The CT Shooter's Delusions and America's Delusions About Gun Control: Will Sanity Prevail?
What Turned Adam Lanza into A Mass Murderer?
There is no question that the CT Shooter, Adam Lanza, who shot his mother, himself, twenty school children and six teachers had a plan. He wore body armour and spared a school nurse. He also rigged the gun he used for maximum damage. He destroyed his computer so police were unable to recover any data from it.
His mother, a wealthy conservative prepper, who was preparing for a meltdown of civil society by teaching Lanza how to shoot a gun and by stockpiling guns. She also kept Lanza shielded from the outside world so little is known about him. In fact, his own brother and father hadn’t seen him in two years.
Lonza may have been concerned by his mother’s plan to force him out of the house and get him to stop playing video games. He hadn’t been speaking to his mother for days. Other unconfirmed reports state that he was angry because his mother was making plans to have him committed. In recent days, she had taken her son to see a psychiatrist.
Lanza also had a history of Asperger’s syndrome which is a mild form of autism and is not a risk factor for violent behavior. However, a mediator during the Lanza’s divorce said he had a more severe form of the autism – Autism spectrum disorder which suggests his autism was more severe. The corner is running genetic tests to determine if he had any extremely rare conditions associated with violence. His brother suggested he also had a personality disorder which other described as being a schizoid personality.
Did Lanza Develop Paranoid Schizophrenia?
We may never know whether Lanza had a specific mental condition associated with violence because he killed himself and his mother kept him away from the world.
Lanza’s cluster of symptoms has been referred to as childhood psychosis. Lanza was also known to have an insensitivity to pain that is a known risk factor for paranoid schizophrenia. Children diagnosed as schizoid are at higher risk for schizophrenia. Some have argued, although it is debateable, that autism is also a risk factor for schizophrenia.
So was Lanza a paranoid schizophrenia? The statistics indicate that 80% of all mass murders are diagnosed with a psychosis and the most common psychosis is paranoid schizophrenia. Many other others exhibited a long history of delusional behavior suggestive of such a diagnosis.
Contrary to other reports, there is no indication that Lanza was receiving continuous psychiatric care or even recent diagnostic testing. However, one thing we do know about schizophrenia is that it creeps up slowly on its victims. The award winning movie A Beautiful Mind is a true story about paranoid schizophrenic and Nobel Prize winner John Nash whose Nobel Prize winning work was done as a graduate student at Princeton. No one at Princeton or his wife suspected at that time or in the classified military position that he obtained after graduate school. He was married for two years before his wife admitted him to a mental hospital.
People begin to notice a general withdrawal from people who are becoming schizophrenic. Lanaza’s mother had noticed such a withdrawal in her son in recent months.
An inaccuracy of the movie is that Nash began willingly taking medications at some point. In reality, he only took medications when pressured to do so. As with other schizophrenics, he credits his intellectual rejection of his delusions as playing an important role in his ability to function in society.
John Nash has made it clear that he credits forced mental institutionalization for his success as a mathematician. He said
“I later spent times of the order of five to eight months in hospitals in New Jersey, always on an involuntary basis and always attempting a legal argument for release. And it did happen that when I had been long enough hospitalized that I would finally renounce delusional hypotheses and revert to thinking of myself as a human of more conventional circumstances and return to mathematical research. In these interludes of, as it were, enforced rationality, I did succeed in doing some respectable mathematical research. Thus there came about the research for “Le problème de Cauchy pour les équations différentielles d’un fluide général”; the idea that Prof. Hironaka called “the Nash blowing-up transformation”; and those of “Arc Structure of Singularities” and “Analyticity of Solutions of Implicit Function Problems with Analytic Data”.
“But after my return to the dream-like delusional hypotheses in the later 60’s I became a person of delusionally influenced thinking but of relatively moderate behavior and thus tended to avoid hospitalization and the direct attention of psychiatrists.”
In other words, the institutional system available at that time helped John Nash. That system was largely done away with under Ronald Reagan. With weapon improvements, a repeal of the assault weapons ban and easier access to assault guns, the death counts from mass murders have steadily risen.
Was Lanza a Domestic Terrorist?
Many mass murders have been classified as domestic terrorists. For example, the Sikh temple mass murderer was a member of several militant racist organizations. Others mass shooters have been involved in devil worship and may have had other mental disabilities that allowed others to influence their judgements. Luke Woodham whose diagnosis has never been confirmed may have been a paranoid schizophrenia but others believed he was depressed and under the influence of a Satanic cult. Jeffrey Weise was a Neo-Nazi with a history of suicidal depression. Similar to Lanza, Weise and Woodham killed relatives before killing people at schools they had attended.
Lanza’s autistic and schizoid vulnerabilities and his mother’s ideas about the world coming to the end may have combined to give Lanza a bizarre belief system that in some way justified the murders.
Also, there is a possibility that his strange beliefs combined with paranoid schizophrenia caused him to murder. Paranoid ideation often involves conspiracies that others believe in. For example, Nash’s delusions in the 1950’s often involved the threat of communist takeovers.
Video Games Causing Aggression
Scientific research has shown that if the person watching a TV show, movie or playing a video game believes the violence iss real, it can make the person more aggressive. For this reason, it’s important to teach children that entertainment violence is fake. For people who have trouble with discerning reality as may have been the case with Lanza, violent video games make have been contributing factor because they became part of his conspiracy or unrealistic world view. Some have speculated, he got the idea from one of his favorite video games Call of Duty.
Exposing youth to realistic violence or violence they believe to be real has been shown to prime individuals toward using violence as a solution in the future 1, 2 (pdf), 3 (pdf), 4, 5. The solution is to make sure that children realize that video game or other displays of violence is not real.
Psychiatric Medications Induced Homicide
There are reports that Lanza was on psychiatric medicines. The FDA has found that some anti-depressants can cause violent and suicidal behavior in young people and some mass murderers were taking these medication during their crimes (e.g., . Weise & Waldrom and the Columbine shooters were taking these medications). However, modern psychiatrists are less likely to prescribe these medications for young people.
The Myth of the Deteriorating Society
For many years, the press has argued that mass murder is on the rise. In fact, it’s only risen slowly over the last century. There were upticks in the 60’s and 80’s. However, the problem has also been there. Laura Ingels Wilder who wrote Little House of the Praire left out the true story about the serial mass murder that she recounted from her childhood.
Finding A Solution
Confusion and Inaction Created By Public Relation Firms and Lobbyists Working For Gun Makers
The gun profiteers and their paid spokespeople including many in Congress whom they support annually with $4.4 million dollars have in the past used the mental illness issue and the extreme belief systems of mass murders to argue that the solutions to gun crimes require better mental health care. Better mental health is an overly broad generalization as most mentally ill including paranoid schizophrenics are not violent. Therefore, only gun screenings based on psychosis would be useful. Their overly broad language always ends up offending mental health advocates who oppose unfairly condeming the mentally ill who as a group are not more violent.
Gun profiteers have also argued that gun control interferes with 2nd amendment rights. However, that’s not necessarily the case. Obviously, a well regulated militia would not include Lanza or his mother who were allowed to purchase weapons not for hunting but for war. The end of the world and government takeover conspiracies are supported by gun profiteers who know that such theories increase gun sales.
Others claim more guns would have protected the children and even advocated arming children or rushing the shooter but of course Kathy Lanza is dead even though she had guns. Even armed teachers would have been no match for the assault weapons used by Lanza who was dressed in full body armour. Assault weapons have been used in most recent U.S. Mass murders.
The gun profiteers have successfully played upon people’s ordinary prejudices. They have frequently focused national attention on revenge as opposed to actual solutions. For example, people fear that people will feign mental illness to avoid the death penalty. However, faking psychosis is much harder than most people realize. A person with psychosis is frequently prescribed major tranquillizers which would knock out most fakers and the medication must be taken continuously. Medication has a number of side effects that also keep many schizophrenics from taking the medication. Diagnostic testing for schizophrenia is extensive and is very difficult to fake even for someone who is familiar with the testing procedure. Yet, the national focus has been on making sure that schizophrenics are jailed for their crimes even if they were delusional at the time. Longer sentences and security measures have done little to deter gun violence. The U.S. continues to lead in the percentage of victims per gun owned among developed countries and the US continues to posses far more guns than other developed countries.
If the U.S. is gong to prevent future acts of violence, Americans will need to clearly what needs to be done.
In the past, corporate profits, political rhetoric and a lack of common sense and humility has kept America from making good decisions about gun control. Perhaps this latest tragedy will pull Americans out of the fog that has enveloped them. Perhaps this time, real change will come.
Unresponsive or Overwhelmed Law Enforcement and Mental Health Systems
In many mass murders, there are plenty of warning bells before the crime is committed. However, law enforcement and the mental health institutions lack sufficiently aggressive responses to stop the murders. Frequently law enforcement officials argue there is nothing they can do before the crime is committed.
Stronger laws that take guns out of the hands of individuals with violent histories would have prevented some killings. However, some still would have been able to obtain guns from family members. Therefore, laws that prevent family members giving access to high risk individuals has to be part of any background check reform.
Background checks in the U.S. typically don’t follow laws the don’t permit individuals who are dangerous to possess guns. Background checks also don’t take into consideration family member and co-workers opinions. Although some argue this could prevent people who have nasty divorces from obtaining guns, others points to statistics which show that many spouses are killed with guns and point to low gun homicide rates in countries such as Canada that have such laws.
A list of instances where individuals showed grave concern about those who committed mass murder is nearly as long as the list of mass murderers. Recent examples include the Aurora shooter’s psychiatrist who warned police and school administrators a month before the shootings that the shooter may become violent. Classmates and teachers expressed similar concerns about Jared Lee Loughner who shot congresswoman Gabby Giffords and killed six others and wounded twelve others.
The Carson City shooter who killed four and injured 14 had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia for twelve years and told others he was afraid demons would convince him to do bad things before the shooting but in the U.S. he was allowed to own guns. Before the shootings he approached a priest and begged for help. The shootings occurred after a medication change.
The Seal Beach shooter killed eight and injured one. He had a history of bipolar disorder which can cause psychotic delusions similar to paranoid schizophrenia. A judge prevented him from owning a gun for a year in the past and his family members had complained that he was violent. One of his victims was his wife. Family members had asked for a restraining order which they didn’t receive.
The Georgia Spa shooter killed himself and four members of his family. He had been a suspect in a prior homicide twenty-nine years earlier but still legally owned firearms to kill his family. He had also previously threatened to commit suicide with his guns.
T.J. Lane killed three and injured three in Chardon, Ohio. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia after the shooting and was considered a troubled youth who rarely spoke and enrolled in a alternative school. He came from a violent family. Other recent shootings had similar patterns where warning signs existed.
The argument has been that many people who have these warning signs do not become violent. However, the U.S. mental health system tends to be much more outpatient oriented (pdf) than other countries and many feel less responsive to caregiver needs and warning signs. When a person might be a dangerous to themselves or others more expensive inpatient care is much more easily prescribed in other countries. Critics argue the bar for receiving such care in cases of potential violence is far too high. In addition, current NRA-backed laws even discourages medical professionals and patients from asking about gun ownership or maintaining records that could alert other physicians of potential problems.
As in the Aurora shooting and many others, family members in this case Lanza’s mother saw the warning signs but the US mental health system countries was clearly inadequate. This is a recurrent pattern in most mass murders.
A few who are serious about safety legislation are demanding action now including the President and Vice-President who has said he supports an assault weapons ban. In the above video, President Obama presents a proven program for reducing gun violence is explained.
Other developed democratic countries have dealt with this problem many years ago 1, 2, 3. There is a well-established relation between the number of assault weapons and guns a countries citizens can possess and the number of mass murders As these guns are much more easily available in the U.S., mass killings are common in the U.S. And extremely rare in other developed democratic countries. The twenty-eight deaths and two injuries in the shooting is hoped to finally spur an end to deadly gun profiteering practices. There is some hope as some Deadly health insurance practices have been abated in the U.S. in recent years.
by Todd Miller
Sorry! No Links