- While many have bought into the simplistic idea that availability of firearms is the cause of mass shootings, a number of experts have pointed out a more uncomfortable truth, which is that mass shootings are far more likely the result of how we’ve been mistreating mental illness, depression and behavioral problems
- Gun control legislation has shown that law-abiding Americans who own guns are not the problem, because the more gun control laws that have been passed, the more mass shootings have occurred
- 97.8 percent of mass shootings occur in “gun-free zones,” as the perpetrators know legally armed citizens won’t be there to stop them
- Depression per se rarely results in violence. Only after antidepressants became commonplace did mass shootings really take off, and many mass shooters have been shown to be on antidepressants
- Antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are well-known for their ability to cause suicidal and homicidal ideation and violence
“According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a mass murder occurs when at least four people are murdered, not including the shooter ... during a single incident ...
Seemingly every time a mass shooting occurs ... the anti-gun media and politicians have a knee-jerk response — they blame the tragedy solely on the tool used, namely firearms, and focus all of their proposed ‘solutions’ on more laws, ignoring that the murderer already broke numerous laws when they committed their atrocity.
Facts matter when addressing such an emotionally charged topic, and more gun control legislation has shown that law-abiding Americans who own guns are NOT the problem. Consider the following: The more gun control laws that are passed, the more mass murders have occurred.
Whether or not this is correlation or causation is debatable. What is not debatable is that this sick phenomenon of mass murderers targeting ‘gun-free zones,’ where they know civilian carry isn’t available to law-abiding Americans, is happening.According to the Crime Prevention Research Center,4 97.8 percent of public shootings occur in ‘gun-free zones’ – and ‘gun-free zones’ are the epitome of the core philosophical tenet of gun control, that laws are all the defense one needs against violence ...
This debate leads them away from the elephant in the room and one of the real issues behind mass shootings — mental health and prescription drugs.
Ignoring what’s going on in the heads of these psychopaths not only allows mass shootings to continue, it leads to misguided gun control laws that violate the Second Amendment and negate the rights of law-abiding U.S. citizens.
As Jeff Snyder put it in The Washington Times: ‘But to ban guns because criminals use them is to tell the innocent and law-abiding that their rights and liberties depend not on their own conduct, but on the conduct of the guilty and the lawless, and that the law will permit them to have only such rights and liberties as the lawless will allow.’”
The Elephant in the Room: AntidepressantsThoughts, emotions and a variety of environmental factors play into the manifestation of violence, but mental illness by itself cannot account for the massive rise in mass murder — unless you include antidepressants in the equation. Yet even when mental health does enter the mass shooter discussion, the issue of antidepressants, specifically, is rarely mentioned.
The fact is, depression per se rarely results in violence. Only after antidepressants became commonplace did mass shootings take off, and many mass shooters have been shown to be on antidepressants.
Prozac, released in 1987, was the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to be approved for depression and anxiety. Only two years earlier, direct-to-consumer advertising had been legalized. In the mid-1990s, the Food and Drug Administration loosened regulations, direct-to-consumer ads for SSRIs exploded and, with it, prescriptions for SSRIs.
In 1989, just two years after Prozac came to market, Joseph Wesbecker shot 20 of his coworkers, killing nine. He had been on Prozac for one month, and the survivors of the drug-induced attack sued Eli Lilly, the maker of Prozac. Since then, antidepressant use and mass shootings have both risen, more or less in tandem.
How can we possibly ignore the connection between rampant use of drugs known to directly cause violent behavior and the rise in mass shootings?
Another jump took place in 2012, when there were seven mass shootings. And while the annual count has gone up and down from year to year, there’s been a clear trend of an increased number of mass shootings post-2012. Over time, mass shootings have also gotten larger, with more people getting injured or killed per incident.
How can we possibly ignore the connection between rampant use of drugs known to directly cause violent behavior and the rise in mass shootings? Suicidal ideation, violence and homicidal ideation are all known side effects of these drugs. Sometimes, the drugs disrupt brain function so dramatically the perpetrator can’t even remember what they did.
For example, in 2001, a 16-year-old high schooler was prescribed Effexor, starting off at 40 milligrams and moving up to 300 mg over the course of three weeks. On the first day of taking a 300-mg dose, the boy woke up with a headache, decided to skip school and went back to bed.
The Risks Are ClearThe risks of psychiatric disturbances are so clear, ever since mid-October 2004, all antidepressants in the U.S. must include a black box warning that the drug can cause suicidal thoughts and behaviors, especially in those younger than 25, and that:10
“Anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility (aggressiveness), impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, and mania have been reported in adult and pediatric patients being treated with antidepressants for major depressive disorder as well as for other indications, both psychiatric and nonpsychiatric.”SSRIs can also cause emotional blunting and detachment, such that patients report “not feeling” or “not caring” about anything or anyone, as well as psychosis and hallucinations. All of these side effects can contribute to someone acting out an unthinkable violent crime.
- Fluoxetine (Prozac), which increased aggressive behavior 10.9 times
- Paroxetine (Paxil), which increased violent behavior 10.3 times
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox), which increased violent behavior 8.4 times
- Venlafaxine (Effexor), which increased violent behavior 8.3 times
- Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), which increased violent behavior 7.9 times
Depression Is Vastly OverdiagnosedIn her article, Carter also reviewed the clinical determinants for a diagnosis of clinical depression warranting medication. To qualify, you must experience five or more of the following symptoms, most of the day, every day, for two weeks or more, and the symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with normal everyday functioning:14
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling helpless
- Feeling guilty
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Abnormal sleep patterns, whether sleeping too much or not enough
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Feeling worthless
- Feeling ’empty’
- Lack of energy
- Slow talking and moving
- Trouble concentrating
- Abnormal weight changes, either eating too much or having no appetite
“Participants who did not meet the 12-month MDE criteria reported less distress and impairment in role functioning and used fewer services. A majority of both groups, however, were prescribed and used psychiatric medications.
Conclusion: Depression overdiagnosis and overtreatment is common in community settings in the USA. There is a need for improved targeting of diagnosis and treatments of depression and other mental disorders in these settings.”
What Role Might War Games Play?
Aside from antidepressants, another factor that gets ignored is the influence of shooting simulations, i.e., violent video games. How does the military train soldiers for war? Through simulations. With the proliferation of video games involving indiscriminate violence, should we really be surprised when this “training” is then put into practice?
- Allowing you to practice genuine real-life scenarios and responses
- Repetition of content, which boosts knowledge retention
- Personalization and diversification, so you can learn from your mistakes and evaluate your performance, thereby achieving a deeper level of learning
Add antidepressant side effects such as emotional blunting and loss of impulse control, and you have a perfect prescription for a mass casualty event.
Graham, meanwhile, does not appear to understand how his nonchalant call for murder might actually incite murder. In the wake of the Uvalde school shooting, he now wants to mobilize retired service members to enhance security at schools, and while that might be a good idea, how about also vowing never to call for the murder of political opponents? Don’t politicians understand that this could translate into some kid thinking it’s acceptable to murder THEIR perceived opponents?
As far as I can tell, mass shootings have far more to do with societal norms, dangerous medications, a lack of high-quality mental health services, and the normalization of violence through entertainment and in politics, than it does with gun laws per se.
There are likely many other factors as well, but these are clearly observable phenomena known to nurture violent behavior. I’m afraid Americans are in need of a far deeper and more introspective analysis of the problem than many are capable of at the moment. But those who can should try, and make an effort to affect much-needed change locally and in their own home.
Sources and References
- 1, 9, 14 Ammo.com, Prescription for Violence
- 2 Libertarian Institute May 20, 2019
- 3 Psychreg.org January 26, 2021, updated February 21, 2022
- 4 Crime Prevention Research Center, Mass Public Shootings Stats
- 5 Harvard Health October 20, 2011
- 6 Washington Post October 19, 2011
- 7, 8 Time April 16, 2021
- 10 Psychiatric News November 5, 2004
- 11 PLOS ONE December 15, 2010, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015337
- 12 Psychology Today January 5, 2011
- 13 Live Science January 12, 2011
- 15, 16 Psychotherapy Psychosom 2013;82(3):161-9
- 17 World Bank Blogs August 14, 2018
- 18 Centrical Benefits of Simulations Training
- 19 War and Violent Crime Research
- 20 VOA Nws March 4, 2022