Don’t Blame The Shooting In Tucson On The Psychiatrically Labeled

One of the only defenses available to people who intentionally kill other people is the insanity defense. Already the media is interviewing people diagnosing insanity in the case of Jared Lee Loughner, the young man who killed 6 people and wounded 14 others in Tucson over the weekend.

I was in Virginia in 2007 when Seung-Hui Cho killed himself after killing 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus. People labeled “mentally ill” have been paying for Cho’s crimes ever since in that state. The Virginia Tech tragedy was used as an excuse for legislators to change the law there. Whatever constitutional protections people had who were facing civil commitment proceedings then, they have fewer such protections as a result of this legislation today.

Had the state had a living body to take to trial back in 2007, I have no doubt that the attorneys for the defendant would not have been able to win on an insanity defense. I am much less certain that the same thing will prove true in the case of Mr. Loughner. I think the prosecutors will be doing all that they can to try to make his a capital murder case.

The fact of the matter is that a person with a psychiatric label is less likely to commit a violent crime than a person without such a label. These highly publicized and exceptional cases of mass murder fuel a media frenzy that is intent on blaming such crimes on innocent people who have absolutely nothing to do with them. The fascists in NAZI Germany laid blame for everything under the sun on jews in the 30s and 40s, and here you’ve got people blaming people with first hand experience of the mental health/illness system for stupid acts of violence perpetuated by a lone gunman in the 21st century. Neither one of these groups gunned down any of those 20 people killed and injured in Tucson.

A terrorist group called The Mentally Ill didn’t kill those people in Arizona. Jared Lee Loughner killed them, and Jared Lee Loughner is the only person who should be held accountable. He wasn’t possessed by a demon called Mental illness either. He went and he bought a gun–something he couldn’t have done if he’d been detained for any length of time in a mental health facility. He went and he used this gun on a politician and her supporters. This isn’t a mental health matter, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. We shouldn’t be making any more innocent people suffer for his crime, and so let’s not blame this crime he committed on people labeled “mentally ill”.