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Monday, January 10, 2011

More Randomness

I just finished reading a good book that was published in the late 1990's, "A Beautiful Mind." As you might recall, this was the story of John Nash, the genius mathematician who was also suffered from paranoid schizophrenia (the movie version of the book starred Russell Crowe). Dr. Nash miraculously was able to recover from this debilitating condition, and committed no violent acts while he was struggling with the malady. Young Jared Loughner of Tuscon AZ was unable to control his diseased brain, and he committed mass murder and grieviously wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Nineteen people were shot; six died. The confluence of random events that brought these people together are boggling to consider. One generally doesn't worry about being murdered when heading out to an outdoor event hosted by one's local congressperson. It is a very rare occurence.

What triggered this mentally ill person? Was it his internal hell, the screaming of incoherent delusions? Was it the environmental noise, the political invective floating about our communities? Loughner's motivation was his disease - any other theory seems silly to me.

Remember Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Polytechnic Institutie shooter who killed 32 people? Loughner and Cho have very similar mental disorders. There are many people walking about with undiagnosed or misdiagnosed mental illnesses. They can't be shoved into a locked psychiatric unit against their will unless some legal authority declares them to be a threat to themselves or others. That is not an easy path to tread; most family members don't have the heart to take the action necessary to send their loved one to a locked unit.

When you cross the street, you risk being hit by a bus - if you randomly fail to look before you step off the curb, it can happen. When you go to any public event, you risk being shot by a parnoid schizophrenic who randomly decides to show up and start firing. These are not big risks, but they exist. If all guns were outlawed, would that reduce the risk of a mentally ill person killing lots of people? Probably (although illegal guns would certainly be available no matter what laws are passed). But it appears that the citizens of the United States prefer to bear the slight risk of random killing rather than accept the elimination of the right to bear arms.

You can't identify all the people who have the potential for committing psychotic acts prior to their psychotic actions. Our country wants its guns. This combination of facts means that psychotic people will own guns, and will occassionally blow away a bunch of people. But, hey, its not THAT big of a risk, right? And it is a random event. So grieve for those lost and those injured, deal with the perpetrator of these evil acts, but realize that eliminating a low-liklihood fatal risk entails costs that our country is unwilling to bear.

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