Stopping the Desire to Kill

Another heart-breaking mass shooting, this time in Parkland, Florida, is sparking another debate over the right to bear arms in our country.  What is sorely lacking is a discussion on the role of antidepressants in giving young men the desire to kill.  Every single mass shooter over the past 20 years has been committed by someone on a narrow band of antidepressants, and yet we get barely a peep about this from the mainstream media.

It makes sense for someone who is anti-gun to ignore the connection between antidepressants and mass shootings.  From a purely tactical perspective, mass shootings are a big win for the anti-gun lobby, with each shooting causing a litany of anti-gun articles in every major news outlet (save Fox News) in the country.  The gun rights lobby may have logic and reason on their side, but logic and reason mean very little in the wake of seventeen dead school children, and a gun ban hits all the right emotional buttons, whether it would be effective or not.  The gun lobby also bears some responsibility, as they spend all of their time politicizing the right to bear arms, and none of their time discussing alternatives to gun laws that may help reduce mass shootings.

An honest debate on reducing the numbers of mass shootings would have to look, not only on the lethality of legal weapons and the propensity of gun-free-zones to be turned into shooting galleries, but also on what might drive the desire to kill.

People kill for a variety of reasons.  Most murders are crimes of passion, committed in the heat of the moment, with no forethought.  Most murders are also very personal, involving a specific target or targets.  Most gun-murders are gang-related.  Some murders are committed in pursuit of other crimes, such as a burglary that goes wrong.

We can wrap our minds around the majority of murders; we can at least understand the motivations behind them.  Mass murder is different not only because of the higher body-count, but because of the apparent randomness of the crimes. The Las Vegas shooter, and several other mass murderers, seemed to be picking targets with more of an emphasis on body count than on anything related to the specific people they were killing, and even in the case of Columbine and now Parkland, there is no indication that Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris made any attempt to single-out the specific people they felt bullied by.  Even where the location seems personal, the specific people killed still seem random.

It’s difficult to wrap our minds around a random act of killing, but the fact that all of the mass shootings over the past twenty years were all committed by young men on the same kinds of medications should give us a moment of pause with regard to those medications.   I’m not going to pretend to have the answers on this – I’m not a psychiatrist – but I would think that those who are psychiatrists might look at such things as a gun ban for people who are on these kinds of medications, for the duration of the time they take those medications.  We could make not having guns a prerequisite for taking those specific medications, such that those who take these kinds of drugs have to have their firearms locked up with the police until they are no longer on those medications.  We should be monitoring people who are on these medications for signs of homicidal thoughts, and working to intervene when those thoughts are found.

I was on Accutane when I was a teenager.  At the time, the side effects were unknown (and I was on a strong dosage), but eventually doctors learned that severe depression and suicide are some of the side effects.  I went through a round of depression while on Accutane, and it lasted for a few years after I finished taking it before it went away.  Doctors learned to be very careful with Accutane, prescribing it far less often, in far smaller doses, and with far more care given to watching for emotional changes.  With antidepressants, we seem far more flippant, ignoring the possibility that drugs aimed to cure one kind of emotional instability may in turn cause another.

There is no call on the left or the right to look into antidepressants, yet there is widespread support on both sides for taking guns away from people who are mentally ill.  If a particular kind of medication helps to make young men mass killers, do we not owe it to our children to at least look into that connection, and to then take relevant steps to prevent these kinds of senseless killings, or are the political points that can be earned by dancing on the graves of dead children worth enough to focus only on guns?  On the other side of the fence, is exposing the flaws in the left’s anti-gun agenda really worth ignoring the potential to reduce these kinds of crimes by doing something about people on antidepressants having access to guns?

It does not seem unreasonable to make surrendering one’s guns (and not being able to buy more guns) a precursor for being prescribed the certain antidepressants that are linked to mass shootings.  The police can lock-up those guns, and can then give them back once the person who surrendered them is no longer on medications that are linked to mass shootings.  This is a no-brainer solution that would at least help to address mass shootings (and might solve the problem) without infringing on the rights of others to keep and bear arms.  We can have that discussion while still debating the right to bear arms and the efficiency of gun-free zones, but antidepressants have to become the focal part of any discussion on mass shootings, or we are being grossly dishonest as a society, and doing so while our children quite literally bleed in the hallways of our schools.

Enough is enough.  Let’s change the conversation and focus on the desire to kill.

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1 thought on “Stopping the Desire to Kill”

  1. I attended HS in NYS during the 1950s. A mass shooting in a school during that era, as we’ve seen during the past 10 years or so, was unheard of. So what did we do in the 1950s that we are not doing today? Guns have always been around, but the urge to use them as recently witnessed, never occurred. So, in my view, you can take guns out of the equation since guns represent only a vehicle controlled by man. It’s what’s in the man that holds the reason for such display of mass horror.

    In my HS in NY, we began every day with a 22-word nondenominational prayer and the collective Pledge of Allegiance to our flag, which no one burned or dishonored.
    In NYS we had numerous mental institutions that are now shut down; instead we have replaced them with “the homeless.”
    Whatever we are doing as a culture affects the way children are raised. Since permissiveness, diversity, and a war on faith-based institutions have shrouded self-discipline, reason, and the value of life, our culture has descended into a mindless blend of entertainment and indifference to human life. The enormous numbers of abortions, even late term abortions, has desensitized people to the precious value of human life.

    In short, the remedy for such horrifying mass shootings, does not lie with massive gun control or confiscation, but with the state of our culture. As a culture we have removed prayer from the public schools; we -ACLU- have made it impossible to place a person in a mental facility; we have allowed music and entertainment to devolve into inimical tribal themes which promote pervasive drug use; display the most extremes of violence and sexual permissiveness; but, concurrently, made jest of religious teachings that just might influence the thinking and behavior of young adolescents. I grew up with cultural and “civilized” themes like: Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt not lie; Thou shalt not use the Lord’s name in vein. Don’t get me wrong, we all at some time or another violated two of the aforementioned, but we NEVER envisioned taking the life of another human being. Moreover, when our public officials commit high crimes in public office and are immune from prosecution, there is a corresponding message that, If you don;t like a law or Constitutional provision, you can ignore either. This is clearly borne out during the years Bill Clinton and Barack Obama held office.

    You can use the state to confiscate all the guns, like Hitler did in the 1930s. You can punish offenders who fail to comply by imposing the strictest of penalties, but you will NOT deter that one individual who wants to wantonly kill his fellow human beings. To argue that gun owners i.e. the NRA hold some degree of responsibility for these mass shootings, is at a minimum specious, at a maximum liberal insanity.

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