A few years ago my secretary got a call at the office that her brother-in-law, a police officer, was missing. He was found in a park, in his pickup truck, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. My first thought – thank God, he didn’t take anyone with him. But, of course, suicides always do. In 2005, my older brother’s former brother-in-law, also a police officer and investigator for the Riverside, California, D.A., made the national news because he and five family members were found dead of gunshot wounds. At the time, it was ruled a multiple murder-suicide.
I guess, in light of the recent shootings in Aurora Colorado, my mind would turn to David McGowan and his family. As a psychologist, who sometimes works with police officers, I have watched the Monday morning quarterbacking – the protect my gun rights crowd but don’t let the mentally ill have guns, or people should take an MMPI before they can have a gun or an I.Q. test or well, it was obvious that this guy was a psychopath and what is obvious to me, is that nothing is obvious. But wouldn’t we all feel safer and better about ourselves if it were? I watch with interest every time something bad happens and all the pundits and armchair “experts” point out the “obvious” signs. Truth is, if we deprived everyone who showed these “signs” of guns, an awful lot of our police force and military would be unarmed. And a lot more geeks would be in therapy. Now, that might be good for my practice, but I’m not sure it would be very productive.
An interesting note. The other night, I Googled the David McGowan case. A couple things came up. In the immediate aftermath, there was an awful lot of “obvious” signs of domestic violence talked about. Then in 2008 the case was re-opened and was being investigated by the FBI as an execution, implicating the D.A.s office that McGowan worked for.
There is a great temptation to simplify horrible events because we dislike uncertainty, we dislike change and we, as Americans, hold to a belief that we are entitled to certain “rights” without recognizing the complex consequences and responsibilities that accompany those rights. Like everyone else, I would like evil to walk down the street with an armband so we knew when it was coming and what it looked like and, above all else, whoever I am or whatever I do, IT has nothing to do with me.