From January of 1989 to July of 2003 there were a dozen mass murders committed in America. This time frame does not have any particular significance. I simply picked a dozen incidents to understand what the connections were, what these killers had in common, how they perpetrated their crimes, and if a reason could be gleaned. The list below tells you the date, incident, the name of the murderer, his age, and his race. Every one of them can be found online if you want more details.
January 17, 1989 – The Cleveland School massacre perpetrated by Patrick Edward Murphy, 25, Caucasian
October 16, 1991 – Luby’s massacre perpetrated by George Hennard, 35, Caucasian
November 1, 1991 – University of Iowa massacre perpetrated by Gang Lu, 28, Chinese
July 1, 1993 – 101 California Street shooting perpetrated by Gian Luigi Ferri, 55, Caucasian
December 3, 1993 – Long Island Rail Road massacre perpetrated by Colin Ferguson, 37, Black (Jamaican)
March 24, 1998 – Westside Middle School massacre perpetrated by Mitchell Johnson, 13, & Andrew Golden, 11, both Caucasian
April 20, 1999 – Columbine High School massacre perpetrated by Eric Harris,18, & Dylan Klebold, 17, both Caucasian
July 29, 1999 – Mark O. Barton murders perpetrated by Mark O. Barton, 44, Caucasian
September 5, 1999 – Larry Gene Ashbrook mass murders perpetrated by Larry Gene Ashbrook, 47, Caucasian
December 26, 2000 – Wakefield massacre perpetrated by Michael McDermott, 42, Caucasian
March 5, 2001 – Santana High School massacre perpetrated by Charles Andrew Williams, 15, Caucasian
July 8, 2003 – Lockheed Martin shooting perpetrated by Douglas Williams, 48, Caucasian
Between the last one listed and the Sandy Hook massacre in December of 2012 I found another 17 mass murder cases. While a great many of them were committed by Caucasians, several were committed by Asians and other ethnicities. All of them were males. Their ages varied greatly. Some came from prosperous backgrounds and some from poverty. Others were typical, middle class Americans. Some were abused as children or claimed to be, while others seemed to their friends to be the average boy next door. The only thing they all shared, aside from being males, was that they suffered from depression and were usually loners who were bullied and/or feared. I am no doctor but from what I can tell, people can suffer from depression without being mentally ill but if they are mentally ill that will often include depression. For these killers it didn’t matter if they looked “different” or average, if they had everything or nothing. Their circumstances did not dictate their mindset or their ability to deal with people in a reasonable manner. The only conclusion I can come to is that they suffered from mental illness that kept them from being able to deal with other people the way most of us would. In most cases these killers committed suicide once they had done as much damage as they could and before they could be caught.
Patrick Purdy had a terrible childhood with an alcoholic and drug addicted mother. The product of a divorce, he was passed around between his parents and various relatives throughout his early years. His criminal record was extensive. In a notebook written by Purdy and found in a hotel Purdy had lived in for a while, Purdy complained “I’m so dumb, I’m dumber than a sixth grader. My mother and father were dumb.”
By contrast, Eric Harris, a military brat, appeared to come from a good home. His mother was a homemaker and, while the family moved around as his Air Force father was transferred, I have found nothing to indicate he had anything other than a normal childhood. His older brother was in college when the Columbine massacre occurred. Initially it was thought that Eric and his co-perpetrator, Dylan Klebold, committed these murders to gain revenge against those that had bullied them. However, later analysis concluded that Harris was, in fact, a predatory psychopath. Harris is the one who conceived of the attack.
Colin Ferguson came from a prominent family in Jamaica. His father died in a car crash when Ferguson was 20 and his mother died soon after of cancer. The deaths destroyed the family fortune and Ferguson ended up moving to America. Friends of his indicated that Ferguson complained of racism in America. He was married for roughly two years but his wife divorced him and some who knew them claimed that Ferguson was “too aggressive or antagonistic” towards her.
These are just a few examples of the kind of people who commit these atrocities. Nothing I was able to find on them indicated that their crimes were committed for any other reason than that they suffered from mental illness. Their tool of choice was most often a gun (or several), though Mark O. Barton used a hammer to bludgeon his wife and two children before he shot multiple people at two trading firms in Atlanta. It was suspected that he also murdered his first wife and mother-in-law some six years earlier, also using a hammer to bludgeon them to death.
So what is being done about this obvious problem? Is mental health being taken more seriously by our elected officials? Are we seeking a path to better care for those who are clearly in need of it? Very often family members of those who are the most dangerous live in fear of what their loved one might be capable of. Sometimes they are terrified, even to the point of being afraid for their personal safety. Many of them seek help from local hospitals, agencies and doctors, only to be turned away. Either the services are not available or the cost is exorbitant, or both. And let’s face it; there is a stigma attached to mental illness that can make it difficult for anyone to pursue the necessary help.
I am an avid supporter of the second amendment and I will continue to speak out against any infringement of our rights. But this issue is beyond that. The mental health issue in this nation must be addressed. We must find a way to treat it and to help the families and individuals who don’t know what to do next. I am hopeful that one day we will get back to being Americans instead of letting ourselves be divided for the sake of political parties who are concerned with their own interests and survival, and not with the welfare of the American people. This is a serious issue my friends. Please, let’s treat it as such and do something about it.