In the aftermath of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, the president and many of his defenders have put a great deal of emphasis on the mental health of the shooters in these and previous such events. They argue for expanded counseling of problem students and that new restrictions on their purchase of guns would somehow be the best way to reduce large-scale gun violence.
But as a professor who has studied politically-based gun and bomb violence in American history for many years, I can tell you that in the majority of cases the perpetrators of such attacks have not been the mentally deranged. To be sure, there have always been some persons like John Hinckley, who shot President Ronald Reagan, who were not in their right mind.
Yet most of those who attempted to kill for political reasons, while they may have been angry and fanatic, were not mentally ill. John Wilkes Booth, who murdered Lincoln; Lee Harvey Oswald who killed JFK; James Earl Ray who shot Martin Luther King; and Timothy McVeigh who bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City, were not insane.
To talk about mental illness raises the question, why are there not such people doing many such dastardly deeds in other western countries?
It is clear that U.S. leaders trying to focus on mental health are doing so to avoid talking about the ease in acquiring lethal weapons, especially guns.
Robert J. Dinkin