Mental health study and gun violence

The recent mass murder in Virginia Beach, Virginia, was more bloody proof that we Americans need to do more to curb such violence. It also indicated both why more gun control laws are attractive to some politicians but still futile in achieving the desired result.

On May 31, hours after emailing his supervisor a resignation notice, a Virginia Beach municipal employee entered a city-owned building and killed 11 people. He killed another outside the building. The death toll would have been higher had four police officers not risked their own lives to stop the attacker. One of the officers was wounded. Among the dead was a woman with ties to our very own area — a graduate from Beaver Local High School.

Officials have revealed that the attacker was armed with two legally purchased .45-caliber automatic pistols. At least one of them had a noise suppressor or silencer. Both may have had extended magazines allowing the guns to be fired longer before being reloaded.

No doubt the gun control crowd will focus on that, once again demanding bans on high-capacity magazines for both pistols and rifles. Perhaps they will add suppressors to their ban list.

There should be no doubt that while the extended magazines made the killer more formidable, he would have launched his murderous spree even without them.

But more gun control laws are easier reactions to mass violence than tackling the cause: mental illness. And it appears there were no indicators the Virginia Beach killer was unbalanced, though clearly, he was.

“There’s nothing that hits you right between the eyes,” Police Chief James Cervera said of the shooter’s mental state. “But we are working on it,” he added.

Co-workers could add nothing to that. One who knew the killer casually commented that, “It’s so cotton-picking cliche that you almost hate to say it, but he has always been a rock-solid kind of positive guy. He always had a smile on his face. Nothing in his character would cause you to think, ‘This guy is going to come in and kill 11 of my colleagues’…”

nBy definition, something went badly wrong in the killer’s mind, however. Finding out what it was — and applying lessons learned to other potential mass murderers — will be difficult, but it is the only effective means of preventing such bloodshed.