By Nicholas Condorcet
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
After a horrid tragedy in Colorado where gunman James Holmes opened fire at a showing of the newest Batman film his mail was forwarded to Jonathan Lee Riches. Shortly after the shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut Jonathan Lee Riches shows up claiming to be Adam Lanza’s Uncle. During an interview Riches mentions that Adam was taking an anti-psychotic drug Fanapt. A number of accused killers also seem to have been taking similar meds. Since this story there have been several internet postings from numerous people claiming that big pharma is behind the mainstream news coverage of the shootings; focusing on how to prevent more shootings from occurring or access to guns instead on the real cause. According to the postings medication side effects, as those observed in Fanapt tests, could explain the violence.
Jonathan Lee Riches, the man claiming to be Lanza’s uncle, was arrested having violated his parole by leaving Pennsylvania. Riches, previously convicted of fraud, doesn’t really have a family relationship with Lanza. He has filed several strange lawsuits such as one against Kanye West and Kim Kardashian who he sued to reveal ties to Al Qaeda. Which may indicate to some that this was a sick joke. Others believe he was trying to change the national conversation from gun ownership to mental health treatment. It’s hard to be sure with a man like Riches who has a strange history, wherein he has perhaps sued more people than anyone in the world. Several of the lawsuits are questionably jokes or bizarre activism, such as his lawsuit Riches vs Bush Et Al which names then President Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld for prisoner civil rights. The lawsuit, which may represent Riches feelings about the “war on terror”, goes on to include Sandra Bullock, Bin Laden and Tony Danza. Recently Riches sued to prevent Jared Loughner from being transferred from Arizona to the prison Riches was finishing time at for fear of his safety. In this lawsuit Riches refers to himself as Julian Assange of Wikileaks. After several filings Riches was barred from further lawsuits unless he is under imminent danger of serious physical harm or injury. This has perhaps led to him becoming involved in other means of drawing attention to his beliefs such as the news appearance.
This leaves of us with the question of whether medication should be considered a factor in recent shootings. We know several shooters have been on anti-depressants. Oregon school shooting killer Kip Kinkel was noted to be on Prozac. Killer Steven Kazmierczak’s seems to had recently stopped taking Prozac and started other meds. Dylan, one of the Columbine shooters, was on Luvox. Perhaps a dozen others show similar links. Determining how much effect this had on them becoming shooters is difficult. Many were on anti-depressants because of a history of anger often tied to being bullied and obviously each had access to guns and most people taking these drugs don’t end up shooting people. Perhaps another question would be if instead of taking guns away it would be better to lock up those with similar diagnosis.
Arizona has seen recent gun violence in Tucson with shooter Jared Loughner. Many were upset that he was free given his previous mental history. Arizona has cut back it’s availability of state health care and mental health programs and has recently rejected an anti-bullying bill. The availability of mental health care is decreasing nationally with Treatment Advocacy Center noting a change of massive decrease in care: “In 1955 there was one psychiatric bed for every 300 Americans. By 2005 there was one psychiatric bed for every 3,000 Americans”. Arizona has the 2nd highest number of mentally ill patients in prison. However Colorado, the state with the 3rd lowest rate, has been home to shootings as well. Whether patients are in a hospital or a prison it seems an increasing number of mentally ill people have been put on the street due to cutbacks. A situation that may increase danger for police as well as every day folks.
It’s difficult to say who is right only that common elements exist. Guns have been available in the USA for centuries without the sort of violence that seems to be becoming more common today. Some believe anti-depressants and anti-psychotics are to blame as they have become more common in the early 1990’s while others point to more violence in movies and video games around the same time period. Bullying and depression seem common to the shooters but it’s difficult to measure if these have become worse. One theory points out that tech gadgets have allowed bullies to apply pressure on 24/7 social networks. Diet has changed as well with more caffeine and artificial colors which some experts claim reduce impulse control. Riches has helped highlight the meds although some of his prior complaints about safety in prison name Rockstar, the company that makes the Grand Theft Auto, as the reason for inmate violence. Riches may himself be an example of another theory, that people doing crazy things from killers to people like Riches are simply looking for media attention. Perhaps the only wrong answer is to pick one cause.