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An Insane Person Can’t Be Guilty

Last night the Jim Lehrer show had on several people with their own perspectives on the shootings in Tucson, one from the Oklahoma City bombing, and another to talk about the Columbine shootings.

Implied was a similarity between these events, but the similarity is extremely superficial.

Violence that springs from a person’s derangement can’t be that unusual. I admit I don’t have statistics at my fingertips, but we all hear about the occasional individual that is truly “unhinged” from reality doing harm, sometimes killing another person.

To me this shooting is more appropriately seen as a “random” act of violence rather than a planned shooting spree like Columbine or the Oklahoma City bombing. If an insane person “plans” the killing of someone he’s targeted, then it isn’t a plan in a way we normally think of it. Instead, it’s a construction made out of whole cloth that merely intersects with the real world, tragically but more or less by accident.

The key here is that neither Timothy McVeigh nor the culprits at Columbine were mentally ill; oh, I’m sure there was something wrong with them according to the handbook on mental problems, but they were not insane.

It strikes me as barbaric that we as a society are ready to simply ignore this key fact.

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