The most recent shooting at Fort Hood was precipitated by the shooter being denied a request for leave. This is the latest in a long list of rampage killings. Like many in the “Running Amok” style, the killer suddenly starts a killing spree until he (nearly always a he) runs out of energy or confronts armed opposition and then commits suicide. In other cases, the killer carefully plans an attack over a number of years. Some commit suicide when their plans are frustrated, but others do not.
Two things we can learn from this tragedy:
Psych tests don’t necessarily work. Like the Navy Yard shooter, The Fort Hood shooter had recently passed a psychological evaluation. This has precipitated a re-evaluation of Fort Hood’s psych evaluation system. In the Navy Yard shooter’s case, he simply lied about his condition. A recent Slate article puts out the idea that these killers aren’t really mentally ill at all, they just have anger management issues. This casts into doubt the efficacy of required psych testing before an individual is allowed to purchase a gun.
The faster a shooter confronts armed resistance, the lower the number of victims. In many instances of mass killing, the event ends when the killer commits suicide. This often occurs when they confront armed resistance, although the Columbia Mall shooter killed himself when he realized that all the potential victims had run away. The obvious policy prescription is to allow armed guards in schools, concealed carry in military bases and loosen concealed carry laws in general.