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Mental Health, Gun Violence, and Newtown

11:17 AM, Dec 17, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, John Fund at National Review Online provides some facts about mass shootings:

A few things you won’t hear about from the saturation coverage of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre:

Mass shootings are no more common than they have been in past decades, despite the impression given by the media.

In fact, the high point for mass killings in the U.S. was 1929, according to criminologist Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Incidents of mass murder in the U.S. declined from 42 in the 1990s to 26 in the first decade of this century.

The chances of being killed in a mass shooting are about what they are for being struck by lightning.

Until the Newtown horror, the three worst K–12 school shootings ever had taken place in either Britain or Germany.

Also at NRO, D.J. Jaffe suggests an action plan for President Obama, Congress, and the states with regard to violence conducted by the mentally ill. Here are Jaffe's first two ideas:

1. Start demonstration projects of Assisted Outpatient Treatment (e.g. Kendra’s Law in New York, Laura’s Law in California) throughout the country. AOT allows courts to order individuals with mental illness to stay in treatment as a condition of living in the community. It is only applicable to the most seriously ill who have a history of violence, incarceration, or needless hospitalizations. AOT is proven to keep patients, the public, and police safer. The Department of Justice has certified AOT as an effective crime-prevention program.  But mental-health departments are reluctant to implement AOT because it forces them to focus on the most seriously ill. Demonstration projects would help mental-health departments see the advantage of the program. (For why some people with serious mental illness refuse treatment, see this. See also how Assisted Outpatient Treatment laws (Kendra’s Law in NY and Laura’s Law in CA) keep patients, the pubic and police safer

2. Write exceptions into the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) so parents of mentally ill children can get access to medical records and receive information from their children’s doctors on what is wrong and what the children need. Right now, for reasons of “confidentiality,’ doctors won’t tell parents what is wrong with their kids or what treatment they need, even as they require parents to provide the care.  As a result, when a child goes off treatment, the parents’ hands are tied. They have all the responsibility to see the person is cared for, but none of the information or authority to see it happens. We have to change the patient confidentiality laws so parents can help prevent tragedies rather than become a punching bag for the public when something horrific happens.

Read the whole thing here.

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