Why don't they ask whether these mass killers are on drugs?PETER HITCHENS
MAY 25, 2022
Why does nobody ever ask if drugs are involved in school shootings — or indeed other mass shootings — in the U.S. or anywhere else?
The story is always reported in the same way. The horror is described. Grieving families are interviewed, though I personally would be glad to spare them the ordeal. Major politicians — often the President himself — join heartfelt calls for gun control. Then, after a few days, interest fades, except in the place where the murders took place where the pain endures for decades.
Yet here is a fascinating fact. The U.S. has been full of legal guns since it came into being. If anything, its gun laws are more restrictive now in some States than they have ever been.
But mass shootings of the sort we now see all too often are quite a recent problem. They only really began in the 1960s. Can anyone think of anything else that only got going in Western societies in the 1960s?
I can. It is the widespread use of legal and illegal drugs to alter our mental state. And a careful look at many of these mass shootings shows that — where the information is available — the shooters very often took such drugs.
I have compiled this round-the-world list of such cases. Timothy McVeigh, the 1995 Oklahoma bomber, used cannabis and methamphetamine. Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass killer, took the steroid stanozolol and the quasi-amphetamine ephedrine.
Brenton Tarrant, the mosque mass murderer in Christchurch, New Zealand, also took steroids. So did the 2017 London Bridge killers.
Omar Mateen, culprit of the 2016 Orlando massacre, also took steroids, as did Raoul Moat, who in 2010 terrorised the North-East of England. So did the remorseless David Bieber, who killed a policeman and nearly murdered two others on a rampage in Leeds in 2003.
Eric hαɾɾιs, one of the culprits of the 1999 Columbine school shooting, took the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) antidepressant Luvox. His accomplice Dylan Klebold’s medical records remain (indefensibly) sealed, as do those of several other school killers.
But we know for sure that Patrick Purdy, culprit of the 1989 Cleveland school shooting, and Jeff Weise, culprit of the 2005 Red Lake Senior High School shootings, had been taking antidepressants.
So had Michael McDermott, culprit of the 2000 Wakefield massacre in Massachusetts. So had Kip Kinkel, responsible for a 1998 murder spree in Oregon. So had Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings pilot who murdered all his passengers by flying his aircraft into a mountain.
The Quebec mosque mass murderer Alexandre Bissonnette turned out later to have been taking the antidepressant Paxil. The San Bernardino killers, who murdered 14 people in December 2015, had been taking the benzodiazepine Xanax and the amphetamine Adderall.
The killers of Lee Rigby in London were cannabis users. So was Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the killer of Canadian soldier Nathan Cirillo in 2014 in Ottawa. So was Martin Couture-Rouleau, killer of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in St Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, also in October 2014, So was Jared Loughner, culprit of a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona. So was the Leytonstone Tube station knife attacker. So is Satoshi Uematsu, filmed grinning at Japanese TV cameras after being accused of a horrible knife rampage in a home for the disabled in Sagamihara, which also goes to show that banning guns will not make us safe.
When I checked the backgrounds of the culprits of the Charlie Hebdo murders, all had drugs records or connections. The same was true of the Bataclan gang in Paris, of the Tunis beach killer and of the Thalys train terrorist.
It is also true of the two young men who murdered a defenceless and aged priest, Jacques Hamel, near Rouen in 2016. One of them had also been hospitalised as a teenager for mental disorders and so almost certainly prescribed powerful psychiatric drugs.
They were not exceptional. As an experienced Paris journalist said to me recently: ‘After covering all of the recent terrorist attacks here, I’d conclude that the hit-and-die killers involved all spent the vast majority of their miserable lives smoking cannabis while playing hugely violent video games.’
The Nice mass killer, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who in July 2016 murdered 86 people with a truck rather than a gun or knife, had been smoking marijuana and taking mind-altering prescription drugs, almost certainly antidepressants.
Alas, the information about such people’s drug use is not available, or does not emerge until long afterwards. The near-collapse of enforcement of the marijuana laws means that fewer and fewer of the drug’s users have recorded arrests or convictions.
My experience in this country is that the police are very reluctant to discuss the role of illegal drugs in violence. This is, I think, usually because I am the only person asking and they do not want to discuss it. So they do not have to. Yet an appalling number of violent crimes are committed in this country by drug abusers, especially marijuana abusers, as Ross Grainger’s website docuмents in grim and growing detail. Mr Grainger has repeatedly tried to get official inquiries to take note of his survey, but with little success.
I have even sought the help of the Information Commissioner to get police in this country to admit that they aren’t much interested in drug abuse by the perpetrators of extreme, crazy violent crimes. They aren’t. But they should be, and if more people in the media were interested, the police too would have to be more interested.
But I suspect that, having given up enforcing the laws against such drugs, they do not much want to know if this arrogant decision to stop doing what they are paid for has had any bad effects.
This is a new kind of evil. I absolutely do not write about this to excuse any of these people (except those prescribed drugs by doctors, who cannot be blamed for thinking that they were harmless). Nor do I wish to defend or excuse Islamist killers. Why on earth would anyone want to do that, least of all me?
I hold the old-fashioned view that people who intoxicate themselves or consciously wreck their brains for fun are fully responsible for all the horrors that follow.I mention it because I believe this new type of crime is so easily preventable. And I fear that, by blaming these events either on the lack of gun control or on some vast Islamist conspiracy or on ‘right-wing extremism’ we are almost completely missing the point. And these things will keep happening until we wake up to the danger.