Can Incipient Violent Killers be Committed for Protection of Society?

Two massacres, two days, one with a gun, one with a van. On Sunday, April 22, Travis Reinking killed three people at the Waffle House, in the Nashville, Tennessee area. On Monday, April 23, Alek Minassian rented a van and plowed up a crowded Toronto sidewalk, killing nine or ten. In both cases, the alleged perpetrators were deeply troubled, if not psychotic.
Travis Reinking - Nashville Gunman

Mr. Reinking jumped the White House fence less than a year ago, attempting to arrange a rendezvous with President Trump. Criminal charges were dismissed after completing criminal service at a Baptist Church link He previously expressed the thought that Taylor Swift was stalking him. And we have not yet heard from people who knew him from his past.

The focus has been on how Mr. Reinking was able to get his guns back. While that is important, it matters less than why he was at liberty in the first place. Jumping the White House fence is not the work of a normal person.

Alek Minassian - Toronto Van-man

According to the National Post Toronto van attack suspect Alek Minassian?s interest in ?incel? movement the latest sign of troubled life | National Post article, one of Mr. Minassian’s classmates, Alexander Alexandrovitch, a former student at Thornlea Secondary School, which Minassian attended, reported that his former classmate stood out for his odd behavior. He stated: “I had classes with him. He was mentally unstable back then. He was known to meow like a cat and try to bite people, this is one sad and confusing story.”

What They and Others Like Him Have in Common

Add these two to the list, which includes:

[li]Dylan Roofe (Charleston church massacre);[/li][li]Devin Kelley (Texas Church Massacre);[/li][li]Esteban Santiago (killed six people at Fort Lauderdale International Airport);[/li][li]Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook massacre);[/li][li]Jared Lochner (tried to kill Representative Gifford, killed many others;[/li][li]James Holmes (Colorado movie theater massacre;[/li][/ol]

The people involved in all of these killings were well-known to authority. It was obvious to all that knew them that none could function in society. Devin Kelley and Esteban Santiago were discharged from the military because of mental illness and violence.

De-institutionalization was a well-intentioned program. It was supposed to convert inhumane and, for the patient ineffective confinement into treatment in the community. This April 2, 1972 article, which I remembered reading, The Patients Can Walk Out At Any Time at Bronx State Mental Hospital (link) made the case for de-institutionalization. Unfortunately few were as motivated as Israel Zwerling, and most looked at the process as a way of saving money.

We need to make it far easier to incarcerate or forcibly institutionalize people. Certainly the Nashville and Toronto slayers would not have been walking around before deinstitutionalization. The mental health system is not doing a good job of keeping these people under control. While the status quo ante before mass de-institutionalization was inhumane to the patients, it did keep the country safe from the lunatics. Perhaps the balance needs to be tipped more in favor of the public than the lunatics.

We can work at improving the humanity, and where appropriate the therapeutic nature of these centers. But we were safer with these people locked up than out loose.

You can’t lock up people just for being weird if they haven’t (yet) done anything wrong. Minassian, for example, AFAICT was not considered a threat by anybody and had no criminal record.

The vast, vast majority of socially weird or even mentally ill people are never going to massacre anybody. Locking them up would just be pointless cruelty, besides being a flagrant violation of their rights.

There are a bunch of mentally unstable people who say they’re gonna do things but never act. Once they cross the line, like jumping the fence at the Whitehouse, it’s time for a in-patient stay at a Hospital. And by god don’t let those guns anywhere near that person. Who was minding this jerk. His Dad should be charged with some crime for giving the guns back. That was just stupid. I am sick of hearing these people were posting on social media and causing general mayhem in their families lives, and no-one does anything about it. It is wrong!

This dumbshit kid in Fair Haven Vermont made some detailed plans for shooting up his school and was nabbed for it just after the Parkland shooting. Most of the charges against him were just dropped. Cuz you can’t prosecute people for having weird and evil thoughts.

Not according to Vermont law’s current definition of “attempted crime”, at least. According to the article, Vermont legislators are now considering changes in the legal definition of “attempted crime” and “domestic terrorism”, as well as some additional restrictions, precisely so that people who make detailed preparations for committing violent crimes don’t get let off the hook just because they were nabbed before they could actually launch the attempt.

Yes, we should definitely lock up people based solely on someone pointing the finger at them and saying, “He’s crazy.” Oh wait…it’s already been done.

I don’t about the Canadian traffic killer, but these people are usually in trouble or at least causing problems before they go on these rampages. Is there no way of predicting?

Yes, and in most cases, they get out in 72 hours or less. I’ll leave any further commentary to people who know more about this than I do.

It wasn’t so long ago that people in the U.S. could be institutionalized because they were gay, or even suspected of being gay, and for a while it was also not an uncommon tactic used by wealthy abusive men to keep their wives from leaving.

I find this idea fucking horrifying and at odds with our Constitution and some very core beliefs at the heart of America. But, if we’re going to start locking people up for having dangerous thoughts / ideas, I propose we start with you.

Yup, the good old “two physicians” rule. Bribe a couple of doctors and assorted requisite witnesses, and your inconvenient family member can be hauled off to the funny farm. Most convenient.

Although if the courts in the OP’s hypothetical mass-commitment scenario started regarding gun ownership itself as an indication of mental instability and consequently cause for locking up, that would probably keep the rest of us safer. (Until we exhibited some other “weird” symptom and got hauled off to the funny farm ourselves, of course.)

I have to take issue with the OP’s assertion that Alek Minassian was well known to authority prior to his senseless rampage this past Monday. All that has been reported so far is that he was dismissed by our armed forces just 16 days into a 13 week basic training course. The reported reasons for the dismissal had nothing to do with violent or unstable behaviour that could have predicted his subsequent actions.

Whatever the morality of this (spoiler alert: it’s super immoral) Bayesian statistics are strongly against this suggestion.

Mass shootings are very rare. So even if you could come up with a test that was 99% accurate when it said someone was a future mass shooter (an impossibly high accuracy IMO) if you incarcerate someone based on that test, the vast majority of the people you lock up would never have gone on to commit a mass shooting.

Being locked up on suspicion that you might commit a crime later, goes against some of the most basic ideas in law.

Why is it that spending millions on jails is OK, and gleefully hunting for ways to spend additional millions on other ways to lock people up is OK, but the idea of spending smaller or comparable amounts on making sure there’s always free help available for people who are fucked up is treated like it’s a crime?

When your country refuses to help people who are in trouble, or helps them but only for a little while and then cuts them off, AND your country hands out guns like they were candy, why are you acting so surprised when people get shot?

This article from the CBC states that he was not known to the police prior to this rampage.

What we know about Alek Minassian, man charged in deadly Toronto van attack

He was apparently a bit of a loner in high school, but nothing so far has come up showing a propensity to this sort of violence.

Shades of 2000 AD’s Judge Dredd. There was one comic where a boy was tested. He hoped to become a judge himself. Instead he was immediately put in an iso-cube. Dredd’s comment was something along the lines of “Better to cube them young before they can do any damage.”

Judge Dredd was, of course, a satire - and a warning.

Does biting people count?

Most isolated loners with anger issues don’t go on to become mass murderers. Most don’t even kill one person.

I had a friend in high school who was bipolar. She attempted suicide at least five times, was institutionalized and treated for each of them, but was never a threat to other people until 25 years later when she got into an argument with her ex-husband and whacked his car.

Would you have kept her locked up?

This isn’t Minority Report. People have to be found guilty of crimes before they can be incarcerated, and even then, they can only be locked up based on the crimes they actually committed, not based on crimes you think they might commit in the future.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this idea suggested in recent days. I can’t for the life of me figure out why “lock the weirdos up just in case” is gaining such traction.