Sociopaths are everywhere but in other countries they don’t have access to guns

There has been much talk about the latest shooting, this time in Isla Vista. As an aside, it is the definition of tragic that posts, articles, and discussions about massacres in the United States need to be qualified so they can be distinguished from one another.

The pro gun groups (mostly the NRA) blame mental illness. If we just had better health care they say. Apparently the NRA has therapeutic advances for schizophrenia, depression, and sociopathic personalities that have thus far evaded modern medicine.

Other groups say don’t blame mental illness because that is stigmatizing, that this was an act of rage and misogyny. The stigma associated with mental illness in this country (and likely everywhere) is terrible and the term is often thrown around loosely when it should not be.

There was rage and misogyny at play, but I also believe that Elliot Rodger was ill. That does not mean that he wasn’t capable of distinguishing right from wrong, but a man who dreams of enacting revenge because of slights, real or imagined, many years ago is at the very least devoid of empathy. I can only imagine a sociopath or someone who is severely paranoid or delusional believing in such a rambling, hate filled manifesto.

The diagnosis in this kind of case can be hard to make underscoring some of the problems with mental health care. How do you treat when the diagnosis is hard to pin down? He may have been a  schizophrenic with paranoid delusions. He may have had homicidal depression. He may have simply been a sociopath. As he had access to a therapist if treatments existed it is likely they would have been offered. However, unless someone is an immediate danger to themselves or someone else then no treatment can be forced upon a person. My mental health colleagues say the signs of immediate danger are not always so easy to spot.

I doubt if this man lived in any other country that his health care would have been different in some kind of revolutionary way. He would not, however, had access to guns and so it is likely if he had descended into a misogynistic fueled murderous rampage in another country that fewer people would have died.




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  1. I’m afraid that it’s not so simple. – USA is not an outlier. From overseas, I think the problem is far deeper than that – a belief that it’s ok to use violence to impose you views on others, with a fantasy that this some how represents freedom and a force for good in society (your government demonstrates this fantasy writ large repeatedly).

    1. The US is an outlier among so-called developed nations, though, which is the group to which we are normally compared. We have both higher gun ownership rates and higher homicide rates than every other nation that is comparatively as educated, wealthy, and democratic as we are.

  2. Perfect storm.

    Poor healthcare, access to guns, and a misogynistic culture – the latter two are the main issues, and the fact is that these are very much US-specific…not to say that other countries don’t have misogyny and guns, but that attitudes towards women are FAR more fucked-up in the US and guns are FAR easier to get access to.

  3. All the above are certainly part of it, but you there are lots of guns in Spain and no spree killers. Plenty of sexism too, although it tends to be paternalistic rather than hostile. But the US is a more competitive and violent society in general. You seem to have a lot more rape and domestic violence, for example (even allowing for the under-reporting all around).

    I think it’s a bit like the Swiss cheese model of accidents. You have all these slices, and when all the holes line up, something slips through.

    Eliot Rodger was ill and grew up in the film industry where the guy always gets the girl (‘cos she’s a reward, not a person) and had those attitudes intensified by online misogynists and had easy access to guns and the police sent round two untrained men to find out if he really was dangerous. (I can’t help thinking that if they’d sent a woman, his real attitude would have been far more likely to leak out.)

    But I think the media seize on the illness because that’s so much more comfortable. Elliot Rodger was NOT LIKE US. No self-examination needed.

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