look like an exponential growth function. I’ll take it as given that your intent wasn’t to obscure that.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            Speaking of exponential growth, when you factor for the rising population by expressing as a rate per million you see that mass school shootings have been fairly flat: https://reason.com/assets/mc/_external/2018_02/grant-duwe-politico.jpg

          • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

            I can’t tell from the labeling of graph’s axes whether the X axis represents the number of events per million, or the body count per million. I suspect it’s events per million, which immediately makes me wonder (1) if the body could would show a very different pattern, and if so, (2) that’s why it’s not presented.

            Maybe I’m imagining it, but there almost seems to be a body-count competition that’s emerged over the past several decades when it comes to mass shootings.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            Number of events per 100 million people. Here is the original article: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/10/04/mass-shootings-more-deadly-frequent-research-215678

            As for body count, the number of people shot per incident has gone up, which is to be expected. These people study other shootings and learn from them and know that media coverage will be based on the severity. For instance, when watching news of a shooting in Pennsylvania, the Florida shooter commented that he could do better.

            The media doesn’t usually cover suicide (certainly not in as graphic detail as mass shootings) because of suicide contagion. School attack contagion is just as real and getting 5 news networks to agree on content restrictions seems a hell of a lot easier, and probably more effective, than confiscating 10,000,000 AR15s.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        Laundry lists of individual events perhaps aren’t meaningless, but they’re close to being meaningless.

        School killings are not uniquely American, nor limited to guns, nor a recent invention. It’s just that we’ve taken it to new levels.

  2. Avatar Tim says:

    The cry for more gun control was definitely more pronounced after this last shooting, but that may be in part because the Russian social media propaganda machine has been out in full force promoting gun control & sowing American discord. Seriously: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/02/19/technology/russian-bots-school-shooting.html

  3. Avatar cheyenne says:

    In all these shootings the one thing that comes to light is that others knew of the shooters troubled behavior. In Parkland the FBI admits they didn’t follow up on a tip from a classmate warning them about Cruz’s troubled behavior. But, unlike the FBI, schools take the threat of shootings seriously and take action. In every state there are reports of a school shooting being prevented because a classmate warned school officials. Many of these threats turn out to be false but stopping one is time well spent.
    When I worked at Enterprise I saw friends of mine from RPD in the parking lot. They said there had been a fight between Asian groups and one group had threatened to bring gang members from Sacramento to retaliate. The threat never happened. When I showed up for work at SLC one afternoon the school was under lockdown. Someone from across the street had reported two armed men entering SLC. Again a false claim.
    The schools ask students to report any behavioral issues from their classmates and the schools do investigate. In the digital age it is easier to determine how a student thinks. We do not need to arm teachers, bad idea, we can’t remove guns from the equation. The best thing we can do is be more aware of what is happening around us.

    • It does seem that many of the perpetrators of school shootings share similar characteristic behaviors that could be seen as warning signs.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      I can’t get on the “report all suspicious behavior” and “blame the FBI” bandwagons.

      I could probably drop a dime on a dozen local acquaintances who have what I would characterize as gun fetishes, and (more importantly) have made bizarre statements regarding how they’d like to use those guns some day. (Bizarre to me, but often eliciting agreement from other dudes at the bar or poker table.) The pics on Facebook and Instagram of posing with guns that the Florida shooter posted, including overt and veiled threats, is so commonplace that we’d have to expand the FBI ten-fold and become a police state in order for “report, report, report” to be a deterrent.

      We’d also have to change the laws considerably. We once had a tweaker neighbor in Palo Cedro who was the single most irresponsible and obnoxious gun owner I’ve ever encountered (and I’ve had guns pointed at me twice while doing my job). When I and the neighbors reported him to the Sheriff’s Office, we were told that he wasn’t breaking a law staying up all night until 6:00 am on Sunday, shooting his .44 magnum hand cannon and playing death metal at window-shaking volume for the sheer joy of making everyone around him miserable.

      Our neighborhood school board here in Palo Cedro—North Cow Creek School—reportedly voted to authorize allowing teachers to pack guns a year or so ago. I suspect this was purely political—I doubt many teachers are stupid enough to want to take on the liability in the face of a vanishingly small statistical risk of school invasion. But, this being Shasta County, you never know. If my kids were still attending NCCS, I’d demand to know if any of their teachers were carrying. Those guns, carried into classrooms by teachers, would immediately become the larger source of risk.

      • Avatar cheyenne says:

        Steve, so you think responding to a student warning about a classmate is jumping on the bandwagon. What would you do to prevent more school shootings other than pointing out how others suggestions are wrong?

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          The single act of reporting a classmate isn’t jumping on the bandwagon. Pretending that the panacea to mass shootings is everyone telling on everyone else is the bandwagon. There are simply too many “troubled” teens to ride herd on, and no sure way of knowing which ones are going to go off the deep end. There will never be enough resources to proactively analyze and intervene.

          I think I’ve made it abundantly clear what I would do: Gun control. The single thing that sets us apart from the rest of the developed world is the density of guns here. Mass shootings will remain a problem in the United States until we do something similar to what was done in Australia. (In other words, it will still be a problem long after you and I cease energy intake and metabolic repair, and our corpses fall victim to entropy.)

          REAL gun control……or admit that we value the right to private gun fetishism over all of its horrific costs, and STFU.

          • Avatar cheyenne says:

            Steve, you are right about too many troubled teens. I had lots of experience, something most posters on here haven’t. The hardest thing to figure is went a teenager is just being a teenager or really being bad. The only people who can really figure that out are people who work with these students every day. Also those who work in the schools have better knowledge of how to prevent shootings then those who just google endless stats.

  4. Avatar conservative says:

    Fetal alcohol syndrome is estimated to be more common than ADHD and is often misdiagnosed and mistreated as ADHD. 18-20 year old mothers have a lower prevalence of alcoholism, binge drinking and other forms of alcohol abuse. Mothers over 30 have a higher prevalence. There is speculation that Cruz has features of fetal alcohol syndrome.

    Orphans from Russia have one of the highest incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome.

  5. Avatar conservative says:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3691530/

    Diagnostic confusion between ADHD, fetal alcohol syndrome and autism spectrum leads to large variability in treatment of boys with psychotropic drugs.

    • Many of the school and mass shooters do seem to share “autistic” characteristics. After reading about their mental health backgrounds, I’m usually surprised they were given psychotropics, which were, in the beginning, reserved for only the severely depressed. Often physicians prescribe these medications for conditions besides depression because sometimes patients respond positively to them–even if the physicians don’t know how exactly how the medications work.

      • Avatar Tim says:

        According to the CDC, 1 in 68 people fall on the autism spectrum so it should come as no surprise that a handful out of the hundreds of mass shooters have either been diagnosed with autism or had significant speculation of having autism (beyond the lone wolf “he was quiet and kept to himself” stereotype).

        Yet those on the spectrum actually have lower rates of criminality than the general public.

        The thing is, having autism does not mean you can’t also have schizophrenia, or Borderline Personality, or Bipolar disorder, or ADHD, or FAS, or depression, or anything else. And when you look closely at the shooters suspected of being autistic, you find they all had other issues.

        But autism, particularly the high-functioning Asperger’s variety, is correlated with the ability to think long and hard on a single subject (what some would call obsession). So when someone with autism decides for whatever reason to commit mass murder, they tend to plan and prepare for months. I suspect this is the reason why when you look at the deadliest attacks, those with autism are disproportionately represented.

        • “The thing is, having autism does not mean you can’t also have schizophrenia, or Borderline Personality, or Bipolar disorder, or ADHD, or FAS, or depression, or anything else.”

          ^ Many of the school shooters who are known to have received mental health treatment have been hard to diagnose because they exhibit so many different symptoms.

  6. Randall Smith Randall Smith says:

    The idea of restrictions on those acting irrationally would seem a basic tenet of good public health. However, the HIV epidemic proved that 500 years of sound policy has no standing in our present society where the word “no” in merely a suggestion. Real change requires a fortitude and a common sense missing today. Big Bummer as innocent children deserve better treatment than to be shot at school.

    • Avatar Damon Miller says:

      Can you elaborate on what you mean?

    • Um, gay people have been around a lot longer than 500 years, FYI.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      I believe Randall is arguing in favor of self-discipline, restraint, and sacrifice in an age of “me first/gimme gimme.” I took the HIV remark to be about increased sexual promiscuity, not homosexuality.

      Randall says, “Real change requires a fortitude and a common sense missing today.” I take his point to be that in order to seriously address the epidemic of gun violence in America, people on both sides would have to give some ground that would be painful to give up—but we have grown incapable of such sacrifices.

  7. Avatar Bob says:

    Good article. One thing that could be looked at more closely – violent movies and video games!
    Seldom mentioned, but a definite factor.

    • That’s an interesting point Bob, and one that I’ve done some investigation on over the years. First it was about violent TV programs and movies. Then it was about violent video games. The last time I looked at the research on the issue, the results were the same: No one, so far, as definitively proven that violent media causes consumers of the media to be any more violent than those who don’t consume it. I actually doubt this, but that’s what the research so far says.

    • Avatar Olbrier Bush says:

      Ipods,tv’s and even the news media is like a large hypodermic needle full of death and destruction being injected into a mind that is encapable of reason. This is what i think needs more study.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Bob, violent movies and video games are mentioned all the time, along with the hypothesis that we’ve turned our backs on religion, and the hypothesis that the family unit has disintegrated.

      Violent movies and video games are popular in Europe and Asia, too. Atheism is more prevalent in European and Asian countries than in the USA as well. Divorce rates in Europe are roughly equal to ours, in some cases higher. Yet gun homicide rates are far, far lower.

      In Latin America, where atheism and divorce are less common than in the USA, gun homicide rates are generally higher.

      Go figure. Must be something else.

      • Avatar Bob says:

        Would be interesting to see if the Florida school murderer is a video game nut!

      • Avatar Tim says:

        Steve: Can you think of any major country that has a homicide rate lower than the US that also has anywhere close to a similar level of diversity? In the US, Whites makes up ~65% and Protestants ~50% of the population…

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          Tim — You’ve asked me similar questions before, so let me be clear: I am not interested in making this about race. It’s about economic disparity and opportunity (with strong ties to education).

          It so happens that certain racial and ethnic groups are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to economic disparity, which is far more pronounced in the United States than it is in most of Europe.

          During the mass migrations of Europeans to the United states in the 19th century through WWI, the highest crime rates were in immigrant ghettos. Italians, Jews, and Irish were the gangsters. It doesn’t surprise me that we have Russian and SE Asian gangsters now.

          You can go ahead and counter that with statistics about race and crime, but I’ll ignore it. Again: I’m not rising to that fly.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            Yet you keep pointing to lower homicide rates (or economic inequality) in a bunch of foreign monocultures as if that is something we want. We are a free and diverse society and those differences create opportunities for conflict. That is the price of freedom…

            Homicide rates in the relative monocultures within the US are also very low:
            New Hampshire…..1.3 per 100k
            Maine……………………1.5 per 100k
            Minnesota…………….1.8 per 100k
            Vermont………………..2.2 per 100k
            Connecticut…………..2.2 per 100k
            Iowa………………………2.3 per 100k
            Utah……………………….2.4 per 100k

            USA average…………..5.3 per 100k

            Incidentally Switzerland, which has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world, has a homicide rate typical of European monocultures 0.79 per 100k…

        • Steve Towers the obvious reply to this is Shasta County is a so-called monoculture, i.e. white, Christian, and perpetually has the highest crime rates in a very otherwise diverse state.

          • Avatar cheyenne says:

            Wyoming is a monoculture, i.e. white, Christian state. But in the last ten years there has been an 84% increase in Hispanics and a 24% increase in whites. Wyoming is still a monoculture but the diversity is changing. I think you would find this true throughout the nation.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            Redding 10 year average murder rate: 3.1 per 100k (28 murders, 90,000 population)
            California 10 year average murder rate: 5.1 per 100k (19,085 murders, 37,250,000 population)

            This is despite Redding’s lower average income and higher use/abuse of drugs & alcohol…

  8. Avatar name says:

    If a person is already demented, twisted, and/or mentally ill, then the violent video games & movies may play a part. But there are plenty of people who have played these games extensively, and watched the most brutal movies – yet they have never harmed others with an assault rifle.

  9. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Minor quibble: The serotonin in the brain is produced in the brain, not the gut. Serotonin can’t pass through the blood-brain barrier. Serotonin’s precursor, tryptophan (and its metabolite 5-HPT), does pass through the blood-brain barrier, and is then available to be metabolized into serotonin.

    Gut serotonin regulates smooth muscle, but it probably affects emotions as well. The gut contains an intricate neural network made up of 100 million neurons (more than the spine or the peripheral nervous system) and is a bathtub of neurotransmitters and hormones—some call it the “second brain.” How “gut feelings” affect how we experience the world and how we behave is a fascinating field.

    Weird little fact: The vagus nerve is the main pathway between the brain and the gut. Ninety percent of its capacity is used to send info fro the gut to the brain, not vice-versa. It sort of begs the question: Who’s got the steering wheel?

    • And another one:
      http://www.caltech.edu/news/microbes-help-produce-serotonin-gut-46495

      It seems 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is manufactured in the gut. I don’t know if the other 10 percent is manufactured exclusively in the brain, and I don’t know if SSRIs operate on both sides of the barrier. But I may be focusing on the gut because I’ve read the articles linked above and others like them. I find this issue interesting because some of the major side effects almost everyone gets with SSRIs involves digestives issues–change in bowel movements, urination, weight gain, weight loss, etc. In the SA article above, they’re examining the relationship between the brain and gut you mention. I can tell you my stomach feels much better now. So does my head.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        You read my post before quibbling back, right? We don’t disagree at all. My second and third paragraphs are pretty much what you’re talking about, don’t you think?

        Yes, the 10% of the body’s serotonin used in the brain as a neurotransmitter is produced solely in the brain—the serotonin produced in the gut isn’t transported to the brain across the blood-brain barrier. SSRIs do act on both gut and brain levels of serotonin. What effects SSRIs have on us—including mood and behavior—as a result of their actions in the gut is at least as interesting as their actions in the brain.

        My minor quibble was with the statement you attribute to Eli Lily that depression is a function of not enough serotonin in the brain. Their remedy is SSRIs, which repress the re-uptake of serotonin in the brain. You’re exactly right—90% of the stuff is produced in the gut. Eli Lily probably isn’t all that interested in revealing how the dampening of “gut feelings” affects behavior. I expect the answer is that it has profound effects.

        As someone who engaged in a lot of high-risk behavior in my youth (unroped free climbing of near-vertical rock walls, jumping of cornices and tucking steep bowls on downhill skis, etc.), I know exactly the risk-inhibiting nature of fear. I did a lot of really stupid stuff, and butterflies I could deal with, but I also remember thinking on occasion: “I’m not doing this. I don’t really feel like shitting myself today.”

        I probably would have gone ahead if I’d been on SSRIs.

        • I did not read your post closely at first, and realized we were in agreement as I was responding. But I kept responding because I figured you’d be interested in the topic. It’s a reuptake inhibitor, but does that leave more serotonin in the brain or less? I forget how it’s supposed to work–and there’s considerable evidence that the drug companies don’t know how they work.

          The difference between a risk-taking behavior like rock climbing (or riding a motorcycle) is you generally know you’re taking a risk. My risk-taking experiences with SSRIs involved bizarre actions that any “normal” person would never attempt. The idea I was taking a risk never occurred to me. My doctors’ reactions for the first 10 years this went on were to pile on the other medications, which only compounded the problem.

          • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

            SSRIs don’t change the amount of serotonin in the brain, but they leave more serotonin in the spaces between cells where it does its stuff.

            When a brain cell stimulates (or inhibits) another brain cell, it does so by releasing a neurotransmitter from the axon bud of the presynaptic cell into the synapse—the space between the axon of first cell and generally the dendrite (receiving end) of the post-synaptic cell. The post-synaptic cell takes the neurotransmitter into receptors. Meanwhile, the pre-synaptic cell starts sucking up the free neurotransmitter from the synapse back into cell via re-uptake channels, so that it can be re-used.

            SSRIs work by blocking the re-uptake channels of the pre-synaptic cell, by mimicking to some degree the chemical configuration of part of the neurotransmitter molecule (like a key that fits but can’t be turned, thus acting as a temporary plug). That allows the neurotransmitters to remain in the synapse and keep doing their stuff to the post-synaptic cell.

            LSD and other hallucinogens work at least in part by blocking serotonin receptors in the post-synaptic cells, rather than the re-uptake channels in the pre-synaptic cells. Again, that’s done via similar molecular configuration. You easily can see the similarity of chemical structures between serotonin, LSD, an psilocybin. (LSD also binds to dopamine receptors, but that doesn’t seem to have psychotropic effects.)

        • I can confirm that LSD does not work when the patient is on SSRIs.

  10. Avatar Elly says:

    Dr. Greene wrote a book, “Lost In School”. It is cheap, on amazon and worth the read. Some districts have adopted it as their Tier 2 Behavior Intervention Plan for their students. Dr. Greene’s plan is peer reviewed and works! It involves, gasp, talking to the kid with problems and collaborating with them to solve the problems. I am of course simplifying it, because the book guides the conversation, but in a nutshell, this works.

  11. Avatar conservative says:

    Growing up in the 1950s in Detroit, one boy on my street behaved so strangely that other kids avoided him. That was before ritalin and adderall were given to boys. Boys with poor social skills and impulsivity do poorly in early grades which makes the alienation worse. A boy learns important lessons playing with other boys. Adderall is not the answer for every boy’s behavior problems.

  12. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    The woods is full of “troubled young men,” and many of them remain troubled through middle age and beyond. When one of them decides to commit mass murder, we look back at their past troubles and, using a posteriori reasoning, decide that they were mentally ill.

    The whole “mental illness” thing is a red herring. It’s not a predictive variable. Are we supposed to believe that European nations have lower levels of mental illness in proportion to their lower rates of gun-related homicide and suicide?

    Far more than mental illness, gun violence in America is associated with prior histories of anger, religious and political extremism, and the illegal drug trade. (“Angry, self-righteous, intolerant @$$hole” is not a mental illness in the DMS-5; nor is “gang member.”) Suggesting that the solution is to focus on mental health is weaksauce nonsense. It would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high.

    • Gun violence is a far broader topic than I’m discussing here, but your point is well taken. Please check out Dr. Breggin’s website. One of the main things he does is serve as an expert witness for the defense in cases involving people who commit bizarre violent acts while under the influence of SSRI medications, generally heinous murders of spouses, co-workers, etc. with handguns. These cases are legion–often SSRI involvement is not mentioned in press stories–and when Breggin shows up to court, prosecutors will sometimes plea a case down from 1st degree murder rather than go to trial, because the evidence of a causal link between SSRIs and violence is growing stronger.

      As far as the broader topic of gun violence in America goes, politically I support far stronger federal gun control laws than we have now. I think Australia’s approach would work here, I think gun proponents might be shocked at how successful a national gun buy-back program would be in the United States. Rather than ban semi-automatic rifles outright, we could demand prospective buyers demonstrate they have a legitimate use for the weapon–whether it be hunting or target shooting or self-defense. There’s no question in my mind this could be done totally within the bounds of the Second Amendment. There’s also no question in my mind that this is politically impossible until at least 2020.

      I don’t see mental illness, in the context I’ve placed it here, as a red herring. I chose to focus on this narrow area–school shooters and SSRIs–because discussing the broader issue of all gun violence has become so polarized, and if I wrote about my preferred solution, better gun control laws, I”d simply be trolling half my readers. Which would be fun, granted.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        The SSRI hypothesis is one that you’ve made me aware of, and it’s the only one that I’ve encountered as an alternative to “we’re neck-deep in guns, you idiots” that I find compelling.

        I don’t know for sure that Americans are gut-zombies compared with Europeans owing to SSRI over-prescription, but that wouldn’t surprise me. If someone showed me data that we consume an order of magnitude more SSRI than Europeans, I’d see it as a likely major contributor to mass shootings. Maybe a regulation banning possession of guns by people on SSRIs?

        But as gun proponents themselves love to point out, such narrow restrictions don’t work. It’s too easy for people who aren’t supposed to have guns to get their hands on them. Because Murica.

        My point about severe mental illness isn’t that it’s never a factor. It certainly was with the mass shooters in Tucson, AZ and Aurora, CO. It’s the retroactive labeling of every mass shooter as mentally ill that I don’t like. But I see that if you’re discussing the perhaps over-prescribing of SSRIs and their link to mass shootings, it’s necessary to couch it as a mental health issue.

        I don’t think we’ll ever ban semi-automatic weapons in the USA. I wonder about the psychological contribution of military-style weapons on certain people, though—just the look and feel of them. I know a few guys who own AR-15s and the like. They tend to be precisely the types of people who you don’t want fantasizing about civil war, end-games, end-times, WTSHTF and so on, if you know what I mean.

  13. Avatar Richard Christoph says:

    Here is a list of members of the “well-regulated militia,” 1982-2018

    https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-mother-jones-full-data/

    • It would be very interesting to go through that list and find out the percentage of perpetrators who were on SSRIs. A dozen names jumped right out at me, because I’ve read about their cases and I know they were.

      The ideological mass shooters, from John Lee Malvo and John Allen Muhammad (The Washington snipers) to Dylan Roof (suspected medication abuse) to the San Bernardino terrorists are to me in another category. Rather than nihilism (believing in nothing) these shooters were following their own ideologies to their logical extreme.

  14. Avatar Common Sense says:

    I see the biggest issue on this topic as keeping the guns out of the hands of those that are not mentally stable or are taking RX’s such as you described if it can be found that the SSRI’s contribute. It’s not a simple solution…that’s for sure! But the odds of someone with a mental illness and or taking RX’s getting a gun and doing harm are far greater than the average Stable American with guns.

    Americans and their guns go too far back to ever have a mandatory turn in procedure. Talk about shootings if that were ever tried. I can just picture the prepper holed up in Whitmore with his buried shipping container and tunnels and stockpile of food and armaments…not following orders and giving it all up.

    The RX Industry is a $550 Billion Dollar Industry….so as they say….follow the Money! They do their own research, turn it over to the Gov with a nice contribution to the campaign funds and walla….its approved by the Government! Then after 4/5 years….and they bank a couple Billion on one of their drugs that causes real problems…they settle some lawsuits and go on to create another such drug!
    Have you ever seen an RX company turn in their data and say…..well….it kinda works….there may be some real serious issues with it but what the heck….lets do it anyway there are Billions to make! ?

    I remember the good old days…take Woodstock for example….400,000 got together…no shootings,no knifings, no deaths…..Perhaps we should prescribe more Cannabis to these troubled folks instead of SSRI’s?

    A Healthy Gut is the key to better overall health.

    • How did you now about my buried shipping container? Kidding.

    • Avatar Tim says:

      Contrary to popular opinion, mental illness does not correlate with violence: after controlling for substance abuse researchers “…found no significant difference in the rates of violence among people with mental illness and other people living in the same neighborhood.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/mental-illness-and-violence

      On the other hand, a history of violence and/or substance abuse more than doubles the likelihood of future violence – regardless of mental illness. Of course, we already screen for histories of violence and substance abuse…

      But banning people who take SSRIs from owning guns is likely to be counterproductive. You’ll just encourage people to avoid seeking treatment.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        Thanks for this.

        Whatever we’re doing to screen for histories of violence and substance abuse (which should ABSOLUTELY include alcohol abuse), it’s not enough.

        Beat your wife, kids, or dog—lose your guns and gun rights.

        DUI infraction—lose your guns and gun rights.

        Throw the first punch in a bar fight—lose your guns and gun rights.

        Destroy pubic or private property in anger—lose your guns and gun rights.

        Threaten a public official with violence—lose your guns and gun rights.

        • Avatar The Old Pretender says:

          Bingo, steve. But the many cops who have done actions on this list in their spare time would impact law enforcement, so don’t see it happening any time soon.

      • I hope I made clear in this story that people who suffer from mental illness, particularly depression as defined by the DSM-5, are not more prone to violence toward others. In fact, they are less prone. However, that does not change the fact that SSRIs have been proven to cause suicidal and homicidal ideation, which is why they come with that black box warnings.

        It goes without saying that if you’ve been convicted of a violent felony, at least in this state, you ain’t getting a gun, except through illegal means.

  15. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    CS sez: “I can just picture the prepper holed up in Whitmore with his buried shipping container and tunnels and stockpile of food and armaments…not following orders and giving it all up.”

    You mean Shane Miller?

    Unhappily, that angry-white-male, wild-eyed paranoia, rabid self-righteousness went the way it often goes—directed at his own family.

    Happily, we wouldn’t have to confiscate Miller’s stockpile of guns against his wishes—he’s already deader than fried chicken.

  16. Avatar Common Sense says:

    Was he from Whitmore ? For some reason I thought he lived in Shingletown or such.

  17. Avatar SH says:

    The solution is to get adults to stop doing bad things to children.

    That includes everything from abusing children, to adopting children and believing that your faith will heal their wounds.

    If you have kids, and you must have guns, keep your guns outside of your house. Otherwise, you’re doing another bad thing to your kids.

    Your kids know what key goes to what lock, what drawer has which credit card, all that….

    There’s always an adult forcing or providing a path for a kid to take.

    It isn’t the meds, or big pharma. It’s close-minded America that has been allowed to fester from before I was a kid.

  18. Avatar SH says:

    P.S.
    Our religions, politics, trends, ideas heat people up to their boiling point.
    How do you turn back the heat control knob?
    There is no solution to anyone else’s problems, is my solution.
    Bask in your own health, peace, and ideas and be grateful to yourself or your deity.

  19. Avatar SH says:

    P.P.S.

    R.V., I love your writing. I’m a Redding-ite that lives in Idaho.

    I take meds since my youth, hate the direction this article went.
    Someone is always trying to talk me out of helping myself, from every side.
    We haven’t hit Brave New World yet!
    Adults, adults, adults, using their intelligence can stub the creation of little monsters.
    Take care.

  20. Avatar What a dumb column says:

    No matter how much you want to highlight medications, the problem still stands: Violent people can buy an AR-15 as if they were buying a pack of bubblegum. Also an AR-15 is NOT classified as an assault rifle! Also citing information from Fox news and passing it off as “credible” and “evidence” is only discredits yourself – not because of political leaning, but because of their constant perpetuation of misinformation.

    • If you’re suggesting that the AR-15 or similarly-styled weapons aren’t assault weapons because they’re not fully automatic (as the gun industry likes to say) then as far as the 17 dead people in Parkland, you’re making a distinction without a difference. Also there’s nothing Fake News about the FOX news clip I linked, either.

    • Avatar Common Sense says:

      Fox News…IS the Fake News! Agreed!

  21. Avatar Tim says:

    2016 FBI crime stats:
    15,070 murders
    374 killed by any type of rifle (including “assault rifles”)
    https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/topic-pages/tables/table-12

    Of those 374 rifle murders, an estimated 175 were from “assault rifles.” Things more likely to kill you than an assault rifle:

    Deer ~180/year
    Hammers/Clubs ~500/year
    Fists/feet ~600/year
    Knives ~1,500/year

    There are an estimated 20,000,000 semi-automatic rifles in the US (10,000,000 AR15s alone) which, at an average of $750/ea, would cost $15 billion to buy back if you could even get past the 2A issues.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      There is without question a large element of emotion surrounding the topic of kids being slaughtered in their schools.

      We can accept that life is a crap shoot, and a deer might cause mom to swerve off the road while driving the kids to school. We can accept that gang members shank each other.

      It’s harder to accept that a troubled teen can own an AR-15 with high-capacity magazines, go to a school, and shoot scores of kids. It’s easy to imagine that if the latest shooter had instead gone to his former school armed with a hammer or his fists/feet, the bearish football coach who charged him would have quickly put a stop to the rampage instead of being shot dead.

      As for the $15 billion price, I think you could get enough notably generous billionaires to chip in and cover the tab—Gates, Buffet, Zuckerberg, etc. Maybe not “Liberaltarian” Bezos.

      Imagine this “Fight Club” sort of scenario: (The first rule about Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club. The second rule about Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club…) On a given morning, shooters walk onto every school campus in America and open fire with paintball guns, seeing how many kids they can tag before being stopped (some likely losing their lives). I think it would change the tenor of the discussion, fast—though I’m not sure which way the needle would move, given that this is Murica.

      • Avatar Tim says:

        It is an emotional issue, which tends to cloud reason. And if you dare invoke game theory (getting suboptimal results in the short term to optimize results long term), you’re likely to be looked at not only as if you’re heartless, but also insane. Yet hear me out:

        ~200 murders/year from assault rifles. Over 100 years that comes out to 20,000 murders – yikes!

        Yet how many murders have governments commited against unarmed citizens in the last ~100 years? The tally from the Nazis alone was 11 million. Other genocides: 4 million Ukrainians, 2 million Cambodians, 1 million Armenians, etc.

        Those were in much less populated countries and all were preceded by gun confiscations. So why would you want to give up your right to own guns now, especially after spending the last two years rallying about how Trump is the 2nd coming of Hitler?

        And before you ask “what good is an ar15 against a nuclear power?” just ask the “insurgents” who successfully repelled the US from southeast asia, central america, and the middle east.

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          The argument that guns are a hedge agains tyranny is never lost on me. As I’ve said plenty of times, it’s the ONLY valid argument that the gun-humpers have. And yes, there are so many guns in America that to try to take it by force—either from within or by invasion—would be crazy.

          Every other argument the gun-humpers roll out—self-protection, their special hobby outweighing all costs, tradition, etc.—it’s all bullscheisse. The 2nd Amendment is a hedge against tyranny. Period.

          Tim, please respond to the following two points. I never get a rational response to either of them.

          1. Why not well-regulated militias instead of millions of yahoos with AR-15s? Switzerland has mandatory military service (for males—females can volunteer), after which those who serve can choose to keep their weapons. Those weapons are kept in gun safes and are taken out only for target practice at designated ranges. Switzerland does not have mass shootings.

          2. I can’t pretend that my circle of acquaintances is a sufficient sample size, but if the current air of right-wing authoritarianism in this country ramped up into full-fledged White Nationalism, the great majority of the guys I know who are gun nuts would be on the wrong side. Further, every guy I know who has recently been in the military would side with the authoritarians, for sure. And finally, the outcome would turn on which side the military took (which is why many of the Founders didn’t want a standing military).

          That latter issue is the one that really makes me squirm. I don’t see the proliferation of military-style weapons in the USA as a guaranteed hedge against tyranny these days. The tyranny is here—the plutocracy is running the show. The dudes with most of the guns back the proto-tyrant who sits in the White House, as well as the representatives of the plutocracy who control Congress (I include all Demos who put Wall Street before Main Street).

          An aside: Minorities make up 40% of the DOD. That has the potential to turn into its own special shit-show, if it ever came down to which side the military decided to back.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            1) In the Federalist No2, Alexander Hamilton argues that actually regulating the militia – training & drilling – would cost the economy too much in lost production and that the goal should simply be to ensure the yeomanry (land-owning farmers) are reasonably well armed & equipped.

            This approach makes sense to me, when a conflict is approaching there is usually enough time to do some hasty training & drilling. Such effort would be meaningless without arms (which may be impossible to acquire in quantity with trouble already on the horizon).

            The civil war offers an example. At the onset, neither side was particularly well trained, but the south’s familiarity with arms made them much more effective combatants during the first year of war.

            As for the Swiss, I like their system and would heartedly endorse it for the US if we didn’t have such a deeply ingrained habit of intervening in other countries’ business.

            2) I think it is a mistake assuming “gun nut” is representative of “gun owner.” 40% of American households own a gun but only 7% of gun owners are NRA members. 3% of gun owners are “super-owners” and own at least 17 guns.

            That 3% is much more likely to telegraph their gun ownership than silent majority. And, like any sport, many of those “nuts” are less competent than average. Picture the guy that shows up for a 10-mile family bike ride decked out in lycra, riding a time-trial bike, and yet who somehow manages to bonk at mile 5 — that’s your gun nut.

            Gun guys make fun of them too. Range Ninjas, TactiTools, Tac-tards, “Special” operators, etc. I think most gun owners are far more moderate in their beliefs than you suspect.

            If not for online anonymity, you’d never know I own a gun. I can’t count the number of times I’ve listened to an anti-gun rant from an acquaintance who was totally oblivious to the fact I had my ccw on me. But what do I have to gain by outing myself? It puts a target on my back from potential burglars and risks alienating potential business partners or counterparties (the later is more of an issue in big cities).

            Don’t think that is typical? Go to the range and check out the cars. Sure, you’ll probably see some jacked up 4×4 with bedazzled Trump/NRA stickers, but on most vehicles you’re more likely to see a stick figure family than anything gun related…

          • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

            Thanks for the thoughtful answer. Regarding #2, I remain unconvinced.

            We have a POTUS whose instincts are deeply authoritarian, who chafes at democratic institutions and constraints, and loathes those who argue with him. A leader who genuinely thinks it is the duty of the nation’s top LE officials to be loyal and prop him up, rather than enforce the law. It’s as if everyone who works for him has a one-sentence job description: Kiss the boss’s ass, and do as you’re told.

            We have a core group of up to 40% of America’s citizens who still solidly back this guy and appear to share his many of his authoritarian, racist, xenophobic, anti-intellectual, anti-democratic instincts. I don’t view them as moderate, but I guess that turns on how you define “moderate.”

            As to whether there is a strong correlation between that 40% and gun ownership: I don’t know. Among my friends and acquaintances: Absolutely.

            “Tac-tards” and the other slurs made me laugh.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            Look, I’m happy to have more people wary of unbridled presidential authority and I don’t want to discourage anyone from being alert. These things can snowball (you may recall that Hitler’s predecessor, von Hindenburg, was the one who issued the Reichstag Fire Decree which was kind of like the Patriot Act on steroids). That said, here are some things for perspective:

            Within the Republican party, Trump mustered only 45% of the vote in the primaries (despite locking-up the nomination early on). Less than 20% of the population voted for him in the general election. He remains the least popular president in modern history with a 40% approval rating.

            And even that 40% rating is inflated — the pollsters give only 2 options: approve or disapprove. Aside from a small contingent of “never Trump” Republicans, there is a sense that “he may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard” — the same kind of tribalism that allowed Barry Bonds to remain popular in the bay area.

            For comparison, in the 1934 referendum more than 80% of voters cast a ballot for Hitler. Mussolini and Stalin were likewise extremely popular. Even Putin has a ~80% approval rating.

            It is hard to imagine Trump achieving those kind of numbers without annexing Mexico or repelling a North Korean invasion…

          • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

            Fair enough.

            And as for true unbridled presidential authority: FDR.

  22. Avatar Tim says:

    Each year in California, ~200 illegal aliens out of an estimated illegal population of 2.5 million are convicted of murder. That means you’re ~5x times more likely to be killed by an illegal alien than an AR15.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      You’re conflating classes of murderers with classes of weapons that they use, and failing to account for the overlap. (Illegal aliens and use of AR15s are not likely to be mutually exclusive.)

      I would bet that most illegal aliens who murder are killing other illegal aliens, mostly as a function of proximity, and perhaps to some degree a function of doing business. The readers of this website are not likely to be “5x more likely to be killed by an illegal alien….”

      Here’s an interesting journalistic (non-academic) look at the issue:

      https://www.nationalreview.com/blog/corner/re-illegal-immigration-and-crime/

  23. Avatar Common Sense says:

    City of Redding may have a $20 Million Dollar Short Fall over the next Decade! I guess that Cannabis Tax is looking PRETTY good about right now? Let’s hope it’s not the typical day late and dollar short scenario….they are already a YEAR behind in the allowing Cannabis!

    My guess is the County would rather file Bankruptcy than allow Prop 64 Money to roll in and save the day….Sad!…..Such small minds…..so severely locked in Cognitive Dissonance…….all the Millions pissed away…..very SAD. No new JOBS…No New Tax Money….No State Grants! So…again…What is your Plan Shasta County Board of Supervisors?

  24. The discussion at this well-written article has been intelligent. Just a couple of points to add to it.

    1. It isn’t true that weapon banning in Australia “stopped” mass killings. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres_in_Australia

    2. It is not possible, short of another civil war in the USA, to disarm the population. That is not a possible “solution” since it cannot occur.

    3. It is highly unlikely that dangerous psychiatric drugs will be banned either, due to the lobbying power of Big Pharma.

    So, the writer’s modest proposal, to link use of such drugs with non-possession of weapons, is probably the best possibility of reducing the likelihood of more school massacres.

    Courts have been willing to consider age-related restrictions on alcohol and driving, so there might be some possibility of lawful age-related restrictions on buying “assault” weapons, whatever that means.

    In general, balancing the important political purpose of the Second Amendment (that an armed people is “necessary for a free State”) with the dangers of people acting insanely is not going to be easy.

    My preferred solution would be severe restrictions on prescribing psychiatric drugs.

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      In watching the hours of news about this tragedy and hearing from the youngsters and the families of the victims wanting elected officials to “fix” this, it seems that one glaring omission is Cruz himself. This is apparently a very disturbed kid who, I would hazard a guess, would have found a way to carry out his fantasies even if he hadn’t had access to a firearm. We can’t legislate against derangement. If drugs were the cause of this kid’s mental problems, then shame of the prescribing physicians. But is he a victim of fetal alcohol or drugs? He may have come out of the womb damaged. If so, we can rail against NRA or Big Pharma till the cows come home, but that won’t change how this kid might have been predisposed.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        If Cruz had been stabbing people instead of shooting them with a semi-automatic rifle equipped with high-capacity magazines, the bearish football coach who charged him likely would have ended the rampage quickly. Instead, he was one of the first to die.

        The argument that Cruz would have just used another weapon is empty.

    • Avatar Common Sense says:

      There are “Options” to the Psychiatric Drugs….but not one wants to talk about that solution. Certainly not the RX companies and stock holders. I dare Anyone…..anyone out there to show me a hyperlink to a murder or mass murder where the perp had ONLY Cannabis in his system. Keyword…only!

      As long as the Politicians gleefully accept campaign donations from the RX companies…..that game will not change!

      When the RX companies do their “Own Research” on their New Drugs that are the answer to all of America’s problems….that alone should tell you something of how the game is rigged!….as always….Follow the Money…..kind of like Mueller right now….that will tell you everything you need to know!

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Ralph — Shasta County has seen its share of mass shootings. I suspect a healthy percentage of them have been influenced by alcohol-lubricated rage.

      Why severe restrictions on prescribing psychiatric drugs? Is that to avoid ANY restrictions on firearm ownership?

      How about this: If you are on SSUI drugs, or you’ve had two alcohol-related offenses, or you have a history of domestic violence, or you’ve been convicted of a violent crime, or you’ve threatened the life of a civil servant or elected official, you don’t get to own or possess guns.

      • It would be unfair to ban all people on SSRIs from gun possession. Millions of people, no doubt many of them gun owners, take the medication for years with no problems. That was one reason why I focused on young users or those just beginning treatment having a waiting period, to determine how they’re going to react to the drug.

    • Well since your preferred solution is mine, I agree with you!

  25. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Excellent article R.V. I appreciate your research. Many decades ago, several schools in L.A. and San Bernardino set up metal detectors at some high schools because gang members were bringing their weapons to school. I’d have to dig back in history to find out how that worked out, but this safety feature seams to work well at the Shasta County Court House, the jail and several other agencies in town. Thank you R.V.

  26. Avatar Common Sense says:

    “Most the Mass Murderers are Democrats,” she says!…I guess my question to that is….so why are the Republicans making it so easy for them to get guns?….the Silence…..is Deafening!

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/02/22/gop-congresswoman-claims-so-many-mass-murderers-end-up-being-democrats

  27. Avatar Common Sense says:

    Easy to get guns and many people on the Anti Depressants….not a good combo!

    https://www.cchrint.org/psychiatric-drugs/antidepressantsideeffects/

  28. This is a very insightful article, and like many commenting here, a new perspective for me. Like most complex issues, there is a “both/and” rather than “either/or” argument. While there needs to be rigorous and thoughtful debate regarding the Second Amendment (could the forefathers possible have anticipated the scope of today’s weapons?), there also needs to be a serious discussion regarding SSRI’s. Thanks so much and I hope this article gains wide exposure.

  29. R.V. Scheide Jr. R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

    It has now been confirmed Nikolas Cruz has taken medication for mental health. Exactly what medication remains to be determined.

    https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Judge-Releasing-Confidential-DCF-Records-on-Parkland-Suspect-Nikolas-Cruzs-Past-474510303.html

  30. Avatar Gigi Bowman says:

    Bravo. It’s always good when someone finally brings up the conversation we need to have. Thank you! https://gigibowman.com/2018/02/27/blamebigpharmanotguns-my-interview-with-tracy-beanz/

  31. Avatar Common Sense says:

    Speaking of Medication…well this is the Natural Kind…not known to have killed anyone to date yet! Anyone ever heard of a guy that smoked pot and gunned down 10 people?….Me Neither.

    http://ushealthtimes.com/34-medical-studies-proving-cannabis-cures-cancer/