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Reblogged:Flagging 'Red Flag' Laws

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Over at his Psychology Today blog, criminologist Stanton Samenow argues that efforts to prevent mass shootings by making psychology-based predictions are doomed for a variety of reasons:
Some mental health professionals and policymakers think that, if identified early as dangerous, these individuals can be treated for their "mental health" issues. However, it has long been acknowledged that most perpetrators of mass violence are not seriously mentally ill. Since that is the case, what would mental health professionals treat?

Furthermore, if one were able to identify a potentially dangerous person and compel him to attend therapy, what outcome could reasonably be expected? These are not people who see much wrong with themselves. Their intense anger, often disguised, is at other people who slight them or do not corroborate their inflated view of themselves. Not accustomed to confiding in anyone, even priding themselves on secrecy, such individuals would be unlikely to reveal themselves to a stranger whom they were compelled to see. [footnote removed, bold added]
On top of mental illness not necessarily being a factor in mass shootings, psychology has poor predictive value and some of the laws might actually backfire:
Image by Nik Shuliahin, via SOURCE, license.
A significant drawback to some red flag laws is that a person cannot prove a negative, namely that he is not a danger to himself or others. Whereas past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, psychologists and psychiatrists are still not usually able to predict with great accuracy whether a person constitutes an imminent danger. One commentary on the effectiveness of red flag laws stated they might lead to an increase in homicides because people would be less likely to disclose their thoughts out of fear their weapons would be confiscated. [bold added]
Samenow has little to say in the vein of positive recommendations for addressing this problem, but I think his opinion on red flag laws is worth keeping in mind.

-- CAV

P.S. I recommend the beginning of a recent podcast by Harry Binswanger for his comments on a solution (gun freedom) to and cause (progressive education) of the problem of mass shootings, particularly at schools. His discussion very interestingly follows from the observation that school shootings occur in America, but not Europe.

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