March 12th, 2009
12:55 PM ET

Loners, losers – and killers

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/03/12/alabama.rampage.recovery/art.first.baptist.cnn.jpg caption="First Baptist Church in Samson, Alabama, held a Wednesday night prayer service. "]

James Alan Fox
Special to CNN

Massacre/suicide has become an all too familiar sight on the electronic pages of this and other news sites.

But Tuesday's rampage in Samson, Alabama - with a body count reaching to the double digits - forces us to struggle mightily in search of plausible explanations and effective solutions.

What could have prompted 28-year-old Michael McLendon to shoot to death his mother, grandmother, uncle, cousin and six others - some of whom appear just to have been in the worst place at the worst time - before turning the gun on himself?

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Filed under: Gun Control • Gun Violence
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Gary Ambridge

    Why haven't the news media or politicians demanded that assault weapons be outlawed. BTW the mass killings in Mexico by drug thugs use assault weapons bought in the USA.

    March 12, 2009 at 9:28 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    If the killers just shot those they held responsible for their misfortunes then why are children, especially babies, included in the toll? Those children haven't lived long enough to hurt anyone.

    March 12, 2009 at 8:49 pm |
  3. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    I think we want to ignore the signs that are there. It's hard to deal with the idea of someone we know being in trouble mentally. Even if we do know there is a problem, getting the person to get help is another matter completely. Either they fight it, lie to the therapist about what is really going on, or don't have options for help in the first place unless they are committed through the ER (and then if they lie their way through they can be out in no time). Usually the not getting help leads to disastrous results like we saw in this case. I feel so saddened for these families who lost loved ones.

    March 12, 2009 at 8:29 pm |
  4. Teresa

    I'm not sure these killers are mentally ill in the mentally ill sense.
    I think they are emotionally sick. Yes, there is something wrong in their thinking... but true mental illness is not just a "thinking" thang.

    I am fascinated that people dont understand that we as individuals and a society are partly responsible for these tragedies.

    If these killers are "loners and losers" as the title says: how did they become that way? who helped? Just like Madoff, these killers didnt act alone... they were helped along the way AND people stood by and watched. It's no mystery that so many shooters are so young, is it?

    March 12, 2009 at 7:02 pm |
  5. Justine

    @ Joanne

    I agree wholeheartedly with this. People refuse to look at themselves when trying to find the cause, the reason why these people would turn to violence. We need to address this problem, and make psychotherapy more accessible to everyone. I'm lucky my campus offers this service for free so I don't have to go far to find someone to talk to about any issues I'm dealing with.

    March 12, 2009 at 5:42 pm |
  6. Chris Sosa - Boston, MA

    Thank you for your insight, James! Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to take a class with you before I graduate from Northeastern University.

    You're right, Joanne. The inability of individuals to comprehend the concept of mental health seems highly rooted in a bias that arises from our culture's stubborn insistence that every choice we make is exclusively our own.

    The discussion needs to be expanded regarding mental health, and insurance companies have a duty to provide better coverage than the dismal amount they often do.

    Only when we face reality can we work to reverse these patterns of behavior.

    March 12, 2009 at 5:21 pm |
  7. Joanne Pacicca, Solvay, NY

    When will our society accept the fact that mental illness as a disease needs desparate attention?

    Until recently, medical insurance covered very little if nothing in treatment modalities.

    The stigma needs to be addressed. Perhaps then, these crimes will lessen.

    March 12, 2009 at 5:09 pm |
  8. Mari, Salt Lake City

    @ Toni Bruno............ SO sad, sorry to hear that this tragedy was so close to your home.

    I agree with BAZE...... too many guns, too many who do not own them responsibly, TOO many guns easily bought and sold on our streets.

    Yes, people kill people, but they too often use guns to kill with.

    All you have to do is look at the low rate of murders and crimes in Europe, to know that our laws are outdated and crazy.

    March 12, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  9. Neo

    drug control, gun control and psychotherapy (that's what's needed to lessen these crimes)

    March 12, 2009 at 4:05 pm |
  10. Isabel, Brazil

    Hi, James!

    These people are lost and this is a serious public health problem. It is increasingly, the rates are always growing and the government has to intervene, before such atrocities will routine (God forbid!)

    But how the government is not always fast and efficient, you journalists can help people to identify when someone next is wanting help.

    Do these people tried to express the sadness they felt, and nobody heard or understood?

    This is very hard and cruel. Worse, when we are living day after day with that person and we are blind by the rush of life, or when we think the situation is not as serious and when we see the worst happened.

    March 12, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  11. Toni Bruno

    Anderson this morning I woke to the news of ...Mother and 3 children...murdered..shot..stabbed...almost in my backyard{as to say}....what is going on in this world...this happened in Conover N.C. at 7am. today ... killer got away ..who..???/could do this ...why..innocent children..

    March 12, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  12. Baze

    Let this be a lesson to the idiots that still think it's ok for civilians to own assault weapons

    March 12, 2009 at 12:58 pm |