Guns or Mental Illness

Will gun control measures impact the expression of pathological anger and pathological violence?

Dr. Childress:  No.  Gun control measures will not impact the expression of the pathology.  When it activates, it will find a means.  Hardening targets and direct interruption prior to or during activation are the best way to address current risk factors from the pathology.

Are the actions of Parkland, El Paso, Dayton, and elsewhere, these episodes of mass violence and killing, are they a product of a mental health disorder?

Dr. Childress:  Yes.

Not formally in the DSM-5, but that’s because the DSM-5 is not current in its understanding regarding pathological anger and pathological violence.  I am confident future revisions, for DSM-5.1, will provide substantial additional consideration of a trauma-related pathology surrounding pathological hatred and violence.  In my current view as a clinical psychologist, these events are pathological, they are created by a “mental health” (psychological) problem with the person.

What is the mental health solution?

Dr. Childress:  There is no current solution, but there are paths to a solution.

Currently, professional psychology has no solution because they do not yet even recognize the existence of pathological anger and pathological violence as even being pathological… it’s considered to be on the normal-range spectrum.

According to our current psychiatric diagnostic system, the DSM-5, the mass killing of people because of their racial identity is simply a variant of normal, it is not a DSM-5 psychiatric pathology.  Of course it is pathological, the DSM-5 needs review and update their diagnostic formulations regarding pathological anger and pathological violence, of course it is pathological.

Mass killing random people in the community, while clothed in body armor and armed with substantial firepower, is not normal-range.  Of course it is pathological.  If there is no current DSM-5 diagnosis, I suspect that one will be developed by DSM-5.1.  Of course that is pathological.

Is racism a pathology?

Dr. Childress:  Yes.

The brain is biased toward in-group/out-group, and one of the organizing structures in our brain is race… however…. however… being a Dodger’s or Giant’s fan overrides race.  Whether someone is a Dodger’s or a Giant’s fan is more important than what race you are for the in-group/out-group identification system of the brain.

Must-must-must view: Sapolsky

When racism becomes associated with sustained anger and violence, that is pathological.   Being a Dodger’s fan overwhelms racism.  Sustained anger and violence is pathological, racism is a pathology.

Do media have an influence on pathological anger and pathological violence?

No.  Somewhat.

Violent video games have no impact.  The terrorist mind – isolated-alienated variant – may gravitate to violent-content video games, these games do not influence, they are a symptom expression.

Pathological anger and pathological violence finds support in social media outlets, and this support from like-minded psychology (the social-distribution feature of the trauma pathogen) can facilitate triggering of the pathogen into violent action.  The truck attack in Nice would likely be an example of this, as would likely be the Manchester and Boston Marathon bombings, and El Paso, these would all likely be examples of this social media support triggering activation of the violence (deferring to direct clinical interview of the surviving mass killer in El Paso).

Targeted online interventions may potentially hold promise for intervention-disruptions to the pathogen’s flow and enactment.

Where do you stand on gun rights?

I support the Second Amendment and the Constitution of the United States.

The Constitution of the United States provided for the right to keep and bear arms as part of a well regulated citizen’s militia.  The reasoning was oriented to the world of their times, before shoulder launched missiles could shoot down passenger airlines that didn’t yet exist.  The Courts have recognized a reasonable public-safety limitation on absolute weapons ownership, no personal M-1 tanks, no personal surface-to-air missile system in your backyard.

Where the line is for that reasonable demarcation is for the Court to decide, the founders and framers of the Constitution also provided for three separate and co-equal branches of government, and it is to the Courts that matters of interpretation lie, and to the Legislative branch to define statute.  At one point we prohibited alcohol consumption, then decided better, these were both Legislative decisions, as was the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, and the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.  Legislative decisions.

Each branch is co-equal.  I respect the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

I am a personal gun owner for personal protection.

I do not hunt, I don’t kill animals for amusement.  If I don’t need to eat it, I typically try not to kill it.

Open carry laws have a reasonable argument for rights of self-protection, especially in the context of civilians as combatants, and especially in Western states with a more gun-oriented cultural understanding.  Open carry in Montana or west Texas is different than open carry in Manhattan or Chicago, I’ll let Texas decide on Dallas and Houston… and El Paso.

This is a matter for locals to decide, the well regulated militia of personal responsibility.  I would listen strongly to law enforcement for counsel on open carry laws.

Other nations have a more sane and rational relationship with weapons.  I respect the wisdom within the Constitution of the United States, there are three co-equal branches, the Second Amendment grants the (limited, no rocket launchers) right to keep and bear arms, in order to ensure a well regulated militia.

How that becomes interpreted in the days of stealth aircraft, cruise missiles, nuclear weapons, and terrorism becomes a matter for governments, and their branches, to decide.  When citizen’s become combatants in an a-symmetrical “war” of trauma and pathological violence, to what extent do they have the right of self-protection, for themselves and for their family?  Are their children at risk at the mall, at the movies?  Does response time of law enforcement require self-protection of family from threat of pathological violence?

Does self-protection raise the threat of bystander violence, how and to what degree?

What is the long-term solution?

The solution is found in professional psychology.  Until we have a substantial solution from professional psychology, the justice, police, and military responses will be required, and sustained hardening of targets is warranted.

Hardening of targets, however, is of only limited effectiveness, the target simply needs to shift to an alternative soft-target that serves the same function.  We cannot protect every child’s soccer game, every shopping mall, every line of people waiting for entry to the sporting events, backed up, waiting to pass through “security” that lay up ahead – our targets are ultimately too vulnerable – food system, water system, electrical grid, transportation networks.

The longer term solution is to identify the pathogen’s structure, as the CDC would do for a viral public health risk, and then to develop “anti-viral” workshop-oriented interventions for children of trauma to recover and restore normal-range healthy development, and that will interrupt triggering of trauma into pathological anger and pathological violence.

Identifying racism, antisemitism, misogyny, LGBTQ violence, war, as pathological, as a mental health psychiatric disorder recognized by the American Psychological Association, would represent a significant step forward for all of humanity into healthy psychological development.  There are roles for co-equal branches of government.  There are roles for the private sector, such as the American Psychiatric Association and the DSM-5.

Is pathological anger and pathological violence normal-range?  Or is Parkland, 911, El Paso, Las Vegas, Dayton a recognized pathology by the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM-5.1?

Never anticipate you will have tomorrow.  Make sure today is complete.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

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