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January 18th, 2011 by Dr. Phil

Anger and Unanswered Questions in Arizona

victims2I still can’t wrap my mind around the senseless shooting in Arizona that left 13 wounded and six dead. I’m glad to hear that doctors are optimistic about Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords recovery. This is a woman who has dedicated her life to public service, and she and her family remain in my prayers. My heart goes out to all the families affected by this tragedy.

Whenever we hear stories of a guy who starts firing into a crowd, we shake our heads in horror and ask, “Could this have been predicted?” As a mental health professional, that’s a question that I always think about. But the truth is we don’t have the psychological test to predict the next Columbine or Virginia Tech shooting.

A lot of people are hurt, angry and want answers. I get that. Here’s what we know about the alleged shooter, Jared Loughner: He railed on about the government. He listed Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto as among his favorite books. We know he had been arrested for drug paraphernalia, although that was ultimately dismissed. On December 30, he posted on his Facebook page: “My shot is now ready for aim,” and “I define terrorist.”

In looking back, the red flags were there. But here’s the problem: There are thousands of people who behave this way, who write these things, but they don’t actually commit an act of violence. So, talking about guns on a Facebook page is not predictive of who will do something violent. A lot of folks are asking, “Is this a sign of people being so upset with the economy and government that they are just taking matters into their own hands?” But I think that is just a wrong way to look at this.

I can tell you, from a psychological point of view, I think some of the rhetoric in America is getting very dangerous. Now, before you send me an e-mail about freedom of speech, let me say that I’m a great proponent of the First Amendment. Even when the tabloids and gossip columns print all sorts of lies about me, I’m still a proponent of free speech. But, I have to say, some of the rhetoric is getting very dangerous, to the point of inciting others to do reckless or irrational things. In America, we have the right to say what we want to say, but with rights come responsibilities. I think we have to not muzzle each other, but sometimes, we should muzzle ourselves.

So, do I think Jared Loughner’s alleged shooting was a political act? In my view, this was a mentally ill individual who had a hard time with impulses, and fantasies and really bizarre thinking. That doesn’t trivialize the fact that six people will be buried this week and 13 others are still recovering from their wounds. But, we’ve got to come together as a nation to talk through this and start the healing process. It’s my hope that people close to someone who is in a meltdown phase, will raise a flag.

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55 Responses to “Anger and Unanswered Questions in Arizona”

  1. Marilyn says:

    Dear Dr. Phil,

    Thank you for your comments–especially concerning free speech: That we should sometimes put a muzzle on ourselves.

    I tried to teach my children that they could say anything they wanted, but that they had to try not to hurt anyone with the WAY they say it.

    I live in Europe and watch your show on Dutch tv. Free speech is quite an issue here, and everyone approaches it from the standpoint of whether or not we should muzzle someone else. I never know what to say about it, but, I hope you will not mind if I quote you from now on!

    I really enjoy your show, because you and your producers and guests always seem to show people that there are many ways of looking at an issue. Good common sense! Thank you

  2. vince says:

    too many people think its OK to take a situation into there own hands, i guess folks watch too many movies of bad guys getting the life of a king and want to be the same, only thing no one remembers is these movies are only made up stories from a persons mind put to pen and paper to the silver screen, Dr Phil, people need to see ALL life as sacred, anger kills. why are we Americans allowing our lives to be treated as worthless? we are not SHEEP, have our laws of society led us to slaughter? I FOR ONE WILL NOT FEAR TO WALK ANY STREET IN AMERICA. I LOVE ALL. do you?

  3. vince says:

    i read news of pure stupidity doc, my heart cries for justice, my heart sings for truth, my spirit swores for honesty, i feel at times i am living a damn fanaticy , wowow, wait a sec it is a fanaticy, what on this planet is needed for all people to see other people as EQUAL in life? i do not care about other worlds!! i do not care about any life on other worlds, i see too many lives on just the part of THIS world i live on suffering every day the sun comes up, and i ask my-self WHY? doc this planet spends more money to find new worlds then it would take to save ALL life on just this one planet and make all happy!!!! WHY? we are all people, we all need, we all bleed red, kids hunger in our streets, people die on our streets, WHY? hell fire Dr Phil if you had the answers to my questions and just one solution sir you would deserve a Noble prize, doc if ever i get to see and talk to God again in person im going to ask him WHY GOD? why do so many suffer at the hands of so few, what the hel;l maybe God will tell my WHY JUST FOR ASKING.

  4. Leslie Strange says:

    I’m writing this to get thoughts and opinions on the Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity statute. I know that Arizona currently upholds Guilty but mentally Ill, however Oklahoma does not. My brother in law was murdered two years ago – his killer was convicted and found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. I’m not sure which was worse – the day we found out Damien had been killed or the day in the court room when the verdict came across, then during the midst of the outcry’s of disbelief, I hear the convicted will be re-evaluated and determination of his release would be set in 30 days! So, you mean to tell me that this guy has a possibility of being released in 30 days,”yes”, says our DA, “if found that while being incarcerated at a county jail has undergone enough treatment and is no longer a threat he can be released”. Now granted this is all at the judges discretion. This is my problem – this current law seems to only protect the mentally Ill. There is no acknowledgement that he commited the crime (I guess other than the assumed), there is no criminal charge associated, there are no guarantee’s of how long he will serve (all you hear is “once rehabilitated”), and the first possible RELEASE date is set for thirty days. I’m not asking that the mentally Ill not receive treatment and I’m not denying that prison is not the place for these folks. What I’m missing is the sense it makes to place a not guilty on a guilty person – this seems to only cause the victims, victims family’s, and friends to feel as though justice has not been served. See my worry here is that in anger, clouded, emotional eyes that when a person feels jilted by our justice system they want to take “the law in their own hands.” They may feel as though this is the only option left, especially if a positive support system is lacking. Seems like a cycle of insanity? Am I missing something here?….is there sense to this verdict for the victim and I’m missing it in biased eyes? We are also looking for ways and contacts to persue getting this changed to a Guilty but mentally Ill plea in the state of Oklahoma. Any help is greatly appreaciated.

  5. Frankie Anton says:

    Dr Phil,

    I watch you every day in the morning and evenings, there is so much I want to say but don’t know where to start. I am a 50yr old woman, single with a 28 yr son. He is my life and we have gone thru so much, it’s always just been him and me for as long as I can remember, his father was never in the picture or around when my son finally met him he denied my son , I try to explain to him why he was that way but he hated me for a long time, and now it seems like we are getting along better but we both have so much anger built up inside sometimes I wonder if both of us will die from this anger.

    We have both been molested when younger, and every one says we are just alike which I understand, but there was so much ugly stuff that happened to me as a child that I have anger issues, my mom is deceased still have my father, my family more or less threw me and my son away so we were alone.
    I have been abused sexually, verbally, physcally, mental, and am on so many meds i feel like am going krazy. My pastor says to have faith and I do. I pray daily thanking him for good and bad, but my life is still the same. Seems like am in a black hole and can’t get out. Another issue I hate men so much not just what they did to me but my son also and people wonder why we are angry and hateful, I call men male species cause that is how they act. Please help me and my son, I don’t know where else to turn to. Been to so many shrinks, counslors, and other people, all they wana do is give me meds. PLEASE DR PHIL am at my ends rope, don’t know how much more I can take.

    Respectfully yours,

    Frankie Anton

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