Mental health: The issue everyone dodges until after the mass shootings

A new report by the Secret Service on recent mass shootings finds a vast majority involved people with mental illness whose behavior could have tipped off authorities about their latent danger.

While recent protest demonstrations across the country were aimed at creating new laws, the report suggests a clear unwillingness to address the issue of mental health, which could be covered under existing laws and regulations.

But in several cases, such as the most recent Florida school shooting that saw 17 deaths, school administrators, law enforcement, social workers and mental health counselors each failed to act with their existing authorities on obvious evidence of potentially dangerous behavior. That created a cascading tragedy.

The report by the Service’s Threat Assessment Center pored over 28 shootings that killed almost 150 and injured hundreds of others in schools, churches and places of business. It found that more than 75 percent of the perpetrators exhibited unusual advance behavior or communications that raised suspicions among others.

The report said:

These acts violated the safety of the places where we work, learn, shop, relax and otherwise conduct our day-to-day lives. The resulting loss of 147 lives and injury to nearly 700 others had a devastating impact on our nation as a whole.

It also found that before the shootings, two-thirds of suspects (64 percent) displayed signs of mental illness such as paranoia and delusions. And in a quarter of the cases the suspects had been hospitalized or under treatment with psychiatric drugs before the deadly assaults. Yet, they remained at large.

One dramatic example was last November’s church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas that saw 20 wounded and 26 killed.

Devin Kelley, who shot himself when cornered, had menaced his ex-wife, stalked former girlfriends, was accused of sexual assault and escaped from a mental facility where he’d been placed by the Air Force after fracturing his infant son’s skull.

Yet the proper disqualifying reports never made it into the reporting system that under existing law would have barred him from purchasing the firearms he used in church.