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Gun Control: A Misguided Focus on Mental Illness

Don’t fall for the diversion
US News • Views: 24,307

The big push to divert the discussion of guns and gun control into a discussion about mental illness is really beginning in earnest tonight. And unfortunately, many liberals arguing for gun control are falling for the diversion, because yes, mental health care is terrible in America and it does need improvement — but they’re not seeing how the right wing (and watch, this will be a big NRA talking point in their “major press conference”) is using this issue to take the debate in a vague, pointless direction that will end up without touching anyone’s precious guns.

I’ve been watching this “mental illness” talking point gather strength on the right since Friday, and now it looks like the word has been put out to hammer it hard.

For one example out of many, at Breitbart “News:” PSYCHIATRIST: LANZA WAS ‘PSEUDOCOMMANDO’ WITH ‘WOUNDED NARCISSISM’.

The psychiatrist they’re all-caps yelling about is not Adam Lanza’s psychiatrist; it’s another CNN talking head who never met anyone involved in the case, but apparently still considers it ethical to diagnose them on air.

Here’s a good piece on the subject by Richard Friedman, M.D. at the New York Times, that makes the same point I made in this post few days ago: A Misguided Focus on Mental Illness in Gun Control Debate.

Perhaps more significant, we are not very good at predicting who is likely to be dangerous in the future. According to Dr. Michael Stone, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia and an expert on mass murderers, ‘Most of these killers are young men who are not floridly psychotic. They tend to be paranoid loners who hold a grudge and are full of rage.’

Even though we know from large-scale epidemiologic studies like the E.C.A. study that a young psychotic male who is intoxicated with alcohol and has a history of involuntary commitment is at a high risk of violence, most individuals who fit this profile are harmless.

Jeffery Swanson, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University and a leading expert in the epidemiology of violence, said in an e-mail, ‘Can we reliably predict violence? ‘No’ is the short answer. Psychiatrists, using clinical judgment, are not much better than chance at predicting which individual patients will do something violent and which will not.’

It would be even harder to predict a mass shooting, Dr. Swanson said, ‘You can profile the perpetrators after the fact and you’ll get a description of troubled young men, which also matches the description of thousands of other troubled young men who would never do something like this.’

Even if clinicians could predict violence perfectly, keeping guns from people with mental illness is easier said than done. Nearly five years after Congress enacted the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, only about half of the states have submitted more than a tiny proportion of their mental health records.

How effective are laws that prohibit people with mental illness from obtaining guns? According to Dr. Swanson’s recent research, these measures may prevent some violent crime. But, he added, ‘there are a lot of people who are undeterred by these laws.’

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying; yes, mental health care in the United States needs to be improved. But the right wing is using this almost totally unrelated issue as a diversionary tactic to stop us from addressing the ongoing epidemic of gun crime. Dr. Friedman’s article concludes:

All the focus on the small number of people with mental illness who are violent serves to make us feel safer by displacing and limiting the threat of violence to a small, well-defined group. But the sad and frightening truth is that the vast majority of homicides are carried out by outwardly normal people in the grip of all too ordinary human aggression to whom we provide nearly unfettered access to deadly force.

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Optimize the user experience
Humor • Views: 22,866

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NRA Breaks Silence, Promises ‘Meaningful Contributions’

Press conference scheduled for Mayan end-of-the-world day
US News • Views: 21,822

The National Rifle Association went into complete lockdown after the Newtown massacre, and even shut down their Facebook page, but four days later they’ve emerged from the bunker: NRA Promises ‘Meaningful’ Contributions.

National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters - and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown.

Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.

The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.

The NRA is planning to hold a major news conference in the Washington, DC area on Friday, December 21.

I feel pretty safe predicting that the NRA’s “meaningful contributions” are going to involve MOAR GUNZ.

Family Research Council Sued for Sexual Harassment and Discrimination by Former Official

Family values
Wingnuts • Views: 21,519

In order to make it appear as if they actually care what the womenfolk think, fanatical religious right groups like the Family Research Council like to create token positions for women within the company, with lofty sounding titles like “Director of Women’s and Reproductive Health.” Who could ever be opposed to that? What war on women?

So it’s kind of embarrassing, but also highly revealing, when the former Director of Women’s and Reproductive Health for the Family Research Council sues the organization for vindictively firing her when she filed a sexual harassment complaint against her sexist pig boss.

According to court documents first obtained and reported by journalist Evan Gahr, former FRC employee Moira Gaul, 42, filed a complaint in 2009 with the District of Columbia Human Rights Commission in which she accused her supervisor of gender discrimination. She claimed that her boss, the director of the Center for Human Life and Bioethics at the time, referred to the use of birth control pills as “whoring around,” addressed emails to her with the words “hi cutie,” pressured her to attend parties, and referred to her as a “young, attractive woman.”

“His attitude toward me and other women was rude, belittling, and at times, angry,” she wrote in the complaint.

Gahr identified Gaul’s former supervisor as prominent anti-abortion lawyer William Saunders, who now works at the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life. Saunders and his attorney, William J. Hickey, did not respond to requests for comment on the case.

The FRC fired Gaul shortly after she filed the complaint, citing a loss in federal funding for abstinence — Gaul’s area of expertise — and the need for someone with more experience on abortion issues. Gaul claims the FRC also retroactively canceled her health insurance for the time that she was on short-term disability for systemic lupus.

Megan McArdle: We Should Train Children to ‘Gang Rush’ Shooters

WTF!
Wingnuts • Views: 19,693

It might be comical to watch right wingers attempting to come up with talking points to spin the atrocities in Newtown, if the subject wasn’t so horrible. Some of their suggestions for dealing with the issues of gun violence are so absurd, though, that you just have to laugh. To keep from sobbing.

Today’s case in point — libertarian Megan McArdle, now writing for the Daily Beast, who dismisses all forms of gun control and comes up with this howler of a solution instead: children should be trained to “gang rush shooters.”

I’d also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.

Oh, good grief. This is where the leading intellects of the right wing have ended up — in such total fatalism that the best thing they can suggest is for kindergarten students to be trained to commit mass suicide when gunmen enter their classrooms. Astounding.

And we thought Power Line’s ridiculous suggestion to make schools more like biker bars was bad. What the hell is wrong with these people?

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 Frank says:

My best advice to anyone who wants to raise a happy, mentally healthy child is: Keep him or her as far away from a church as you can.