26 years old, dishonorable discharge, beat his wife and child, year in the brig. That’s a profile. And those were the words I was looking for as I watched this abomination in Texas unfold, trying to begin to understand, again, what kind of a person would do this kind of thing.
High speed car chase, killed himself. The end. Until it happens again.
He threatened his mother-in-law. But still …
An ex-lawman on television was trying to explain things from his perspective and experience to a news hostess saying that it could be a copycat kind of thing. Somewhere between this lawman’s personal opinion and professional experience, and his best hunch, and, importantly, even before the identity and background of the shooter was made public, he surmised that when a person of a certain type sees a mass shooting on TV, like the one in Las Vegas or the many others, he tends to want to do or beat that, copy it.
As seen on TV.
Person of a certain type.
I suppose this is as good a path as any to explore in trying to unravel this psychological phenomenon, the copycat theory. Too bad the shooter is dead, in one sense, because now he can’t be examined personally, other to say, however, his brain can be studied as the Las Vegas shooter’s brain will be. Postmortem. Maybe this is best. Maybe they will find something, some disorder, in the brain that will reveal something significant.
Not to make any equivocal comparison, but there is a comparison. It took a long time and a lot of violent personal trauma and sadness to discover the trauma of concussion in NFL players, which explained a lot about why they were experiencing the mental and physical problems they were having. Problems that were far reaching into both their personal and professional lives.
So, this kind of forensic medical science will be helpful in discovering if there is any correlation in brain function or anatomy, or any anomaly, similar to these shooters.
Aside from that, all interviewable psychological reasonings are on the table. As far as age goes, you can almost rule that out. The Sandy Hook shooter kid was 19, the Las Vegas shooter was 64. The recent Texas shooter was 26. All male, however, none female.
Dishonorable discharge, beat his wife and child, year in the brig.
After interviewing his parents, siblings, friends, acquaintances, school teachers, mother-in-law ..everything and everyone this shooter came int contact with, a well defined psychological profile will emerge. Comparisons will be made with the profiles of other shooters. Some commonalities may be discovered. They will be matched with the postmortem findings of the brain analyses of the deceased shooters.
Findings will be found. More shootings will occur, probably even while these studies are being conducted. They will examine and analyze those shooters.
Seems like we are keeping the shooter examiners well employed, and the morticians, and the news services, law enforcement. Gun sales are up. All while someone is probably thinking, planning, to shoot up a church, movie theatre, school, mall, as you read this.
Identifying and stopping “that type of person” is the hard part. Postmortem is easy. Our hearts and prayers go out. Easy. Stopping this goddam evil is the job. The job nobody seems able to do.
Is it a gun problem or a mental health problem? Aside from a terrorist style “attack” or a Jihadi hell-bent on destruction in the name of Allah using a vehicle of some sort as a weapon, the emphasis seems to be on guns and mental health.
The gun problem is nonnegotiable. We will have guns. It’s the law. Besides, if we stopped all gun and ammo sales today, there would still be millions of guns available to any nutcase or criminal deviant to choose from, and some equivalent nutcase to sell them to him. The debate over magazine size and buttstocks is peripheral to the problem, and mere background noise.
So, that leaves mental health.
When we talk about psychologists and psychiatrists we tend to think of the classic high-end Park Avenue doctor. Couch, dark office, authoritative comforting voice. Expensive. The reality is that every town in America has mental health advocates, practitioners, and social workers, and these are the folks to whom the courts and law enforcement send people who have become enmeshed into the system because of some assumed mental health related crime, or are sought out privately. Their funding comes from a combination of grants, government funding, service and co-pay fees.
There are clinics like this in every town, city and rural community, and still, the ratio of people needing help to the person giving it, the case load, is usually way out of proportion. Further, the presumed effectiveness and intentions of the social worker or therapist, often with a masters degree, often not, often inexperienced, may be well meaning, but identifying and attending to the seriousness and the ramifications of many cases often goes both unnoticed and unattended.
The depth and quality of the across the board, general mental health services in the U.S. is questionable and should be examined closely.
And then there are the potential shooters who have never seen a therapist. God help us.
John Kushma is a communication consultant and lives in Logan, Utah.