Dr. Patricia Farrell on Medika Life

The Subtle Signs of Brewing Violence May Be Seen, But Not Always

Violence can’t always be predicted accurately, and even professionals may miss what is coming their way.

It’s open season for killers with automatic assault weapons who, in too many instances, don’t require a license, a background check, or even be older than 18. Anyone is a target for those who would perpetrate mayhem throughout our country, utilizing bullets that blast people’s bodies into unrecognizable bits. We know this because the recent killing in Texas of 19 children in one classroom required DNA samples for identification. You don’t need DNA if you can take a photo of someone’s intact face.

Now it is time to put the fake news to bed regarding who are the individuals holding these weapons of death and slaughtering the innocents. No, they do not have a mental health condition, and to say that they are all mentally ill is incorrect and further stigmatizes persons with a mental health disorder. Statistics have shown us where the mayhem has been perpetrated regarding the states and who has been pulling the triggers.

The states with the highest incidence of firearms mortality include Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming. If you live in any of those states IMHO, you can be assured that you are at higher risk of encountering an individual with a gun who will kill you without hesitation. Then, there are the “stand your ground” laws.

Don’t chalk these murders up to mental illness. If you do, you are refusing to recognize that legally these murderers have the right to carry a gun, not just a gun, a military-quality assault rifle, anywhere they wish.

Don’t be in their fire line if you want to live. Perhaps, at some point, you’ll hesitate to leave your home. Indeed, you won’t want your children to go to school because you’ll wonder if they will ever return. No, this is not an advertisement for homeschooling, but that might realize an uptick in its popularity now.

And now, “open carry” is legal, so anyone wishing to have a sidearm with them when they go shopping, to the movies, or anywhere can have a firearm at their disposal. How many more instances of untamed violence, foolish behavior, or unintended slights will result in death for the intended and those who will be collateral damage?

If before we told people to “let the buyer beware,” now it’s “let everyone beware.” The genie is out of the bottle, and getting it back may prove nearly impossible.

A Brewing Death Storm

Usually, people don’t “snap” and become violent suddenly. There is a steady buildup of anger and a wish to get even many times, and some of the evident signs are frightening.

According to a friend, the killer in Uvalde, Texas, at the elementary school had a drug-addicted mother. His grandmother was evicting the latter from an apartment that the grandmother had rented for her.

The friend also told the media that the shooter had a pronounced speech problem, making him the target of bullies. On one occasion, he was seen by this friend with cuts all over his face and admitted that he had done it to himself. The situation was highly distressing, but nothing seems to have been done to remediate the problems.

The killings in Columbine also have roots in depression, suicidal thoughts, and lack of discovery by parents and schools. Blaming isn’t the way to come to some resolution of violent actions, as Sue Klebold, mother of one of the shooters, said in an interview.

She also noted that mental illness itself isn’t a risk factor for violence. It’s only through a combination of risk factors — including alcohol and drug abuse — that a person with a mood disorder is likely to hurt others.

What We Know About Guns

In the healthcare community, as I have known it, the thinking is that if guns are available, guns will be used. Responsible gun owners know that their guns must be secured and not always loaded.

But persons who fear for their safety, whether reasonable or not, may keep handguns in an area where they are easily accessible and loaded. Other gun owners, who use their weapons as intimidation, are a danger to everyone. I know someone who was never raised around guns and now sleeps with a loaded handgun under their pillow each night.

Overall, I believe that the mental health community understands that guns are a part of many American homes, especially in rural communities. There is no wish to outlaw guns, but there is a need for responsible use of guns, training in the use of guns, and careful consideration of gun ownership.

Legal gun owners are not those who are ordering ghost guns over the internet or trying to protect the interstate movement of Saturday night specials. There are legal gun activities used for sport, historic recreation events, and hunting. I once had a patient who belong to a historic events group. All the members loaded their own bullets and used historic guns in target practice contests.

But we do have to question the purchase of military-grade rifles by young persons or giving them a gift of such a weapon. These guns are a means to kill, not when hunting, but to inflate poor self-esteem IMHO. They are intimidating, and that’s the purpose. It is not only a foolish purchase or gift but a deadly one.

I am very concerned that loosening open carry as it relates to guns is a terrible precedent. It can only increase gun violence. We know that domestic violence begins with the first slap and then progresses to worse violence.

The same is true of the “peeping tom” who peers into windows and then goes on to rape and, possibly, murder his victims. These slow progressions are a danger to the entire community, and I think carrying a handgun wherever you go cannot end well.

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Pat Farrell PhD
Pat Farrell PhDhttps://medium.com/@drpatfarrell
I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.


Medika Editor: Mental Health

I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

Patricia also acts in an editorial capacity for Medika's mental health articles, providing invaluable input on a wide range of mental health issues.

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