Do mentally healthy people commit mass murder?

First, my political point of view:

I HATE guns. Won’t be in the same room with them. Recognize their usefulness in certain situations, OK with hunting (though it sickens me when done for fun), have no fantasy that America will ever come close to getting rid of them but I am all for wiping out gun show loop holes and keeping regular folks from having auto-anything or anything military level. I think the NRA is an evil tool of greedy gunsellers and nothing resembling humanity attached anywhere.

And I also think that no one who could reasonably be described as mentally stable or mentally healthy goes out and blows away a bunch of people. To me, that is a crystal clear symptom of mental instability.

So a fellow liberal friend on facebook posts this video:
link to folow, touchy ipad…
That seems kinda lame to me, because to my ears, it sounds like maybe its kinda trying to imply that people who are NOT mentally unstable ALSO go out and mass murder, and they do so (presumably, its all sarcastic) due to the easy availability of guns.

So I say…I don’t get it. My FB friend gets kinda defensive and we are currently at the stage where I am asking him, how the hell do YOU define mental health?

So I am curious about a point of view that mystifies me, if in fact it exists: does anyone sincerely believe that mentally healthy people are also mass murderers? If your answer is yes, please elaborate on your definition of “mentally healthy”, so that I can better comprehend your POV, since I figure it will probably come down to that more than anything… But maybe not. So skool me.


I can (unfortunately) imagine myself being driven to murder–even mass murder. All that it would take would me being angry or afraid enough. Are strong emotions compatible with mental health? I think so. I think most people would to feel murderous rage in response to someone (or a group of someones) brutally torturing loved ones, for instance. The majority of us are never tested, that’s all.

Killing innocent people strikes me as a crazy thing to do, but I disagree that it is always a sign of “crazy”. Plenty of people of sound mind have committed atrocities just because they were following orders. I think many of us would knowingly pull a “kill” switch on random people (especially far-away, foreign people) if it meant the difference between having a job and not having a job, having status and having no status.

Is there a link?

You have to define mass murderer also. Are you talking about the guy who shot up the Planned Parenthood clinic? The ISIS couple in CA? Serial killers? Pilots who drop bombs in war zones? People who order those bombings?

Any of those people might appear to be mentally healthy up until they start killing. Usually we find out they weren’t as stable as they appeared. Sometimes they just seem to snap. but there could still be underlying problems we don’t know about.

Evil is not the same as crazy or sick. A person can be rational and functional while still being a murderer.

All war includes and implies mass murder no matter what the reasonable justifications. Most people have no problem with war. It would be difficult to state that all soldiers, past or present, every manjack of them was mentally ill.

There are also massacres of enemies, not for military objectives or for only apparent such — I hope I would not ( and bearing in mind I could not torture a soul for any reason ), but I could probably join in with mass shooting certain enemies with no pleasure taken.

The September Massacres in the French Revolution were generally carried out by halfwits and brutes, but the orders were given to them by sane men, mostly for the intelligible reasons of panicking the people into feeling threatened by the external other, and ( separately ) committing them to the Revolution. Therefore still not mentally ill.
Finally there are peacetime mass murders by ordinary folk, they could be understandable to someone provoked by civilisation beyond endurance, but it is still ego, and normally more than obviously insane.

Sane people get drunk, angry and aggressive. Look at the the statistics for the number of firearms homicides where alcohol is involved.

There is also a correlation between alcohol consumption and gun ownership.

I don’t know about “mass” murderers specifically, but it’s clear that a lot of murderers are sane drunk people with easy access to weapons.

Ookay, here’s the video. I think it sucks…shitty logic, too busy being snarky.

I think it’s important to note that while physical health is a question of objective health, mental health is a matter of opinion. In the USA, our mental health professionals define what’s a mental illness in the DSM-V. By their standards, at least most people who commit violence have some form of mental illness.

But the list of mental illnesses and the definitions given in the DSM-V are not objective facts. They represent the USA’s ever-changing consensus on what constitutes mental health. Not long ago, homosexuality and other deviant sexual tastes were listed as mental illness. Now, they are not. In times past, grieving of a family member’s death for months or years was normal. Now it can be classified as a mental illness. And of course other countries have their own rules and guidelines that differ from ours.

There’s certainly no constant belief throughout history that mass killing is a sign that something is wrong with the killer. Some societies have glorified it. Read the Iliad or the Aeneid, for instance, and see heroes whose main heroism is ploughing through enemies and leaving a stream of corpses behind.

Well, I don’t agree in the concept of “evil”, at least not as most people understand it, so that doesn’t work for me as an explanation.

To clarify: I am referring to people who elect, on their own, outside of an institutional structure, to go out into the world and inflict death and maiming on pretty much anyone who happens to be in their sights when they decide to start firing.

I’m a tiny bit shaky about my POV when referring to terrorists who are part of a larger group. I skew to viewing the whole group as less than mentally healthy, but that’s a tough. So for this discussion, I will set them aside. Let’s confine the question to individuals. Or duos, since there’s a number of those…

Appearances aren’t the question, since the majority seem to be mostly sane before they let loose, it seems.

I don’t think you have to be mentally unstable to murder one person, or a few people you know, especially if one does so in the heat of passion, pushed to the edge in some way. I think murders for profit/personal gain suggest psychopathy, which I personally view as mentally unstable/ill.

I’m specifically thinking of the “I don’t care who I kill or maim, I’m just determined to kill and maim” sort.

Depends how you define “mentally healthy”. In the past, I had some mild anxiety; am I mentally healthy? If you use a stricter definition of the term and say no, then I’d guess all mass murderers have some sort of psychological imbalance/irregularity. On the other side of the spectrum, if “mentally healthy” means “not outwardly a total kook; goes to work, is sociable, etc” then I think it’s very possible.

Well, the video is obviously parodying the position that the problem in the U.S. is not primarily attributable to the easy availability of firearms, and that we’d all be safe if we just had better mental health services.

The “good guy with a gun” trope presupposes that there are distinct immutable populations of “good” and “bad” people, and that it’s therefore better to arm the good guys as much as possible. In reality, there is one homogenous society of people, all with easy access to guns under the same laws. Today’s good guys get angry, get disillusioned, get drunk; or get poor and sell their guys illegally; a few of them go insane. Today’s good guys become tomorrow’s bad guys. Arguing about what proportion of those bad guys are “evil” or “insane” seems barely relevant to me. They all got their guns the same way.

Some people use circular logic:

*“Only mentally ill people commit mass murder.”

“No, some sane and rational folks have committed mass murder too.”

"The fact that they committed mass murder **MEANS *they were mentally ill!"

Doesn’t the entire gun lobby use that circular logic?
He murdered somebody? Well, obviously he wasn’t a good guy with a gun. Arm more good guys!

Hmmm… no, I don’t think so. I think you have define/decide/agree on what committing mass murder does or doesn’t indicate. I have taken the stand that committing mass murder is the act of mentally unstable people. (I’m not wedded to the idea that I’m right; it’s my view of things, but if the folks who study mental health have found that people who are lacking in any other significant indicators of mental instability have gone out and committed mass murder, then that’s meaningful and hard to argue with. It’s sort of hard to study, though, because I believe most mass murderers are also suicides or taken out by law enforcement, which shrinks the pool…) Perhaps others disagree. But if we can come to a consensus about it… see below:

“Only mentally ill people hear voices”
“No, some sane and rational folks hear voices, too”
“the fact that they hear voices means they are mentally ill”

And that’s evil. Evil isn’t an external force, it’s a choice.

All killing is not murder. It’s an important distinction, because we recognize the right to self defense. If you’re put into a war situation, it’s kill or be killed. One might argue that it would take an insane person to NOT kill in that instance, since we’re talking about self preservation.

Mass murderers are not operating under a condition of self preservation. Comparing them to soldiers on the battlefield is ignoring the fundamental difference between murder and self-defense.

I agree. If I can benefit from killing a lot of people, then there is no logical reason for me not to do kill them. In fact, I’d argue that murderers are actually *saner *than the rest of us, with our empathy and principles and conscience and other illogical constructs that prevent us from killing each other.

If you believe that evil is a thing. I don’t. But that’s kind of a bigger philosophical discussion than this little thread can contain. We can engage it elsewhere if you would like, just let me know…

There’s some pretty compelling research round altruism and how it is actually beneficial to us as a species and individually. Another big road to travel… just mentioning it.

As a species, absolutely. As an individual… well, if it benefits you, it isn’t really altruism, is it?