Don’t blame the gun: Study finds most mass shooters suffer from unmedicated and untreated mental illness


STANFORD, CA – Democrats and left-wing advocates have been calling for crisis workers to respond in place of police officers to incidents that involve the mentally ill. A new study supports arguments against the idea as it finds most mass shootings are committed by the mentally ill.

In a study published June 7 in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, a group of Psychiatry researchers determined that “a significant proportion of mass shooters experienced unmedicated and untreated psychiatric disorder.”

While not directly related to the debate on crisis workers replacing police officers, it adds to a growing body of evidence indicating mental health workers would not be safe responding to calls inside the community with police support.

The aim of the study was to fill a gap of understanding into mass shootings. The background of the study stated:

“Given the relative lack of psychiatric information and data on the perpetrators of US mass shootings, the aim of our study was to understand who these ‘mass shooters’ were and whether they had a psychiatric illness.

“If so, were they competently diagnosed, and if so, were they treated with appropriate medication for their diagnoses before the violence?”

The study conducted a “retrospective, observational study of mass shooters,” studying mass shooters who have killed four or more people with firearms between 1982 and 2022, or who have killed three or more people with firearms between 2013 and 2019 inside the United States.

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The research obtained their data from Mother Jones, a database of 115 persons identified as committing a mass shooting in the United States between January 1982 and September 2019.

The research pointed out that a majority of the mass shooters in the database had died during or shortly following their killing spree, so the study focused on 35 who survived and entered legal proceedings requiring psychiatric evaluation.

The researchers poured over interviews of the suspects, police, investigators, journalists, and other sources of information. They also reviewed video and audio recordings, media postings, and writings of the mass shooters to obtain data.

After those steps, an additional 20 cases where the assailant died at the crime were randomly selected from the remaining 80, to determine whether there were differences in psychiatric diagnoses and treatment between such assailants and those who survived.

The study found:

“Twenty-eight of 35 cases in which the assailant survived had a psychiatric diagnosis—18 with schizophrenia, 3 with bipolar I disorders, 2 with delusional disorders, persecutory type, 2 with personality disorders (1 paranoid and 1 borderline), 2 with substance-related disorders without other psychiatric diagnoses, and 1 with posttraumatic stress disorder. Four had no psychiatric diagnosis, and in 3, we did not have enough information to make a diagnosis.

“Of 15 of 20 cases in which the assailant died, 8 had schizophrenia. None of those diagnosed with psychiatric illnesses were treated with medication.”

The researchers in the study included Ira D. Glick MD., of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Nina E. Cerfolio, MD. of the Department of Psychiatry, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, Danielle Kamis, MD., Adjunct Clinical Faculty at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, and Michael Laurence, JD, of the Law Office of Michael Laurence.

The study adds light to a larger societal issue being debated since the calls for defunding the police and justice reform by left-wing groups such as Black Lives Matter and Antifa, as well as many Democratic politicians.

Many of these groups have been calling for crisis mental health workers to respond to calls involving the mentally ill, and not to have police respond to such incidents.

An example can be found in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where the city council set aside $100,000 in its budget this year to look into programs where mental health workers assist or replace police officers in certain “community interventions.”

Supporters claim the move would reduce the chances of violence between police and citizens.

Allentown Police Chief Glenn Granitz Jr., supported looking into a crisis response program, but that it should not come at the expense of the police department:

“We would be served well by adding (both) police officers and social workers to improve the safety and quality of life in Allentown.”

A previous study conducted by Michael B. Knable, DO., Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at George Washington University School of Medicine, found that 33 mental health workers had been murdered by patients in the United States since 1981.

The study pointed out that the numbers may not reflect the truth about how wide=spread health care worker’s killings actually are, since records reflect only those killed inside treatment programs, not out in the community:

“One might expect that such events can be expected approximately once per year. We cannot conclude that our list of cases is complete, especially since many documents and news reports related to homicides of mental health workers prior to the widespread use of the internet in the 1990s may have been difficult to locate.

“We also excluded cases of homicide outside of psychiatric settings providing direct care to the perpetrators; we believe many homicides committed in other social service agencies may also involve perpetrators with mental illnesses.”

The study found:

“The group most likely to have been victims of homicidal attacks was young women caseworkers, most of who were killed during unaccompanied visits to residential treatment facilities.

The group most likely to have been perpetrators of violence was males who carried a diagnosis of Schizophrenia.”

The study found that the most likely way mental health workers are killed is by gunshot.



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