After Adam Lanza massacred women and children in Newtown, there have been more and more impassioned calls for greater gun control.
It does not seem to matter that the places with the strictest gun control laws have the highest gun crime rates. Nor does it seem to matter that, with nearly 300,000,000 guns in private hands, banning guns seems unrealistic.
Still, America seems more and more to be thinking that guns are the problem and that they need to be better controlled.
You don’t have to be a Freudian to note that blaming guns feels like blaming men. Could it be that Americans have been induced to hate guns because they appear to be phallic?
Stranger things have happened.
We pay lip service to the fact that many of those who open fire in schools or theatres seem to be suffering from psychiatric ailments. I and others have often pointed out that the lawyers and judges and legislators who emptied out the psychiatric hospitals a few decades ago bear some considerable responsibility for the fact that dangerous psychotics are running free on America’s streets and in America’s subway systems.
Yesterday, Daniel Kupelian made an intriguing point: many of these young serial killers had, in fact, been taking psychiatric medication. As is known by psychiatrists, these medications can in some circumstances provoke manic episodes, suicidal behavior and even homicidal behavior.
Kupelian has documented the psychiatric history of those mass murderers we know about, from Eric Harris to Andrea Yates. It’s a long list.
For all we know about the weapons that Adam Lanza and James Holmes and Jared Loughner used, we know very little about the psychiatric medications they were taking.
What conclusions should we draw?
First, we certainly do not want to say that these medications should be prohibited because some of them have some horrible side effects? Many of them have helped many patients.
Second, we do not know whether these people were given the proper medications in the proper dosages. We do not know whether they were prescribed by a psychiatrist or a general practitioner. We do not, in other words, know whether the psychotic killers were properly diagnosed and properly treated.
Of course, we believe in doctor/patient confidentiality, but we also know that if a psychiatrist’s records show a misdiagnosis or a poor choice of treatment, the psychiatrist might be held liable.
Third, I have no way of knowing how much or how little these medications contributed to the crimes that these people committed, that is, whether they were made crazy by their pills or whether their pills were ineffective in treating their psychoses.
Fourth, if certain classes of patients present higher risks of violence or suicide while on certain kinds of medications, then their treatment needs to be more closely monitored, perhaps from within the confines of a psychiatric institution.