Clueless on Cable

“Rampage Killers,” “American Justice Series,” A&E Network, hosted by Bill Kurtis (1 hour)

In 1991, Wayne Lo, a male student at Shining Rock College in Massachusetts, started harassing a female student for a date. When, after several months, she still refused to date him and in fact had to climb out windows to avoid him, he bought a rifle and ammo and went on a shooting rampage on campus, shooting at random six people (including the campus gate guard), leaving two dead. When he got bored, Lo then sat down and dialed 9-1-1. The college prohibited campus police from carrying firearms.

The father of one of the people killed (another student) had this to say: “The worst part of this is that he (Lo) was allowed to buy a rifle and ammunition.” The father is still seeking to “understand” Lo so the father can “put this event to rest.” In fact, Lo (who is serving life in prison) and the father “have come together in the search for meaning of the ‘incident’.”

In 1999, two students at Columbine High School in Colorado went on a well-publicized rampage, killing 11. Kurtis reports that the boys were armed with bombs that failed to explode and with “machine pistols.” The two (Harris and Kleibold) had a long history of threatening fellow students and students’ parents and vandalizing families’ homes. When one set of parents called the police after being threatened by the two, the police told them that “threatening to kill someone is not a crime.” An unarmed school staff could not defend the students, although this is never mentioned. The NY Times has since “determined that if the kids had been reprimanded for their behavior before the killings, the massacre could have been prevented.” The “failure of parents to ‘reach-out’ to the two was the deciding factor in not stopping the rampage.” Parents of some of the dead students, unable to accept the NYT’s conclusion, are suing the school.

The NYT has “found” that over 50% of all rampage killers are simply “victims of mental illness.” Dr. Young, at the National Mental Health Association, decries this analysis as “stigmatizing the mentally ill,” although she agrees that families are the first, best defense against the mentally ill from going on a killing rampage. In 1998, 18-year-old “Kip” shot both his parents and then went to school and shot 24 fellow students, killing two. In another case, a Salt Lake woman harassed a local DJ and was hospitalized briefly several times before finally killing him with a gun she bought despite state law against anyone who has been sent to a mental hospital from buying a gun – her mental health records were being kept in confidence. After the killing she was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. To all this the NYT concluded that “56% of all rampage killers use legally owned guns,” although the Times neatly omits saying owned by whom – the killers or some other persons from which they had been stolen. In Utah, said several state officials, gun ownership is a normal part of life. That said, one cop is on a courageous campaign to help ensure that violent lunatics with a hospitalization record not be allowed to buy guns (despite this already being impermissible). The NYT’s solution: we need more laws to keep people from buying guns.

In Hartford, CT, police are now using the “red flag system.” If a cop on duty speaks to anyone who for some reason sounds “suspicious,” the cop can now use the suspicion to check a person’s background and see if they own any guns and “might pose a risk to others.” If the person meets the “risk” criteria, the person may be involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for 72 hours and all that person’s guns are confiscated. No word on how the person gets his guns back after he is released from observation. CT cops are now mental health professionals with arrest power. The NYT’s “study” concluded that rampage killers suffer from mental illness that will not be diagnosed before the killings, so they have to be locked-up for their own good.

Another mental health professional was then interviewed, saying that rampage killers are often people who have been treated in a “harsh, disrespectful way” and are thus more likely to kill. Further, said the doctor, mental illness is “common” and its “stigma needs to be desensitized so people will get the help they need.” In fact, “rampage killers are actually victims.”

The father of the boy killed by Wayne Lo (first segment) finished the hour by reasserting that he has “established a relationship with Wayne so he can understand what happened” and in this way pave the way for “greater understanding that will help stop future rampage killings.” Sitting in his well-appointed home, he is eerily calm and shows no anger over his son’s murder.

In short, rampage killers are either (1) people society has disrespected, (2) people who are mentally ill, or (3) both. Society unfairly stigmatizes the rampage murderer who could have been helped before the killings if only we had intervened when we saw their odd behavior. Many (most) of us are mentally ill, and until we recognize this, rampage killings will continue. Semi-automatic pistols are “machine pistols.” If laws prohibiting someone from buying a gun are ignored, the solution is another law. The single greatest enabling factor in a rampage killing is the ability of an American to buy a firearm. There are no evil rampage killers, only people whom society has failed.

“American Justice” is a regular series on the A&E Network.

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