Overused Statistic #738: Mental Illness and Violent Victimization

So there’s a particular bit of overused truth whose use I want to challenge. Again, it’s not that it’s not true. AND it’s not that we shouldn’t be telling people that it’s true, BUT it seems to only ever be used in contexts where it doesn’t mean what people think it means.

Persons with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crime than to be perpetrators of violent crime. This is true.

Persons without mental illness are also more likely to be victims of violent crime than to be perpetrators of violent crime. This is also true.

But wait! How is that possible?

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Congregation Chabad: The Blood of Our Children, Perhaps Our First Born

There is yet another mass shooting at a place of worship. The details aren’t out yet, but we know that at least four people have been shot at the Congregation Chabad northeast of San Diego during a regular shabbat service on a special shabbat: the 8th day of Passover. As four victims is often taking as the number that defines a mass shooting, whatever news comes next, we know this qualifies.

The good news, such as it is, is that local law enforcement apparently has the shooter in custody. The shooting is, for the moment, likely over. While not as extensive or as lethal as the recent attacks in Sri Lanka or New Zealand or Pittsburgh, it’s certain that this attack has commonalities with all of these, and has more direct connections at least with Pittsburgh (today is exactly 6 months after the Pittsburgh attack), but also likely with New Zealand.

I’ll be updating this as more comes in. The notes will not necessarily be cohesive in the sense of the larger post, but I hope to provide updated information as I get it, and I hope I can at least make sense within the updates.


As both of my readers know, I have a weird and idiosyncratic religious history, with a childhood more Christian, but an adulthood that was Jewish when it wasn’t either vaguely spiritual or, later, entirely non-religious. I have most of the general cultural knowledge of others raised Jewish, but rarely have the same level of emotional attachment to shared jewish traditions and customs. While there have been many atheist Jews over the centuries, the emotional distance I feel makes me even more uncomfortable with being taken for a representative of jewishness than other atheist jews. Nonetheless, the group affiliation is there. There are definitions of jew that include me, and I’m not prepared to give them up.

The weird thing is that this sometimes creates very complicated emotional consequences for me: The Chabadi would, I’m sure, quickly disavow any possibility I might be in the same category of jewishness as they. And I can’t say I feel some close kinship with Chabadim as fellow travelers on the same road. The congregation where I made my adult home was small and unaffiliated, but leaned much more toward Reconstructionist judaism than any other flavor. I’ve never even been to services at a Chabadi synagogue, though obviously some features of services would be readily familiar to me. I imagine going to a Chabadi service would be something like a Mormon going to a Catholic service, or a Unitarian Universalist going to a 7th Day Adventist service.

And yet, weirdly, this almost-closeness interrupts my thoughts about this tragedy in a way that my clear distance from Sri Lankan communities or muslim communities in New Zealand does not. In those cases, I don’t feel any expectation to speak knowledgeably about Islam’s failings or Sri Lanka’s long and multi-faction history of violence. I can simply say that it doesn’t matter what the history is, the violence was unjustified and tragic. Yet in the case of the attack on Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha in Pittsburgh or (now) Congregation Chabad, I feel that I’m somehow supposed to speak about, and speak knowledgeably about, everything from the history of the Lubivitchers (of which I know little) to the distinctions between Reform and Reconstructionist judaisms (where I’m more knowledgeable but no expert) to my seemingly contradictory position that I’m not entirely opposed to Israel keeping occupied territory in the Golan while I thoroughly and utterly oppose the occupation of Gaza.

But I don’t have to explain those things, as much as my brain might pester me with sharp pokes. Because the same is true here as is true in other mass shootings: The violence is unjustified. This violence can never be justified. This violence must end.


Looking at the pictures of the police tape around the synagogue I was struck with the idea that this created a twisted mockery of an eruv.


Newer reports are putting the total shots fired around 10, and one report is listing a single person dead in addition to the four people wounded whose conditions were reported earlier.


And now reports are saying that rather than one murder in addition to the 4 injuries that were reported, there were a total of only 4 people hit, with 1 person killed and 3 injured. Although I’m no longer sure which is correct, I think this makes it very likely that the number of persons shot is unlikely to increase with new reports.

The one person killed is said to be an older woman.


In entirely not-shocking news, the shooter has been determined to be a young adult man. Who would have thought?

In slightly more shocking news, the mayor of Poway, the city where Congregation Chabad is located, has declared this a hate crime. It’s not at all surprising that it’s a hate crime (the only other plausible possibility given what we knew was domestic violence turned public), but it is somewhat surprising to me to hear the Mayor say that this early. It seems likely, then, that the shooter has been making statements about his anti-semitic motives to law enforcement, with the information then further communicated to the Mayor. This last is speculation of course, but I think it will prove true.


Trump has offered “thoughts and prayers”. Anti-semitic scumbags offering their selfish thoughts and bigoted prayers are worse than useless. I hope people take this opportunity to call Trump out again for his Nazi sympathies and general awfulness.


And… it has now been pointed out to me that I missed a story from earlier this week where a Christian guy, also in California,

deliberately drove into a group of pedestrians because he thought some of the people were Muslim

Also of note? He was on his way to a Christian bible study meeting at the time he chose to run these folks over. While the DA isn’t formally alleging any violation of hate crime provisions, prosecutors are still investigating and have not decided against those charges. For the moment, he’s been charged with eight counts of attempted murder.


A former Assistant Secretary of State (Joel Rubin) was on Fox News to discuss the rise of anti-semitism in relation to the Tree of Life/Or L’Simcha shooting 6 months ago and the Congregation Chabad shooting yesterday. After Rubin pointed out that there’s been substantial growth in public anti-semitism and mentioned the Charlottesville horror, he then made the point that Trump had “essentially said [the Charlottesville Nazis] were fair”. As soon as Trump was mentioned, Fox cut to commercial and came back from break pretending nothing unusual happened.

Guns Have Nothing To Do With Art-All-Night Shootings

Another week, another mass shooting, this time in New Jersey at a festival called Art All Night.

I can already here the mating calls of the 2nd Amendment Republicans:

Too many doors!

Why do they let people were baggy clothes on a summer night?

This is what happens when liberals get together at festivals that value lefty things, like art!

We’ll propose a ban on doors, baggy clothes, and art to save the people just as soon as we find a way to stop all this criticism that keeps happening to us despite the fact we’re only exercising our 1st Amendment rights!

Call your representatives and senators and insist that they vote for the ban on doors, baggy clothes & art! Don’t let them take away your guns! Freedom first!

Fuck.

Would you believe that the CNN story on this this morning included the line:

Authorities have heard that as many as 1,000 people were in the area at the time of the shooting, Onofri said. The festival entrances had no metal detectors, he said.

Yes. Yes of course you would.

As for the people, there’s still one victim in “extremely critical” condition – probably still in surgery. Twenty people were injured. It appears that “one killed” is in reference to a suspect that was killed, probably by police. Unusually for situations like this, there was actually another suspect as well, that one taken into custody alive.

I hope the final death toll doesn’t get any higher.

The Threats to Free Speech are From Right Wingers, Not From Trans* Advocacy

Trans* advocates do not advocate any new type of restriction on speech. They do sometimes argue that restrictions that already exist on speech when that speech targets specific types of groups should also apply when such speech targets trans* folks. This is not in any way stretching what limitation on the rights of free expression the constitutions of Canada or the US (or any other country) will tolerate. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t serious threats to free expression in the US and Canada today.

I’ve written previously about how changing “loser pays” presumptions in defamation lawsuits can impact the related freedoms of the press and personal expression (though focussing primarily on the impacts on press freedoms). But compromises around such details as when the plaintiff has to pay a press outlet’s legal costs aren’t the only constitutionally permissible actions that the governments of the US or Canada might take that would have an impact on free speech, and there are even other, likely impermissible actions that the government might still try to take.

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That’s it. Take his guns away forever.

Florida passed somewhat interesting legislation in the aftermath of the MSD High School shootings. Although I and my reader would both have preferred dramatic restrictions on private gun ownership and access and hate crazy-blaming, there still could be some utility in the statutory provisions which allow police to assume that when one makes threats that one is at least potentially a danger to others. To that end, the law allows police to deliver those who make what appear to be serious threats (and some others who give indications of being a danger to the public) into the hands of mental health professionals.

The law has complex ramifications for a number of aspects of civil society, including the operation of the First Amendment’s protections of expression generally and the media specifically. Until I see more about how the courts interpret the state legislation and how local authorities mis/use its provisions, I’m going to have trouble  determining whether I find it a net positive or not. Still, the first person they picked up under the law was probably a reasonable choice and doesn’t foreshadow abuse. That person is Christian Nicholas Velasquez.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, cops initially keyed on Velasquez

after getting reports from the [University of Central Florida] community about a user on the online social media platform Reddit called “TheRealUCFChris” who called Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz and Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock heroes.

In an interview with police which happened either immediately before (more likely) or immediately after (it’s not entirely clear) a relatively short evaluation confinement in a mental health institution, Velasquez was clear that although he did make those comments, he couldn’t really see himself following in their footsteps:

“I can’t imagine myself ever doing that. It would take a lot to push me over the edge.”

Still, despite that and similar statements as well as not being found dangerous to the point of requiring confinement by the evaluating doctor, cops felt concerned enough that they applied under a new provision of the law to ban Velasquez from owning a gun for a period of one year. The civil order also prevents or penalizes certain other behaviors, and amounts to a new type of restraining order sought not by a victim but by a law enforcement agency. This new type of restraining order is known as a “risk protection order”.

The Florida judge responsible for deciding whether the emergency order authorizing the hospital say and other very short term measures thought Velasquez’s initial detention was well in-line with the wording and intent of the new law, saying (according to the Sentinel):

“I don’t disagree with the issuing of the initial temporary injunction. I think that’s exactly what the statute provides for.”

Nonetheless, the judge did not believe that the state met the legally required burden for a longer term injunction and declined to convert the emergency order into the new risk protection order with a duration of one year.

People will have different feelings about the law, though I think it’s pretty clear in this case that the authorities acting under the law were interpreting it reasonably and not abusively exploiting the margins of the power granted under statute. It was being used as intended, whatever you think about the intent. I don’t know if the judge had the law right, though it’s likely he did. So the first attempt at use of the law probably went about as well as anyone could hope.

After the hearing was concluded and the decision rendered, Velasquez’s attorney expressed disappointment with the law and its use against her client. Why would the government even want to take away – even temporarily – her client’s right to access guns? After all, she said, quoting her client, he just

wanted to look like a badass on Reddit.

Huh.

 

 

 

Everything You Need to Know About US Gun Rights, Part 1

This post grows out of a discussion on Mano’s blog about gun rights and the US constitution. If you like, please read the beginnings of this discussion where it originated. However, in response to questions raised by EnlightenmentLiberal, I felt the need to write a comment whose length kept increasing. (No, Crip Dyke! Say it isn’t so!) Ultimately, I thought this history/argument was better presented as its own post here.

The real problems in the interpretation of the 2nd amendment can be found in a Commerce Clause case about the growing of wheat on private property and the anti-slavery reconstruction amendments.

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