In the aftermath of the mass shootings in Aurora, Colo.; Newtown, Conn.; Tucson, Ariz.; Virginia Tech; the Washington Navy Yard; and sadly, other locales, conventional wisdom held that the epidemic of mass shootings was a problem of gun control. I wrote columns attempting to draw attention to the mental health system in America that so wrongheadedly fails to treat the dangerous mentally ill.
Now, at last, the mental health angle on mass shootings has become conventional wisdom -- just in time, perhaps, to be wrong again.
"Fort Hood shooter had mental problems" headlined USA Today. "Fort Hood shooter was Iraq vet being treated for mental health issues," announced CNN. A number of stories mentioned post-traumatic stress disorder as the possible culprit for Spc. Ivan Lopez's awful crime, and most discussions of the attack have sought answers in psychiatry.
Yet, unlike the gunmen in the other recent mass attacks, Lopez seems to have been sane. He was a married father of four and apparently close to his family of origin in Puerto Rico. He had been distraught by the recent death of his mother and apparently extremely angry with the military for delaying his leave to attend the funeral. But these are normal feelings and reactions. He was receiving treatment for depression and anxiety, and while he had been evaluated for PTSD, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the post's commander, said Lopez did not experience direct combat in Iraq.
Ironically, Lopez had commented on his Facebook page about Adam Lanza, the Newtown murderer, writing: Lanza "pretends to be a victim of a mental illness followed by addiction to violent video games." He continued, "It is stupid to me that anyone can have easy access to a powerful weapon without being mentally evaluated. This makes the government indirect accomplice ... These bastards have perfected their way of attacking studying previous massacres to gain publicity and their minute of fame as a villain. But thanks to Hollywood and the sensational profiling by the media (they) give more power to those intelligent cowards."
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