Inside Opinion

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Tag: mass murder

Dec.
15th

Not so young, not so many – until Friday

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Sandy Hook is the worst.

It exceeds in horror even the rampage at Virginia Tech in 2007, which had a higher body count: 32, mostly college students. There’s something far more appalling about the slaughter of small children – 20 in this case –  who have no way to defend themselves, no idea of what is happening and no capacity to plan an escape.

The United States has suffered a crescendo of mass shootings in recent years – even as the nation’s overall murder rate has been falling.

It’s gotten so only spectacular bloodbaths – such as the 1999 killings at Columbine High School and July’s shooting spree at a theater in Aurora, Colo. – make much of an impression on the national consciousness. Lesser outbreaks of multiple murder, like Tuesday’s shootings at a Portland mall, might once have been shocking; now they are almost background noise.
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Aug.
1st

Too broad a net misses too many psychotic killers

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Every time a mass murder happens, people with psychiatric illnesses get nervous. For good reason.

James Holmes, who’s been accused of gunning down 12 people in a Colorado theater July 12, turns out to have been seeing a psychiatrist who specialized in schizophrenia. There’s no proof yet that Holmes was mentally ill, but he may well fit into a familiar profile: the man with the diagnosis, the grudge and the gun.

Jared Loughner, who disabled Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others in Tucson last year, was psychotic. Seung Hui Cho, who massacred 32 at Virginia Tech in 2007, had actually been declared mentally ill by a judge and ordered into treatment.

Closer to home, Maurice Clemmons appears to have had delusional spells in the months leading up to his murder of four Lakewood police officers in 2009.

It’s all too easy to make a connection between mental illness and violence.

The reality is more complex. Broad studies have demonstrated that no single category of mental illness, by itself, is linked to higher rates of violence. In any case, it is grossly unjust to stigmatize all people with psychiatric illnesses as potential killers.

Another layer of the complexity, though, is the fact that mental illness is often a factor in mass murders – a rare but extremely shocking type of crime. The question comes up again and again: Why can’t we keep guns out of the hands of people like Loughner or Cho?
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