Murder-suicides do have something in common – it’s not firearms

Do you think America is ready for “the discussion?” No, I’m not talking about dissolving the 2nd Amendment to take handguns away from private citizens. It’s time we have an honest discussion on how we identify and treat mental illness.

This weekend, an NFL football player killed his girlfriend and then himself in Kansas City. A son killed his father and his father’s girlfriend in Wyoming last week. In September a mother killed her two sons and then herself. (Scroll for another sad example.) Where the manner of death is the same in these cases, the method of death was quite diverse; a firearm, bow and arrow, knife, drowning and hanging.

Read about the individual cases and connect the dots. Neither access to firearms nor a previous history of violence are a common thread. The individuals were “troubled” or maybe had experienced a traumatic injury that may have contributed to their actions. In hindsight, they needed to be under the care of a mental health professional.

But having that discussion with friends, family or co-workers is taboo in the United States and probably around the world. These issues are not spoken of, they are private … not discussed. It’s not our place to judge, but is it not in our heart to help?

We need to refocus this discussion, but people like Bob Costas want to use national TV airtime promote a gun ban while quoting writer Jason Whitlock.

Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. In the coming days, Jovan Belcher’s actions and their possible connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows?  But here,’ wrote Jason Whitlock, ‘is what I believe — if Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Cassandra Perkins would both be alive today.’”

A high profile case led Costas to ignore the history of concussions in football that – in some cases – alter the personality of people. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) happen. Costas could have just as easily said “if Belcher did not get hit in the head so many times, he and Perkins would both be alive today.” A friend of the player noted

It didn’t help that he was drinking every day and taking painkillers while dealing with the effects of debilitating head injuries, the friend said.

When Costas reads about the mother who sedated her two young sons, drown them in a tub and hung herself from a ceiling fan, does he suggest regulating water and rope? How about regulating or banning knives? Bows and arrows? Costas, like most of us, may be afraid to discuss the taboo subject. Blaming the gun – the method of death – is easy.

In 2009, Glenn Close wrote about mental illness within her immediate family. For a portion of the article, she writes about the stigma of being known as someone “who is crazy” but read the entire post. My emphasis in bold.

Even as the medicine and therapy for mental health disorders have made remarkable progress, the ancient social stigma of psychological illness remains largely intact. Families are loath to talk about it and, in movies and the media, stereotypes about the mentally ill still reign. …

It is an odd paradox that a society, which can now speak openly and unabashedly about topics that were once unspeakable, still remains largely silent when it comes to mental illness. This month, for example, NFL players are rumbling onto the field in pink cleats and sweatbands to raise awareness about breast cancer. On December 1st, World AIDS Day will engage political and health care leaders from every part of the globe. Illnesses that were once discussed only in hushed tones are now part of healthy conversation and activism.

Yet when it comes to bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress, schizophrenia or depression, an uncharacteristic coyness takes over. We often say nothing. The mentally ill frighten and embarrass us. And so we marginalize the people who most need our acceptance.

It’s not about guns Bob. It’s time for us to focus on why the person was troubled and treatment instead of the method of death.

Others writing include Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.

[I]f you watched NBC’s Football Night in America last night, you’d already know that the broadcast team could barely even mention the fact that Belcher committed murder.  Before and during the game, they used phrases like “lost her life in this tragedy” to describe what happened to his victim and other non-judgmental phrases.  Into that context comes Costas to blame … the gun.  It was surreal, an experience only interrupted in the post-game show when Rodney Harrison appeared to get a little angry and remind everyone that Belcher killed someone else besides himself.

Update: I had originally intended to include another example. A grandmother and uncle committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning and deliberately murdered three children in Ohio. Another tragedy that will get little attention from people like Bob Costas and the media since the method of death has nothing to do with a firearm.

Police say notes found at a house in Toledo indicate the two adults planned to kill themselves and the children by funneling the fumes from a pickup truck into a car where their bodies were found.

Investigators and family friends say the murder-suicide appears to stem from a family disagreement over where the children should live.

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Steve McGough

Steve's a part-time conservative blogger. Steve grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Washington, D.C. and the Bahamas. He resides in Connecticut, where he’s comfortable six months of the year.


  1. Anne-EH on December 3, 2012 at 9:12 am

    I see this horrible murder-sucide incident in Kansas City as a sad reality of how we make into “gods” and “goddeses” pro sports players.

  2. Lynn on December 3, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Steve, You have done a real service to your readers here.? I agree completely that the conversation of mental disorders needs to take place. It is a cop-out to blame guns or any instrument used to kill someone or self. The link to Glenn Close article was exceptional. Further, the link Glenn provided in her article, an interview with Kay Redfield Jamison, about her bipolar illness was exceptional. I recommend people to read both links. Thank you for a very insightful post. You did a far better job, than any newspaper has or will do.

  3. stinkfoot on December 3, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    The MSM insists on promoting the narrative presupposing that without firearms the murder/suicides wouldn’t happen… as though there are no other ways to take a life.? It reflects a desire to take advantage of a situation to promote an agenda as opposed to any real concern for those affected by murders and suicides.? The one thing it rightly assumes is that most either lack or are unwilling to use critical thinking skills to see that they are being bamboozled.

  4. JBS on December 3, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    The Whitlocks and Costas ( and Obamas, et al) of the world are wrong. They are Utopians — They want absolutes when dealing with humans. There are none. Banning a particular inanimate object will not keep people from killing themselves or other people. Jovan Belcher was unbalanced. He knew it. Those around him knew it. He was seriously injured; it affected his thinking. He could have just as easily ran his high-performance car into a wall at high speed or strangled her before killing himself with a lethal dose of painkillers.
    It is more than crazy for anyone to think he could use his head and body as a battering ram without, at least, risking a brain injury. (The lawyers are already filing a lawsuit against the team.)
    Guns are NOT the problem, people are the problem.

  5. Linda Mae on December 3, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Charles Krauthammer said it best – we’ve changed the laws to protect the privacy of individuals needing help that we’ve almost condemned them to tragedy.? Ex.? colleges unable to tell parents their kids are in danger of being dangerous to themselves or others.? He discussed how things had changed since he worked at Mass General.? It’s a mental health issue – societal as well.? Instant gratification and ego centrism are destroying some of our kids.? No patience. Gimme, gimme or else…

    • ricbee on December 3, 2012 at 11:29 pm

      ?The young perhaps could be treated with talk therapy instead of psychotropic drugs & deal with troubling dilemmas like most of our generation did. Every kid put on Ritalin is almost surely doomed to a life of misery. When at worst,a spanking was called for.

  6. Jerri on December 3, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    What I haven’t heard yet is the observation that the girlfriend of the football player may have been able to save her own life if she had and was trained to use a firearm.?

  7. ricbee on December 3, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Mental illness is hidden because of the large part the doctors play in it-not curing it-CAUSING IT by prescribing it wrongly or in harmful quantities.

    • Lynn on December 4, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      I think you are right , Ric. Some anti-depressants make your body dependant on them.

  8. yeah on December 5, 2012 at 10:04 am

    I yelled profanities at the TV when I saw Costas carping on mindlessly about that, as if it was well thought out, a good point, had any statistical correlation in the least, or as if it was his place to be regurgitating the skittles he ate from some unicorn’s bum.
    Rush had a good one, I blame the microphone, not Costas!

    • JBS on December 5, 2012 at 6:41 pm

      Is there some central control for these lefty yahoos??
      Is there someone, or a group, directing these Dem tools to spew this tripe, this rubbish, this absolute twaddle??


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