Drugs and Guns

Editor of the Reformer:

Media reports of mass killings over the last few years have provided a great deal of information about "lone gunmen." There is talk of a mysterious contagion called "radicalization," but this isn't applied to most of our home-grown shooters. The popular verdict seems to be "mental illness." Opinion leaders like David Brooks have said "We need to start watching loners who have issues." Is he speech-writing for The Donald Show? Grown-ups understand that mental illness requires medical science, not medieval vigilantism.

It was reported that many of the shooters had been on prescription psychiatric medications. We aren't told which meds, "to protect privacy," but some label-warnings list violence and suicide as possible side-effects. Could there be a direct correlation?

There are a few scientists trying to call attention to this question, to deafening media silence, and possibly at risk to their careers. We can think of a dozen reasons why this might happen. Pharmaceutical company profits are at stake. Their products are marketed to an unsophisticated public to boost demand. They give doctors free junkets to exotic destinations. They fund (and control) drug studies. Corporate gifts to politicians are now Constitutionally-protected free speech. Science marches on. Doesn't it?


Where are the national agencies set up to address such matters? When the lead levels in children spiked in Michigan recently, it was revealed that the problem was known long before the terrible, irreparable human damage appeared. Human institutions often fail in their responsibilities. Eternal vigilance may be the price of freedom, but it all depends on whether we watch "loners with issues" or those we elect to be accountable for the public trust.

Peter Barus, Whitingham, Jan. 4