'Mass murderers are not mentally ill'

Criminologist dismisses claims that Las Vegas shooter was mentally ill, says it is impossible to identify such murderers in advance.

Shimon Cohen,

Scene of Las Vegas shooting
Scene of Las Vegas shooting
Reuters

The massacre of 59 people and wounding of over 500 by Stephen Paddock raises the question of whether similar criminals and mass murderers can be identified in advance and prevented from acting on their impulses.

Paddock, whose murderous act at a country music concert at the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas Sunday night was the worst mass shooting in US history, was found to have been in possession of dozens of guns and other weapons, including automatic weapons and rifles.

Arutz Sheva asked criminologist and former deputy commander of Israel Police`s Serious and International Crime Unit Avi Davidovich, an expert on criminology and a lecturer at Ariel University, if it is possible to identify criminals like Paddock, whose motives for the massacre remain unknown.

Davidovich said at the outset that it is impossible to identify lone criminals who plot m,ass murder like Paddock in advance.

"We are speaking about the free choice of an individual who has decided on an action and plans and studies how to carry it out, but he is impossible to identify," Davidovich said. "If it were possible to identify who could [carry out massacres like in Las Vegas, the person] who did so would have been awarded the Nobel Prize long ago."

Davidovich explained: "The level of predictability for all of these mass murderers is virtually nil, because [the decision to kill] comes from a man's desires and exercise of his freedom of choice. I emphasize that this is a free choice because the public has a tendency to say that it is perhaps a mentally deranged individual. [The truth is] that these murderers are not mentally ill, but rather people who are in full control [of their actions]. This should be said with reservations, however, as in many cases the murderers to not survive the incident and it is impossible to completely investigate their sanity."

So what drives a person to commit such an act?

"Man is a creature of choice. He chooses to do good or evil, to contribute to society or to do something dangerous. Each person decides [for himself] on what is good and what is wrong. Some people think that taking weapons and slaughtering others with them is the right thing to do. It should be repeated that these people are usually not legally diagnosable as mentally ill, except for a few who, at the time of the act were not responsible for their actions in the legal sense of the word.

When asked what can be done if these criminals cannot be identified in advance, Davidovich said that we were entering social questions. "Unambiguous research findings show that mass murder is a very common phenomenon in the United States in comparison to other countries."

"[In the US] there are also incidents of murder that are not known in Israel, such as school shootings ... Why is it [so prevalent] in the US? There are many reasons and one of the reasons is the attitude of US culture towards weapons."

Davidovich believes that this reality can be changed, not only through legislation to make it more difficult to stockpile weapons, but through comprehensive cultural change. "It is not just legislation that will reduce weapons possession. A solution will not come in one fell swoop because it is something that has taken root in American culture. This is something that has been filtered [into the American psyche] for more than 200 years, the desire to use and carry weapons, but there is no doubt that if we want to do something and not just talk, it has to become harder for Americans to acquire weapons."




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