HOLMBERG: Getting numb to mass murder is not the answer

Posted at 1:21 AM, Sep 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-18 07:11:14-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - So who was this latest mass killer? What were the warning signs? Those are questions he likely wanted us to ask as we dutifully flashed his photo and story around the world.

But – at the risk of sounding callous - do we really care that much any more about another workplace mass shooting?

If you followed on the news on social media, you could feel the resignation, the disinterest.

It’s like they’ve become so common, they have to be really heinous - like the mass slaughter of little children -  or something new and different – like the Boston Marathon bombing – before we sit up and shake our fists.

Our latest headline killer was only a little unusual because of his race. Otherwise, you know the script: loner with a gun; dizzy in the head with mental problems. Just last month he told police he was hearing voices, that he was the target of microwave vibrations.

We know the world – and this country – has always had these maniacal rampages from time to time.

Mass murder experts tell us the numbers surged in the last century, but really haven’t increased significantly in the past 30 years.

It’s like we’re just stuck with them. Every couple of months someone will go off the deep end and kill a whole bunch of people for little or no reason.

But take out the multiple slayings done in targeted crimes – big drug deals and traditional paybacks -  and leave in the random mass slaughter of strangers, you can see clearly see the sharp, steady increase, as the Mother Jones magazine has demonstrated with its research.

I believe many of these psycho killers get a double payout: massive publicity and a tax-funded, police-assisted suicide.

Some mental health experts argue that mental illness isn’t a predictor for this type of violence.

But research has indicated that at least 65 to 75 percent of these stranger killers have had serious head problems, many of them so bad they’ve been institutionalized, medicated and/or pointed out to authorities, as the Navy Yard shooter was.

Read another analysis here. 

If these shooters had the similar types of stomach ailments, we’d all over it.

But  mental health treatment has long taken a distant back seat in the health care world in terms of research, treatment and insurance coverage.

Ask anyone who has tried to get help for a loved one with mental problems. Even those with money and willingness to spend it can find the system maddening.

Consider more than 30,000 mentally troubled people commit suicide every year – the equivalent of an airliner crash every other day.

Consider the missed days of work, the fact that our jails have become the de-facto mental hospitals. Consider all the folks who self-medicate with drugs and alcohol and all those on disability.

It’s costing us. Big time.

The ripple effect is way more tangible than with physical ailments.

But it’s  just so overwhelming: How to balance privacy with intervention; how to respect Constitutional protections against illegal searches, seizures and detentions and the right to keep and bear arms.

Which is one of the reasons, I believe, why we’ve grown numb to mass shootings like Monday’s.

So we superfund some physical ailments like breast cancer and AIDS, and grossly underfund the thing that has haunted us the most.

Pretty crazy.

That’s my take, please leave yours here.