In the hours and days following acts of mass violence, the highest elected officials are quick to make armchair diagnoses and thin promises for action. Friday’s tragic school shooting in Santa, Fe, Texas, which killed 10 people and injured 13 others, proved no different.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tried to circumvent the issue of gun control and call for hazardous one-entrance building codes. Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner renewed the call for metal detectors in all schools. Strident gun rights politician Gov. Greg Abbott has endorsed a mental health screening program and launched a series of roundtable discussions on gun control to begin Tuesday, all the while continuing to promote his shotgun giveaway online (which is far from his first) throughout the weekend. (Abbot changed the shotgun giveaway to a gift certificate raffle Monday morning.)
Unfortunately, the same impulse runs rampant in unelected leadership as well. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Oliver North, the incoming president of the National Rifle Association, claimed that the real issue with school shootings is actually Ritalin and a “culture of violence.”
“The problem we’ve got is we’re trying like the dickens to treat the symptom without treating the disease. And the disease, in this case, isn’t the Second Amendment,” North said. “The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence, they’ve been drugged in many cases. Nearly all of these perpetrators are male and they’re young teenagers in most cases
North continued: “Many of these young boys have been on Ritalin since they were in kindergarten. Now I’m certainly not a doctor, I’m a Marine, but I can see those kinds of things happening and endangering those two gals.”
Incoming @NRA President Oliver North says: "If school shield had been in place, far less likely that would have happened. "The disease in this case isn’t the 2nd amendment, the disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence, they've been drugged in many cases," pic.twitter.com/TrFFG0jHK0— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) May 20, 2018
North, very aware of his ignorance of the facts, circumvented any tangible change he could bring to change this culture of mass violence as the new NRA president and instead blamed mass shootings on the overmedication of children on Ritalin—and he did so on national television. In the specific case of the Santa Fe High School shooting, there has been no break in the case connecting the shooter’s actions to Ritalin or an ADHD diagnosis. North had no evidence to make this claim in the context of Friday’ shooting.
In fact, the Daily Beast reports that only 15 percent of all school shooters used psychiatric medications at the time of the attacks or had used them a month before. In the cases where Ritalin was involved—two shootings in 1998 and 2006—Peter Langman, a psychologist, school shooting expert, and director of SchoolShooter.info who spoke with the Daily Beast, found that Ritalin had improved the shooters’ behaviors and moods. However, both shooters had stopped taking the medications at least “several months” before carrying out their respective shootings.
“I’m not aware of any case of school shooter where there’s a link in psychiatric medication and school shooting,” Langman said. “We actually saw a decrease in violence as medication use increased [for both men and women].”
Blaming school shootings on a “culture of violence” is an age-old excuse used to redirect the conversation from gun control. North’s argument that young teenagers’ exposure to violence steeps from the Columbine mass shooting in 1999, and it became another thread of possible motivation after the Parkland shooting in February. It’s a murky claim that holds little evidence between media violence as fuel for carrying out actual violence, while media violence experts agree that access to guns increases “the risk of mass shootings and lethality of violence in general.”
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Update 12:27pm, May 21: This article has been updated to included new information about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s raffle.