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Thread: Sick minds of shooters a bigger problem than guns

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    By ROBERT L. JAMIESON JR.
    P-I COLUMNIST

    DON'T BLAME the gun. Blame the psychologically unhinged man who pulled the trigger.

    Blame a mental heath system that allows people of unsound mind to walk free to hurt themselves -- or others, as Tuesday's horrific shooting spree in Skagit County shows.

    The suspect, 28-year-old Isaac Zamora, has an extensive criminal record and a history of mental illness. His family said they did what they could to get him help, even as he self-medicated, became homeless, lived in the woods, and drifted in and out of psych-ache.

    What sparked the shooting rampage that killed six and injured four isn't yet known -- and may never be. But we've come to know such deadly outbursts. The names and places may change. The bodies pile up.

    At Northern Illinois University in February, a former grad student who was taking anti-anxiety drugs and anti-depressants shot and killed five people and wounded more than a dozen before turning the gun on himself.

    In the Virginia Tech campus massacre last year, an English major who had been declared mentally ill hunted down classmates, killing 32 people before committing suicide. The rampage is the deadliest by a lone gunman in U.S. history.

    Closer to home, Naveed Haq, a man with a history of mental trouble, ranted against Israel before going to the Jewish Federation offices in Seattle in 2006. He shot and killed one woman, and injured five others.

    Guns played a role in these incidents, but they just happened to be the tools of choice. A similarly deranged person could walk onto a packed bus with a machete -- and swing. Or get behind the wheel and slam into a crowd.

    The deeper question, one that often goes unaddressed or gets pushed aside in a knee-jerk clamor for a gun crackdown, is this: How do we handle unquiet minds before the violence?

    The arc of the problem goes back decades, when there was a push to close mental institutions, leaving the emotionally distressed to fend for themselves.

    Some now end up on the streets. And because the government is either unable or unwilling to wrestle with the matter, guess who often ends up dealing with it? The cops.

    In Seattle, like many other U.S. cities, police on the frontlines also must don social worker hats, dealing with out-of-control minds.

    Seattle police developed special crisis intervention teams to soothe those suffering from psychosis. They've adopted less lethal weapons such as bean-bag guns, to prevent a repeat of what happened in the city eight years ago: David Walker, a mentally ill man wielding a knife and gun, was shot and killed by a uniformed officer in Lower Queen Anne.

    But police shouldn't have to shoulder the mental health burden. They shouldn't have to grapple with the revolving door that takes mentally ill offenders from street to jail and back again.

    A 2000 report by the National Institute of Justice said that once a mentally ill person is arrested for disorderly behavior, that person is tagged a criminal and is likely to be arrested when acting out in the future instead of getting treatment.

    This approach has got to change.

    More beds for mentally ill people in treatment facilities would help. As Dr. Linda Teplin of Northwestern University told Newsweek in July, today's chronic shortage of beds results in fewer, shorter stays and the reality that "you have to be extremely mentally ill" to get one of them, she said.

    More specialized housing is needed as well -- not the dismal warehousing of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," but well-funded, safe facilities.

    This is not to say strict laws shouldn't be on the books to keep guns from dangerous people.

    But the main focus has to be broader, addressing the illness fueling the behavior.

    Committing seriously mentally ill people to institutions isn't just a matter of public safety. It protects them as well, because the sad truth, as Newsweek pointed out, is that they are most often the victimized -- not the victimizers. A 2005 study that Teplin worked on at Northwestern University suggests that people with serious mental illness are 11 times more likely than the general population to be victims of violent crime, Newsweek said.

    Unfortunately, the plight of the mentally ill grabs public attention when they are the perpetrators -- when they do what James Anthony Williams was arrested for this year on Capitol Hill: fatally stabbing Shannon Harps in front of her condo.

    Or when they go on a terror spree as Zamora did before getting arrested.

    Flipping through Zamora's criminal history reveals a man in distress, a man whose actions were cries for help.

    He's got our attention now. Painfully late.

    P-I columnist Robert L. Jamieson Jr. can be reached at 206-448-8125 or robertjamieson@seattlepi.com.

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/jamies...obert04xx.html

    He is right...... Good article

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    From the PI no less. I'm actually impressed.

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    Regular Member compmanio365's Avatar
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    Great article, I'm writing the guy an email now.......I think this guy is right on the money.

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    Do my eyes deceive me, or am I reading what amounts to common gdamn sense?

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    Regular Member Johnny Law's Avatar
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    XD45PlusP wrote:
    By ROBERT L. JAMIESON JR.
    P-I COLUMNIST

    Blame a mental heath system that allows people of unsound mind to walk free to hurt themselves -- or others, as Tuesday's horrific shooting spree in Skagit County shows.

    A 2000 report by the National Institute of Justice said that once a mentally ill person is arrested for disorderly behavior, that person is tagged a criminal and is likely to be arrested when acting out in the future instead of getting treatment.

    Committing seriously mentally ill people to institutions isn't just a matter of public safety. It protects them as well, because the sad truth, as Newsweek pointed out, is that they are most often the victimized -- not the victimizers. A 2005 study that Teplin worked on at Northwestern University suggests that people with serious mental illness are 11 times more likely than the general population to be victims of violent crime, Newsweek said.


    P-I columnist Robert L. Jamieson Jr. can be reached at 206-448-8125 or robertjamieson@seattlepi.com.
    There is some truth to this, butI can explain how the system works from first hand experience. When a mentally ill person is contacted by Police, it is up to the Officer to decide if that person goes to jail (if there is a crime), or goes to get a mental evaluation from a mhp. (mental health professional). Remember that one has to be mentally competent to stand trial/get convicted of a crime, so there is typically no real point in sending an obviously disturbed person to jail. They would likely be sent to get a eval. even if jailed first.

    Although Officers are not mhp's, we do get a lot of experience dealing with these people. There are two types of evals. The first is a voluntary (person wants to go, but doesn't have to stay), and the second is a involuntary commit. An Officer is the only person who can involuntarily commit a person in the field. Most of these people are "frequent flyers" and have been through all this many times. Once they get evaluated, back on their medications, and are stabilized, the system can no longer hold them in a lockdown facility. They are released back into the public, and usually do fine for a while. They then sometimes decide that they are feeling so good that they no longer need their meds. A short while later, they are out of control and creating problems again. This is the revolving door that many of these folks get caught up in.
    If you have to fight, do not fear death. We will all die one day, so fight skillfully and bravely! And if it is to be that you die, then at least go to God proudly. Meet him as the proud warrior that you are, and not as a sniveling coward. Nobody lives forever.

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    It wasn't that long ago that we closed most of the mental hospitals becasue the leftists said we shouldn't be locking the loons up in he first place. Now they want to go back to locking them up?

    I personally do not much care whether someone is a danger because he is a loon or becasue he is criminal. In either case it is up to government to see that he is not a danger to the rest of us. if that involves some kind of intense supervision Ilike jail or a mental ward), so be it. if something less strenuous is called for, like parole or ongoing MH visits, thats Ok too. But just letting criminals and loons out on the loose is not the answer.

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    Regular Member gsx1138's Avatar
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    I was listening to Dave Ross when this stuff was getting reported. He said,"Are we ready yet to do something about guns? Haven't we had enough killing? This man should not have been able to get a gun so easily."

    After nearly ripping my steering wheel off I was too busy to call and tell him that the person already broke two laws just by having the firearm in his posession. What other laws could you write that he would stop and say,"Oh, I can't break that one." And making something illegal does nothing about availability. Just ask those ass hats who think making some drugs illegal is a good idea. It hasn't slowed or stopped the tide of illegal drugs and use in this country.

    I know the mentality because I used to share it. Get rid of the guns and get rid of the problem. Problem is you'll never be able to get rid of all the guns. And without it people will just find other ways to kill. We managed to kill plenty before firearms were ever invented. The U.K's crime rate has gone up 30% and now they're having to do education for kids on the "dangers" of having a knife because stabbings having increased so much.
    "Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world." ~ Musashi

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    Regular Member Johnny Law's Avatar
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    gsx1138 wrote:
    This man should not have been able to get a gun so easily."


    I know the mentality because I used to share it. Get rid of the guns and get rid of the problem. Problem is you'll never be able to get rid of all the guns.
    Agreed.

    I have spoken with numerous teens who state that they can buy a handgun (stolen variety) for $20-30 from other kids at their schools. The government would never be able to get rid of all the guns in this Country, nor should they ever try. Instead what usually happens after an shooting incident is a knee jerk reaction that trys to place more restrictions on guns. This has the negative effect of punishing those who lawfully carry them. The anti's who scream for weapon bans will never understand that anyone who wants a gun can easily get one, legally or not.
    If you have to fight, do not fear death. We will all die one day, so fight skillfully and bravely! And if it is to be that you die, then at least go to God proudly. Meet him as the proud warrior that you are, and not as a sniveling coward. Nobody lives forever.

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    gsx1138 wrote:
    He said,"Are we ready yet to do something about guns? Haven't we had enough killing? This man should not have been able to get a gun so easily."
    Did I miss something? I have not seen any report that stated where the gun was aquired. He may very well have taken it from the neighbors who called the police.

    Get a gun so easily? Only if this man walked into a store and bought it, in that case something went very wrong because the guy has a record, he was on parole or whatever.

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    Even if we banned the manufacturing/possession/importation of all guns it wouldn't matter; guns will still end up in our country and they won't be any harder for criminals to get. If a junkie can scrape together enough money to cover a $100/day habit, he can sure as hell put together enough cash for a banned weapon. We can't stop cocaine and heroine from crossing the border into the U.S.; hell we can't even stop human beings... I don't know where people get the idea that we could somehow stop guns from getting in.

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    Campaign Veteran Bookman's Avatar
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    I have to admit that I'm completely astounded. THAT was in the PI? Robert L. Jamieson Jr. wrote it? Are you sure?

    I think Satan is wearing a parka right about now.:what::what::what::what:
    "All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke


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    Regular Member just_a_car's Avatar
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    Quick, call the CDC!!! There's been an outbreak of Common Sense in Seattle!
    B.S. Chemistry UofWA '09
    KF7GEA

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    3/325 wrote:
    ................We can't stop cocaine and heroine from crossing the border into the U.S.; hell we can't even stop human beings... I don't know where people get the idea that we could somehow stop guns from getting in.
    It's not a matter of "CAN'T" it is a matter of "WON'T".

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    Actually, the deinstitutionalization of the 70's, as I understand it, had more to do with the rights of the mentally ill, rather than protecting the public. Those who are considered a danger to themselves or to others are supposed to be institutionalized and stay that way. Of course, like the corrections system, the mental health system doesn't work. People who suffer from mental illnesses can live normal lives and having a mental illness should not amount to a death sentence. However, there seems to be very little common sense involved in the decision process, and don't even get me started on the reintegration of those who have been institutionalized.

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    Bear 45/70 wrote:
    From the PI no less. I'm actually impressed.
    Jamison calls it straight.

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    The media fails to mention that while the information is not released, the likelihood that the deputy was disarmed and her duty pistol used is significant and likely. Many cops in America today are killed with their own weapons.

    There is always one gun at every call. Pundits and media types forget or conviently forget that.

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    Regular Member amlevin's Avatar
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    Morris wrote:
    The media fails to mention that while the information is not released, the likelihood that the deputy was disarmed and her duty pistol used is significant and likely. Many cops in America today are killed with their own weapons.

    There is always one gun at every call. Pundits and media types forget or conviently forget that.
    Carefull. If it becomes known that it was the Deputy's gun that killed all these others some Moron will call for the disarmament of LEO's.
    "If I shoot all the ammo I am carrying I either won't need anymore or more won't help"

    "If you refuse to stand up for others now, who will stand up for you when your time comes?"

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    Many often do already, especially liberals and progressives.

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    Regular Member amlevin's Avatar
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    Morris wrote:
    Many often do already, especially liberals and progressives.
    Can't both of these groups just be abreviated to "Morons"?
    "If I shoot all the ammo I am carrying I either won't need anymore or more won't help"

    "If you refuse to stand up for others now, who will stand up for you when your time comes?"

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