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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 11/27/15

Identifying the Next School Shooter Before He Shoots: Needle In a Haystack

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"Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them."

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote, 1605-15

Since April, 1999, when fifteen Columbine High School students were shot and killed and twenty-one wounded by two fellowstudents, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, until October of this year, eighteen similar school shootings and mass murders, where at least four individuals were killed or injured, have been carried out by eighteen young white male shooters.

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Depending on which source you reference -- I relied on Wikipedia -- one hundred and forty-nine persons, including students, teachers, school personnel, the shooters themselves and several of their parents, were killed and one hundred and thirty-nine wounded -- approximately one school mass murder every ten months, a rate that has accelerated in the last several years, particularly since the Newtown shootings in December, 2012.

To provide an even broader -- and shocking -- picture, again courtesy of Wikipedia -- a total of one hundred and fifty-eight school related shootings since Columbine, carried out by one hundred and ninety-nine shooters, have resulted in two hundred and twenty-four deaths and two hundred and eighty-eight injuries, a rate of one shooting a month during that almost-sixteen year period. Eighty-five of these shootings have occurred since Newton, i.e., in little less than three years, doubling the rate of shootings to one every two weeks.

A ritualized public and political response to the shootings has eventually evolved, particularly in the wake of the mass murders, which always attract the most media attention: shock, outrage and a demand for action to prevent a recurrence. Who are these teenagers who are doing the shootings and why? How are they getting their hands on the powerful weapons they're using? Where are the stricter gun controls needed to deny the shooters access to these weapons?

In the face of the predictable and pointed objections to the latter from the NRA -- "Only a good man with a gun can stop a bad man with a gun" -- and from the U.S. senators and congressman in the NRA's employ, all possible productive discussion of the who, what and why of the killings, even after Newtown and the murder of twenty elementary schoolchildren, has inevitably deteriorated into stock answers -- the shooters are all crazy loners -- and solutions -- increased funding for additional mental health services is needed. If you give credence to this popularized explanation, it now appears that the answers are to be found among those persons who have been labeled seriously mentally ill, a conveniently marginalized and powerless group whose members' protests at being labeled and scapegoated as prospective killers can easily be ignored.

Aided and abetted by the Roberts' Supreme Court and its distorted interpretation of the Second Amendment as guaranteeing the right of individual gun ownership to all Americans, the NRA has proceeded to block all attempts to tighten gun controls at the Federal, state and local levels. Perhaps more importantly, it has succeeded in intimidating the Congress to vote down all legislative initiatives to fund research into the fundamental questions posed above, viz., who are the school shooters and mass murderers and why are they shooting.

Despite those barriers, academic researchers have attempted to construct a profile of the shooters with the objective of identifying those individuals most likely to plan and carry out future shootings that result in mass murders. So, too, has the FBI. Unfortunately, their efforts have produced a picture of past and future shooters so broad that it could encompass the great majority of white male teenagers in the U.S. It could just as easily include the Muslim jihadists, in the main young male French and Belgian nationals of North African origin, who are currently wreaking havoc in France.

To illustrate, let me elaborate on a few of the twenty-six "personality traits and behaviors" posted by Gary Kohls, a psychiatrist, on OpEd News in early October, that I consider key:

Preoccupation with violence, particularly computer games filled with violence and, often, with guns. At least two of our shooters, Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, and Christopher Harper-Mercer, the Umpqua CC shooter, shared an avid interest in guns and shooting with their mothers, with Lanza shooting and killing his mother before departing for his rampage at the Sandy Hook School.

Alienation from others, including family members, schoolmates and teachers, and a corresponding mistrust of those in authority. They rarely sought help from treating professionals and the therapeutic relationships in which they did participate were invariably short-lived. For their part, psychotherapists and psychiatrists were confounded by these young men and were universally unsuccessful in engaging them in treatment.

Signs of depression, often evidenced by agitated behavior, and of cognitive impairment, often quite severe. It is crucial to note here the likely ill effects, i.e., hypo-manic, impulsive and aggressive behaviors and exacerbation of suicidal thinking, produced by the SSRI's or anti-depressant medications prescribed to adolescents whose parents seek treatment for them. By FDA regulation, these potentiating side effects are highlighted in "black box" warnings attached to all SSRI's prescribed to adolescents and young adults. The majority of the shooters under discussion here had been prescribed such medications at some time prior to the shootings they carried out.

Inability to form intimate relationships, particularly sexual relationships. Again, the majority if not all our shooters had never had sex, leading to feelings of personal and social inadequacy and, often, a fierce misogyny. Jihadist suicide bombers, we should remember, are prohibited from having sex and are compensated for their chastity with promises of the sexual delights awaiting them in the afterlife. As the number of U.S. shootings has mounted, more alienated and angry young men have begun to connect with one another via Facebook and invariably refer to themselves as sexually frustrated, a key point of common self-identity among themselves and with the shooters.

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Brief Bio.: Dr. Carney is a retired social worker with nearly 50 years of experience in social work, with thirty-five of those years spent in the public mental health system . He is an Alinsky-trained community organizer, Institute-trained in (more...)

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