False Positives

Feel free to skip this if you’ve heard me rant on this before. It’s an old rant with a new example to cite.

Aaron Alexis was mentally ill. He called the police to report harassment when he was hearing voices. He contacted the VA about insomnia but apparently denied any desire to self-harm or to harm others. People are saying that in retrospect, there are all sorts of red flags in his background.

Before you run with this notion too far, please provide data about how many others have similar histories? A gun is fired in an apartment; it’s blamed on carelessness while cleaning it. A worker is disgruntled about pay and benefits allegedly not given. Someone tries to buy an AR-15 but is prevented by Commonwealth law. A sailor is discharged by the Navy under a honorable discharge because it’s easier than doing the documentation for a “general discharge.”

Think about that last one. “We want someone to leave, but we can’t document the issue enough to force him to accept a less-than-ideal separation from service with us.” If you can’t document why someone should have to accept a general discharge instead of an honorable one, how are you going to document that the same person is possibly a violent offender who will commit mass murder? Are you saying those Navy commanders should have done more? Or are you willing to concede that maybe there are 1000 others superficially like Aaron Alexis who really are no danger to any others?

Also, if the mentally ill think that admitting they need help will quickly mean they lose easy access to things they enjoy, such as guns or fast cars, do you think they’ll accept that or avoid being so recognized for as long as possible? It’s the dangerous ones who will try extra hard not to be recognized as mentally ill, at least until some effect leads some to try reverse psychology on The System. (“Everyone knows that the dangerous don’t admit they might be mentally ill, so I’ll ask for help to mask how dangerous I really am.”)

Hindsight is 20/20; call me when you can tell me how you’re going to winnow out the false positives.


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