There have been several high-profile mass shootings recently. Twelve people were slain in the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, a gunman killed six in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and in April, an angry former student killed seven people at Oikos University in Oakland. Forum discusses mental illness and mass shootings. Can anything be done to predict and prevent such violent acts, and what do we know about what causes people to commit them?

Dave Cullen, author of "Columbine" and a contributor to The New York Times, Washington Post, Times of London, Newsweek, Slate, Salon, Daily Beast and the Guardian
Ellen Cervellon, nursing director at Oikos University and gunman One L. Goh's former teacher
David Eagleman, neuroscientist and director of the Initiative of Neuroscience and the Law at the Baylor College of Medicine, and author of "Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain"
Dr. Karen Franklin, forensic psychologist and teaches forensic psychology at The California School of Professional Psychology
Brian Russell, forensic psychologist and attorney

  • Frank

    This topic is a red herring, and about as useful as claiming that JFK was assassinated by one shooter, necessitating bullets that changed direction in mid-air.

    Two eyewitnesses say there were 4 shooters in Wisconsin:


    Two eyewitnesses say there were 2 shooters in Aurora:

    Both of the identified “lone gunmen” had ties to US Army mind control psychological-operations programs, as have past high-profile killers like the one in Arizona. In other words, they were conditioned and drugged to kill for anti-democratic purposes, such as expanding the existing police-state laws and surveillance programs.

    • Frank

       RFK assassination eyewitness interviewed by Soledad OBrien says in 2012 she heard 12 shots from two directions, and audio analysis confirms it:

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    With the economy being what it is, and depression high among young males it concerns me that in each of these recent cases and the shooting in AZ where the Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot and disabled with other being killed, ALL the young men were known to have mental health issues yet no one seemed to do anything serious to address the issue.  

    Same with the young mentally ill man who stabbed the man in his yard in the east bay. He was known to be mentally ill but was allowed to run free and be a threat to innocent people.  

    He used a knife not a gun so its not a gun issue with me. Its a serious mental health issue.

    • Frei

       It’s crazy of a society to try to police every single thought and action of every individual. That’s what North Korea does after all and no one thinks they’re a healthy society.
      There will always be awful crimes. People need to get over it.
      And don’t go nuts trying to control the mentally ill.

  • Lauren Ayers

    Ask the panel if any have looked at malnutrition as a factor
    in psychosis

    It’s complicated but
    this is the short version two specific missing nutrients:

    Since 80% of Americans have sub-optimum levels of the long chain
    omega-3s*, DHA and EPA, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we have such high
    levels of ADD, OCD, anxiety, PTSD, and other types of mental disorders.

    Add in that 70% of us are seriously low in vitamin D, which is
    crucial for preventing depression, and it’s amazing we don’t have more

    The deficiency is worse the more melanin a person has, 80%, for
    Latinos and 90% for African Americans because melanin in the skin blocks
    the production of D in the skin.

    School food provides ZERO omega-3s for kids, and pathetically low
    amounts of D.

    It’s an invisible problem.  No one is doing anything about it.


    * Not to be confused with short chain omega-3s, ALA, found in flax and other
    vegetable sources, which converts very poorly to the DHA and EPA used by the
    nervous system.

    • RegularListener

      I’m all for improving everyone’s nutrition, but this cannot be a very important factor in this violence. American females are just as likely to be malnourished as American males, but they very, very rarely engage in mass murder or serial murder. Even one-on-one homicide is rarely committed by females. Socialization of males–one obvious example many “action flicks” glorify the angry violent hero–must play some sort of role. Probably the socialization interacts with mental disorders in males & females differently, so that the depressed woman–unlike some depressed men—rarely turns to violence but other more passive behaviors (spending too much time in bed, for example). 

      • Lauren Ayers

        As it happens, males do need more omega-3s than females.  I doubt it’s simply a matter of socialization — the difference between testosterone and estrogen is ample explanation by itself; men do indeed take their anger out in more violent ways, and this has been true far longer than the recent arrival of trans fats (which cancel omega-3s) and the modern scarcity of DHA and EPA.  Trying to “socialize” good behavior is about as effective as reasoning with an inebriated person.  When people are operating from their limbic system instead of their frontal cortex (which suffers first, before the older parts of the brain, when DHA and EPA are missing), they are much more impulsive, AKA irrational.  I bet that if our culture was well-supplied with DHA and EPA, our rate of violent crime and murder would be as low as in Japan, where fish consumption is high.

        • Listener

          Not remotely believable. 16th century Japan, where fish consumption was also high, was an extremely violent society. (Ever heard of the samurai? Tthey reached their peak of power at that time). Japan 1930-1945? Very violent towards its neighbors. Also much more fish consumption than other less militaristic socieites. I can assure you, as one who has studied medieval/early modern Europe & Japan, that there was no significant difference in murder rates of coastal NW European & Japanese communities (which consumed more fish) and interior communities. You need to learn some history. Violence varies over time even in the same society because of all sorts of social, political, economic & cultural factors. There’s  no good evience to back up your diet theory.

          You also undo your own lame argument by claiming that men have been more violent for a long time, but transfats & the scarcity of good fads new. Then why so much violence in the past with better fats?  Also, if hormonal differences explained all the differences between men & women, why is there so much more male-gendered violence in some societies than others? Societies that condone men beating their wives & children, not surprisingly, have more of it than societies that don’t, & that offer an out for the women & children. So much for your ida that it’s impossible to socialize good behavior. Trying to “socialize” less vioelence is exactly what we need more of, and won’t get if fools make simplistic claims about diet causing violence.

  • Why are Muslim shooters and mass killers profiled differently from White shooters and mass killers on a psychological level? Both the Ft Hood shooter and the Sikh temple shooter were doing it for alienation on one hand and politicized hatred on the other.

    Both seem to have been depressed individuals with no opportunities, but both were also influenced after that by a chauvinistic, hateful and divisive ideology.  Separating these two groups seems to implicitly reify the assumed difference between the psychology of “normal” Americans and other Americans of a particular background, as if having a particular ethnic or religious background rewires the brain. With one group its “mental instability”, with the other it is “terrorism.”

    • Frank

       You’re assuming there was only 1 shooter in Wisconsin, whereas eyewitnesses said there were 4 white males.

      If you never question what you hear, how are you really any different from the shooters themselves?

      •  How is that relevant to the question I am asking???

        • Frank

           Your entire argument is based on the idea that the mainstream media coverage is true and believable. Only the eyewitness testimony and security camera footage is truly credible.

  • Tim

    The Weapons debate gets stirred up with these mass shootings.

    Shooters seem to go out and buy weapons in the weeks or months before.

    What is failing in our system to pick that up? Licensing/registration of guns?

    Is the gun purchasing a significant predictive factor of mass murderers?

    Is the
    US different than other countries re: this kind of violence?

  • Listener

    The guests need to address socialization regarding the acceptability of violence.

    Mental illlness is as about as common in females as males–depression is actually more common in females. Females are as likely to be abused as children and more likely to be abused as adults by partners—but murderers, including mass murderers, are overwhelmingly male.  Our society often condones violence in men (the angry violent hero of the movies)..Males are given confused  messages: violence is good against “enemies” bad against “your own.” It  rarely condones violence in women, :even mere anger by women is  sanctioned (hence there is  male counterpart for the “B-word”).

  • RA

    The government involuntarily putting people in “treatment” for trivial crimes may sound good, but anyone who doesn’t get a chill down their back at even considering that, hasn’t been paying attention.

    That would be a massive change to our society.

    • Frank

       Yes. That change is called fascism.

  • $13626960

    I suspect this behavior is a reflection and result of the violence prevalent in our media and society. When Governments exhibit this behavior we accept and support it. Yet when individuals act like governments, we are surprised and dismayed. I find it ironic in the extreme that we (as the US government) continue to behave in a  pathologically violent manner that we have maintained consitantly for hundreds of years.

     When we fail to hold our society and leaders accountable for violence, it opens the door for individuals to assume this behavior is normal and emulate it. One might consider the perspective of indigenous people who have and continue to suffer from organized violent organizations aka; the military which are daily supported by our taxes and tacit support. When we stop exporting murder (like our presidents “kill list”, we may find less cropping up at home.

  • Joe

     The Columbine shooting happened because the leader of the two boys was on a medication that is known to cause homicidal tendencies.

  • Karen Ivy

    I agree with the current speaker, people with mental illness are not always hoping desperately for help.  I know at least one guy with advanced schizophrenia who simply could not be kept on his meds because he didn’t think he needed them.

  • USARunByCrooks

    If we are going to incarcerate people who harm the innocent, we’d have to put 2/3 of the cops out there in jail, and 100% of the weathiest 1%.

  • Anon

    I think that easy access to weapons is the big issue.  The violently insane have been around forever, more arrive as each one departs.  But if easy access weapons were removed, then the inevitable damage they create will be minimized and society can better handle their unpredictable actions.  There is no middle ground here, keep the weapons from them or arm us all against their future actions.

  • FriedFemale

    You completely missed the point of the caller who brought up socialization.  In this country, beginning in early childhood, men are socialized differently than women.  They are not allowed to express their feelings, they are groomed to be soldiers/gladiators through competitive sports, and they are considered “disposable”; i.e. they are the first into war, battle, last into the lifeboats etc.  It is no wonder that they grow up thinking that life isn’t sacred when they are taught that their own is not.  This subject is addressed in Warren Farrell’s book “Why Men Are the Way They Are.”  This problem is a SYMPTOM of a much larger, societal pathology.

    • Jimfrogs

       I am not sure if the you in FriedFemale refers to my comments but if it does, I did not miss the points about men being socialized differently than women I simply think that human love, compassion and empathy can overcome those influences.  There are plenty of cultures around the world in which men are taught those same values but not all of those cultures have the problem of creating shooters like this.  The difference I see is the human connections in those cultures being stronger than in the American culture and I believe that makes a difference.

      • FriedFemale

         Not in response to you but the panel.  A caller brought up the way men are socialized as a factor and the panel dismissed it with only a snarky comment from the woman on the panel that “men have an entitlement attitude”.  I was directing my comments to them.  And, though I am female, I find that “entitlement attitude” is a problem among both males AND females in this Entitled States of America, so that comment had nothing to do with the topic.

  • Jimfrogs

    Not all shooters have the same reasons for becoming who they became but a common thread I see is that they tend to be socially isolated individuals.  This society is getting colder and colder as time goes by.  There is less love and caring for individuals as they grow up due to many reasons from families having less influence and cohesiveness, teachers forced to not touch and connect with children, social services being more concerned with cutting rolls and saving money than helping individuals that seek help and many more.  Humans need love and companionship to survive and both are disappearing rapidly in the world today and as it disappears there are more and more shooters popping up. 

    • Slappy

      You’ve hit the nail on the head. 

      I’m also gonna go out on a limb here and hypothesize that these males are not only socially isolated, but sexually as well. More and more these days, men are not taught how to behave as level-headed, emotionally-stable men. Couple this with the fact that idiotic men are glorified in this country and women flock to this breed as a result. Sexual, and the resulting emotional, frustration are inevitable.

  • Mchangaris

    If people had better access to support and treatment were not such a stigma this could have a very positive influence. There is some increase risk for violence in those who have impulse control difficulty. This includes bipolar and psychotic spectrum disorders. However, this risk is dramatically increased when an individual is addicted to narcotics or alcohol. That being said the number of violent crimes greatly exceeds the number of people who have bipolar or psychotic spectrum conditions combined (about 2% +/- 2%) of the population.

    We can help:
    1. Violence is a socialized behavior. Male’s entitlement and normalization of expression plays a role. The nature and nurture argument is spurious. It is both nature and nurture.

    2. There are many ways to increase happiness, social support and positive social interactions. This would be an easy low cost way to move the bell curve so that less people were at risk of addiction, depression and violence.

    3. Addressing the basic bigotry against mental health challenges and removing barriers to treatment is highly important.

    4. Addressing the long-term impact of community violence, neglectful parenting, and bullying is possible and vital.

    Here is a pretty good article from a Harvard Press:


  • Prerana

    I also want to bring to notice the effect of Psychiatric
    drugs. These drugs also increase the suicidal and mass murder tendencies. Is anyone
    looking in to this as well? All these people had issues and I guess most of them
    were on treatment and under drugs. Why did these drugs not help them, how long
    they were on treatment and what is the role of the person who was treating
    them? I think these questions are very important and should be thoroughly looked

  • Rhedda J

    Please consider what one caller touched on which spoke to the issue of entitlement. The issue of violent acts committed by males vs.females  was mentioned but what about white privilege? Most of these mass shootings are committed by white men. 

    Writer and activist Tim Wise speaks about the sense of white entitlement that often produces individuals who are indeed on a pathological course of destruction, having the perception of loss of identity through loss of work, relationship, or general empowerment

  • Tony Rocco

    This was a useless show about the supposed link between a mythical condition called “mental illness” and mass murder. Nothing valuable came of this discussion because it was based the fictional notion of mental disease, a notion that owes its existence to the misapplication of the medical model to human emotional life, and the arduous manner in which the guests avoided discussing anything real like societal conditions, violence in the media, and other social and cultural influences that might incline people, men in particular, to act out using extreme violence. Altogether, a frustrating waste of time.

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