Kalamazoo Killings

The chilling thing about this particular shooting is that there are no “in-retrospect-we-see-that-should-have-been-a-red-flag” behaviors or beliefs. We say “we have got to fix the mental health system so people like this are stopped before they kill” but our mental health system can only fix the crazy we already understand. This is a new kind of crazy

I’ll explain. The relatively few known psychiatric diagnoses likely to feature violence combined with the rate at which those illnesses manifest in the population is not equal to the number of white guys snapping out of nowhere:  

“…mental illness, like most physical illness, tends to impair the individual’s ability to act, aggressively or in any other way. Only a few such conditions have a significant potential to precipitate a violent act. Among these is paranoid schizophrenia, which may affect the individual so that he comes to believe that people are persecuting him. He may then attack whomever he imagines his enemies to be”

Certain drugs—for example, amphetamines—produce psychotic paranoid states which can be dangerous for the same reason. As everyone knows, alcoholic intoxication, because it lowers impulse control, causes some people to become violent; and if they are chronic alcoholics, they become violent over and over again.

Certain rare forms of epilepsy and other confusional states that sometimes occur as a complication of organic disease may cause the individual to strike out indiscriminately at whoever is nearby; but since these attacks are unpremeditated and uncoordinated, they do not often result in someone being injured. Occasionally, sexually deviant individuals become notorious by committing sadistic or murderous acts, but they too are unusual and represent the behavior of only a tiny fraction of those who arc sexually disturbed or deviant.

Further research shows that there is a substance abuse/ schizophrenia crossed with substance abuse/schizophrenia cluster that seems to encompass a lot of murders.

Individuals with severe mental illness including schizophrenia are at a significantly greater risk of being victims of both violent and non-violent crime.[180] Schizophrenia has been associated with a higher rate of violent acts, although this is primarily due to higher rates of drug use.[181] Rates of homicide linked to psychosis are similar to those linked to substance misuse, and parallel the overall rate in a region.[182] What role schizophrenia has on violence independent of drug misuse is controversial, but certain aspects of individual histories or mental states may be factors.[183]


Schizophrenia affects around 0.3–0.7% of people at some point in their life

0.7% of all ages, races, and genders does not yield enough white, male, young-to-midlife shizophrenics to fully encompass the frequency with which they have been arising these last few years.

Mass Murderers Fit Profile, as Do Many Others Who Don’t Kill

Those who study these types of mass murderers have found that they are almost always male (all but two of the 160 cases isolated by Dr. Duwe). Most are single, separated or divorced. The majority are white. With the exception of student shooters at high schools or lower schools, they are usually older than the typical murderer, often in their 30s or 40s.

They vary in ideology. They generally have bought their guns legally. Many had evidence of mental illness, particularly those who carried out random mass killings. But others did not, and most people with mental illness are not violent

They do not fit in. Their most comfortable companion is themselves. According to Dr. Fox, mass killers tend to be “people in social isolation with a lack of support systems to help them through hard times and give them a reality check.”

“They have a history of frustration,” he went on. “They externalize blame. Nothing is ever their fault. They blame other people even if other people aren’t to blame. They see themselves as good guys mistreated by others.”

Jeffrey Swanson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine, said these individuals often feel they do not belong, yet frequently live in “smaller town settings where belonging really matters.”

Mr. Harper-Mercer showed signs of such isolation and despair. Like others, he appeared smitten by past mass killers. “They see them as heroes,” Dr. Fox said. “Someone who wins one for the little guy.”

What jumps out at me here is “they externalize blame

The association between psychopathy and crime is established, but the specific components of the personality disorders that most contribute to crime are largely unknown. Drawing on data from 723 confined delinquents in Missouri, the present study delved into the eight subscales of the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Short Form to empirically assess the specific aspects of the disorder that are most responsible for explaining variation in career delinquency. Blame externalization emerged as the strongest predictor of career delinquency

Obviously there is a big difference between mass shooters and juvenile delinquents, but seeing as how it was drilled into me pretty consistently as a child that I should blame myself for every single situation, even having my car t-boned on a green light (I should not have been out and about), and grew up to be mostly productive, I’m for rooting out blame externalization anywhere it manifests. Not only might that eventually prevent mass shootings, but there a whole host of other reasons why we as a society should get into the habit of calling out blame externalization on every situation.

Even when it is justified, when external forces really are to blame for your predicament, nothing much that is helpful can come of it. It takes a really clear-eyed person to shift blame without shifting responsibility, too– because, whether the other driver was at fault or not, the one who has to show up for nine months of PT so they can walk again is you.

Here is the first opportunity I’ve had on this blog to invoke my patron saint, @Temper3009, who teaches that you must hold simultaneously both a high estimate of what you deserve and a low estimate of what is reasonable to expect, in addition to an understanding that this discrepancy does not reflect personally on you or the people around you. Seeing life’s failure to provide your deserved rewards as a reason to take other people out of it is where mass shooters go wrong.

So how would “rooting out blame externalization” work and how is this different from right-wing “personal responsibility” dogma? It would work fairly easily in that you would really only have to convince the mental health profession. Once every school counselor is in the habit of documenting blame externalization, parents will become more aware of it, and the habit might be broken in kindergarten. This is different than just saying “people need to behave more responsibly” in reference to grown adults who are not likely to spontaneously change the habits of a lifetime.

Is the tendency toward blame externalization in itself a mental illness? Maybe it’s just a very critical character flaw. Do we believe character flaws exist? It’s unfashionable to blame poverty on them. Is it PC to blame them for violence? I actually do concern myself with that.

Image By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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