Can Locking Up Dangerous Mentally Ill People Prevent Mass Shootings?


A consensus is building in Colorado to improve emergency mental health services, allow more dangerously mentally ill people to be locked up before a crisis, and make it harder for them to find guns, reports the Denver Post. Health and legal experts warn the stronger steps will still miss people like Aurora theater shooter James Holmes, while shifting focus away from less dramatic steps that have proved more effective. They also say that increased threats of involuntary commitments and taking away the gun rights of troubled patients — made national by President Barack Obama’s executive orders last week — will dissuade many from seeking treatment in the first place.

Victims of the July 2012 theater shootings underlined the debate with a lawsuit against Holmes’ psychiatrist and his university for failing to lock him up on a mental illness hold before his alleged rampage. “When tragedies like this happen, people are upset, they want to say ‘I did something,’ especially elected officials. I get that,” said Moe Keller of the patient and family advocacy group Mental Health America of Colorado. But, Keller added, holding more people against their will “doesn’t do any good if you don’t have the resources there to provide treatment to that person.”

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