The Right to Massacre?

NEW YORK – The shootings of United States Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others in Arizona last month are but the latest in a series of mass shootings in the US in which the (alleged) perpetrator suffered from an apparent mental disorder. Predictably, the Arizona tragedy has elicited calls for policy changes. But what, if anything, should be done differently?

The vast majority of severely mentally disordered individuals are not violent. Predicting which few without a prior history of violence will become violent is almost impossible. At the same time, proposals to protect society from the dangerously mentally ill pose basic civil-liberties issues.