As you can imagine, I’ve been asked several times to provide my two cents regarding the latest series of mass shootings. I’m happy to do so but let’s put aside the numerous “strange” or unexplainable things related to these recent shootings (because there are several) and instead, let’s focus on mass shootings in general. There are a few things that we really need to consider because some people are blaming our guns, our country, race and even Donald Trump as the reasoning. I don’t think any of those are the “real” issues.

Social media seems to be filled with so much misinformation and way too much emotion. Let me just say that social media is NOT going to be your best source for information. Furthermore, I think too many are simply not thinking about this from a rational or even logical point of view. Don’t get me wrong. These shootings were definitely tragic and unfortunate, but let’s not allow emotions surrounding these events to cloud our thinking or judgement. It’s complex enough without doing that and I’m sure most of us can agree on that.  

Is It A Mental Health Issue?

As someone that was trained to teach Active Shooter preparedness, I can tell you that the evidence is quite astounding to the mental health factor of many of these shootings. Many shooters in the past were known to have been on some kind of medication for mental health. That list is actually quite extensive when you start looking into it. Does it account for all incidents? Of course not. In fact, at the time of this writing, I haven’t even heard if mental health or medication played a role in these recent ones. So let’s say it wasn’t for argument sake. Is that factor to be ignored either way? Absolutely not. Yet, evidently there are doctors out there on the radio suggesting that the mental health element is a “red herring”. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that term, it means “a clue that is or is intended to be misleading or distracting.” But is it really?

FBI studies have found that at least 25 percent of active shooters had been DIAGNOSED with mental illness. That should be our baseline or starting point. For some perspective, we also need to keep in mind that at least 50% of people with a mental illness go undiagnosed or are not properly treated. So we simply won’t know about some of these people. On the other side of that coin, at least one study has shown that doctors misdiagnosed almost two-thirds of their patients and prescribed unnecessary antidepressants.

Both of these situations give us new questions to ask… like: How is someone with a mental issue going to act without proper medication? Or how is someone without a mental issue going to act when they’re on medication they shouldn’t be on? Even if only one half of one percent reacts tragically, we are still talking big numbers and big problems here. Why are we not talking about this?

The point is that even on the low end of this topic, we see something significant here. Now I’m not saying it’s the total answer but it should at least be a factor to consider if we are going to look at this problem objectively. Even from an obvious standpoint, it takes a pretty sick and/or twisted person to want to just kill as many people as they can – planned or not. But does it hold water?

Some Evidence To Support

What did guys like James Holmes, Aaron Alexis, Dylann Roof, Steven Kazmierczak and Robert Stewart all have in common? Not so shockingly, it was their mental health issues, the drugs they were put on and the body count they achieved. Perhaps it’s not a “red herring” after all. The sad truth is that I could have gone on and on with other names but it’s not entirely the point here. Clearly there are other factors… we just have to find them.

That being said, when we dig a little deeper into that, we also see that quite a few mass shootings in the United States are carried out by people who had either been diagnosed with a mental disorder or simply demonstrated signs of serious mental illness prior to the attack – according to both the FBI and DHS. The odd part about that is that the people who often noticed that odd mental behavior didn’t call to report it. Why not?

I don’t know about you but mental health sounds like a pretty good starting point considering the grand scheme of things. But how do we address the lack of involvement from friends, family and bystanders? Well, let’s just assume that they are not somewhat responsible for the sake of this article.

We’ve all seen the news stories for years saying that doctors are over-prescribing mental health drugs… which are often linked to a “snap”. Many of us don’t want to talk about that and we definitely don’t want to talk about how prescription antidepressants come with side effects that include an increased risk of suicide and violent behavior, including physical assault and homicide. Why not? Perhaps it’s because so many are on them? I don’t know but instead of learning how to deal with our problems, we are medicating them away. Instead of learning how to deal with our kids, we are medicating them away. I don’t know about you but this sounds like a really bad mix.

Just so everyone is on the same page here, the percentage of Americans taking mental health drugs is climbing dramatically. Yet, mass shootings were not as common when people weren’t so medicated and guns were a societal norm. If we are thinking about research or legislation, we might want to start with big pharma. But considering that our congress gets a lot of their money from those companies and considering that so many are using their products… I’m guessing that “guns” will continue to get the blame for a while.

Let me provide just one more thing on this. Amy Swearer, senior legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, said about two-thirds of shooters are found to have serious mental problems but that the media coverage has focused on those with an ideological bent such as racism or nativism. Over and over again, we see a similar theme when we REALLY look at it. But the question so few are asking is “What makes someone’s mental health deteriorate like that?

It could be a lot of things really. Depression, Anxiety, Chemical Imbalances, Dementia, Contamination, ADD, OCD, Schizophrenia, Post Traumatic Stress and so on. And worse yet, everything in our lives has the potential to be a trigger of some kind. Mental health is not always so cut and dry. For example, you may be completely sane today but lose your job tomorrow and be dealing with stress, depression and anxiety by the weekend – which triggers your PTSD from the war and the ass-beating you give your neighbor for spilling beer on your shoes.

But let’s not allow this bias to impede the exploration or finding of truth. Let me yield a little bit here to allow the exploration of some of the other things that people are pointing to. Again, some are pointing to the guns, American culture and race. Are any of these the actual problem?

Is It The “White” People?

I know the media has done a good job of painting the picture that this is a “white thing”… but the truth is that of the almost 100 people who have committed mass shootings so far this year, only about a quarter are or could even be confused as being “white”. So that kind of rhetoric is not only inaccurate, but it probably just makes things worse because unnecessary hatred and self-division surely doesn’t help calm things down either. These shootings span race, age and gender. The sooner we see that the better off we’ll all be.

And yes, the data reflects this. A May 2018 policy brief by the Rockefeller Institute of Government at the State University of New York, which looked at ANY incident that resulted in deaths or injuries (but excluded gang violence or terrorist activity for some reason), found that the perception that whites are responsible for nearly all mass shootings is simply a myth.

Is It The Video Games?

I think the New York Times did a great piece on this called Politicians Again Blame Video Games for Shootings, Despite Evidence. The best part of that article was the subheading which read… Said one expert: “The data on bananas causing suicide is about as conclusive.” Brilliant!

People who have studied this for many years have decided that there is no evidence to support the claim that violent media and real-world violence is connected. This evidence was even heard in the Supreme Court back in 2011 when they ruled that the research did not find a clear connection between violent video games and aggressive behavior.

Think about it. Even when we didn’t have the video games, we were still shooting each other playing “Cops and Robbers” or “Cowboys and Indians” or “Axis and Allies” or whatever. Violence is a part of the human experience whether we like it or not but just because we see it in play, doesn’t mean we will act it out in life. You know… I really enjoyed the Thundercats but I had no delusions of one day becoming one.

Is It American Culture and the Second Amendment?

Perhaps if guns weren’t so easy to get in this gun-toting country, the problem would go away.” Seems to be something a lot of people say these days. The media sure seems to be on that bandwagon. Let’s examine that claim.

From a statistical and logical point of view, if guns or gun-owners were really the problem… then we would REALLY have a REAL problem and there would be no guesswork. Yet I’ve seen some point at the Second Amendment and American culture as the culprit. Why? Because it’s an easy target that can’t defend itself. However, it’s a bad target because it’s not true.

As reported by ABC, in one study by the Crime Prevention Research Center, the United States actually ranked 66th among other world nations when it came to the frequency mass public shootings per capita. And when just comparing European countries with the United States and Canada, the U.S. ranked 12th in a comparative study between 2009-2015. Clearly, it’s not our gun culture that is to blame. The truth is that many of the countries on those lists don’t even allow firearms at all and the United States would actually rank much lower if we didn’t count a few liberal, gun-free cities.

Speaking of which… and not surprisingly, many of these mass shootings in the United States happen where there are easy targets. In fact, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center, 97.8 percent of public shootings occur in “gun-free zones”. Guess what places/cities/states I try to avoid.

It seems to me that any solution can be found by asking the right questions or asking questions differently. Well, we know that 99.8% of all gun owners are not a problem and neither are their guns. The statistics say it’s something else… so perhaps it is something else.

Is It The Lack Of Family Life?

I have rarely heard about the amount of time that families spend with one another as a potential factor. Whether the child is from a broken home where the parent works or a family where both parents are working constantly, we need to account for a lack of parental supervision and guidance at some point. It seems that as a society, we have stepped away from spending time with one another due to other obligations or convenience. The New York Post has a good article on this and says “A study of 2,000 parents with school-aged children across the country found the extent to which hectic routines take a toll during the work week with the families polled managing less than 45 minutes all together on a typical weekday.” Perhaps we should expand that poll because 45 minutes seems high for a lot of the parents I know.

We can blame some of this on our culture, the economy and broken economic promises if we want. We could even blame a number of other things here but the result is the same. Many kids are left to raise themselves in various ways. Or… their teachers (who are not allowed to discipline them anyway) are left to do it. Or… their friends will do it. That’s not going to have a good outcome, whichever might be the case.

It only seems logical that kids are going to feel a little detached if you’re not around or if you’re replacing your time with a gadget like a television, phone or a video game. Let me pose this another way. What is that lack of your involvement going to do to their mental health?

This might be a real factor if we look at it objectively. Unfortunately, I don’t know what the solution is here because all the evidence in the world doesn’t change the fact that people have to work like crazy to scrape by. Then there is the other side where people fall in and out of love with different people. That’s not an excuse… it just is what it is.

Of course, I can already hear the echoes of the simple minded who don’t understand profiling: “I didn’t have a dad… why am I not killing everyone?” For you, let me help you discover some insight. You might as well have said “Most shooters were people and I’m not out there killing people.” or “Most wore clothes and I’m not out there killing people.” Or better yet… “Most went to grade school and I’m not out there killing people.” You sound like an idiot when you say such things. The point of looking at the factors is to build a profile or explore possible triggers. One single factor usually doesn’t tell the tale but it very well could be important. It is always something to consider because in conjunction with other factors, like not having a solid social life, drugs, and anger… we can start to discover “reason“.

“There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

For Example: Jared was a super nice guy. The kind of guy that wouldn’t hurt a fly. Sure, he came from a broken home where his mother left his father for another man but his father did a great job of raising him and they had a great relationship. Not exactly popular with the ladies in school, Jared excelled academically. When Jared went to college, he excelled even more; almost top of his class. He graduated and eventually landed a fantastic job. A few years later, he married a beautiful young lady that he met at a cafe and they had three kids. Over time, stress at work and the pressures of home-life began to mount and Jared found that he would have to choose between working more or not providing enough for his family… because his wife said it was important for her to be at home with the kids instead of getting a job. Jared chose to work more because he felt that it was the right thing to do and he didn’t want to lose his family. Today, Jared sits in jail for double-murder. What happened?

See what I mean? In this case, coming from a broken home likely had a big play in the outcome. The trigger was something else altogether but very much related to the first. The point that I’m trying to convey is that if we are going to point a finger here, we are probably still pointing a finger at mental health. The same could be said for sexual abuse, mental or physical abuse and so on. Sure, some go through things like that and come out fine. But others don’t.

Moving along…

Is It The Anger?

Then of course, there is the general anger. Our society is so split these days. Everyone is so angry at the “other side” and to be quite frank, it’s by design.

So what happens when you point the finger at a problem and foster a hatred towards it? Well, something is bound to give at some point and this is especially true if the reasoning is contorted. For instance, let me use a couple of non-gun issues to express this point.

It’s not hard to see that illegal immigration isn’t the problem – it’s the illegal benefits that draw them here. But no one wants to look at it that way because it might mean that you have to give up some of those benefits. Also, the need to increase the minimum wage isn’t the problem – it’s the theft via inflation that caused the need that we should be examining. But many simply don’t understand that because they don’t understand economics.

I could do this part all day but the point is that the problems we are told to hate are often nothing more than a distraction from the actual problem that lies just under the surface. The hate is fostered and the pain is real, so at some point, someone is going to act out against it.

Point in case: According to CNN, Conner Betts, the gunman of the Dayton, Ohio mass shooting, not only called himself a leftist but was known to retweet “extreme left-wing and anti-police posts, as well as tweets supporting Antifa, or anti-fascist, protesters“. That’s a lot of hate. Well, let’s just ask ourselves… who is doing everything they can to sensationalize those agendas?

Let me be blunt. The are organizations out there doing a great job of angering their followers and ensuring that ignorance is the guide. Don’t buy into it. It’s a game and they are the only winners if you decide to play it their way. We need to get our minds right and our facts straight and if I were you, I would be extremely reluctant to buy into partisan talking points or sensational stories because it’s not YOU that they care about… it’s THEIR power!

Is It The Media?

It seems like I’ve been talking about the media throughout this entire article but they deserve their own heading. Well, remember when the media made a big deal about the girl licking the ice cream and then all of the sudden numerous videos were posting about kids doing similar acts? Do you think the media doesn’t understand what they are doing when they publicize these events? Do you think the media doesn’t understand what they are doing when they DON’T publicize the events that they should?

Researchers that study mass shootings have found that these shootings tend to happen in clusters due to “contagion“. Fine, but contagion requires exposure. They point specifically to the intensive media coverage that happens after these events; coverage that is then spewed out all over the web, social media and televisions… non stop. It’s good business for media. Unfortunately, some lonely, frustrated, depressed and perhaps medicated person sees this new coverage and decides to they should go get the attention they deserve. Who is at fault here? The gun, the shooter or the media?

Sherry Towers, a faculty research associate at Arizona State University and Jillian Peterson, a criminologist at Hamline University in Minnesota, both conducted their own studies and found similar results. They found that mass violence spreads like a disease and that the carrier is relentless media coverage. So who should we really be pointing the finger at?

The point is that the media is not helping. In many ways, they are hurting. If their message gets to the wrong person at the wrong time… who knows what can happen. Today’s media is designed to make you anxious and even angry. In fact, Dr. Graham Davey says “So not only are negatively valenced news broadcasts likely to make you sadder and more anxious, they are also likely to exacerbate your own personal worries and anxieties.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we need to do away with media, the press or anything like that. I think it’s important for people to be able to relay and receive important information. But that’s not what the media does and they know it. And just so everyone is on the same page on this one… “Media Sensationalism” is not journalism. I don’t trust the media and I would like to think that more people would be of similar mindset and prefer finding truth over embracing a lie, manipulation or contortion. Clearly, I’m a minority in this as evidenced by the puppets pointing at all the wrong things.

I’m beginning to think that people just like calamity and the media is just giving them what they want. This might explain why people will hit record rather than help. Merica! It reminds me of a quote…

Two things only the people anxiously desire — bread and circuses.

Juvenal

So then how do you stop mass shootings?

I think the question is being posed wrong. “How do you stop mass shootings?” is like asking “How do you stop murder?” You don’t. For thousands of years, our species has been killing each other and the innocent have been trying to figure out how to stop it. Unfortunately, not a single law or initiative has ever stopped it. However, it has been reduced when there is opposition. Be the opposition. Stop being a victim. Act like you live in the land of the brave.

Some say we need more cops and less guns. Well let’s remember that cops carry guns because guns protect them from bad guys. It’s not any different for you. It doesn’t matter though, more cops or laws don’t fix or stop it. It never has. In some ways, it can actually make it worse. And like my good cop buddy once said… if you go that way, eventually you get a police state where safety turns into slavery. Not a fun solution in spite of how many nations continue to want to try it in the attempt to prove it wrong.

So perhaps identifying the REAL reason(s) for the problem would be a better way to start. Well, out of everything that was put forth as a theory (race, 2nd Amendment, etc), I think it’s rather clear that there are SEVERAL underlying factors but guns are simply not one of them.

Ironically, the problems identified are the ones that so few will even talk about because it might mean they have to change the way they look at the world or how they act in it. Or worse yet, take personal responsibility.

Doctors, medicine, media, parenting, overall mental health… that’s a lot for some to take in. It can be hard for some to wrap their heads around something so “complex“. To me it’s sort of like how Ted Bundy came as such a shock to everyone. Everyone was looking for a monster… but really only found the guy next door.

Like I said… it’s a complex issue with multiple angles – some of which many won’t like to examine and many of which remain a mystery. If you look at this long enough, you’ll see that several parts actually play into one another and that it’s likely not just one thing. At the same time, we can begin to see that guns are actually less and less of the problem in the grand scheme of things.

We should probably start looking for insight before we start blaming anyone or any single thing though. There are clearly several elements contributing to the problem and no doubt I haven’t even touched them all. Thankfully, some factors are simply not a mystery. I think we should start there.

Let me reiterate that I don’t have all the answers on this one but I do know that scapegoats are usually the low-hanging fruit. We should be careful about that because picking that kind of fruit is not going stop the growth of the tree. If you want to learn more about this, let me encourage you read my article titled “A Look Inside the Mind of an Active Shooter“.