Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Las Vegas and Mental Illness

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Las Vegas and Mental Illness

Article excerpt

Stephen Paddock was responsible for the most devastating mass shooting in modern U.S. history. After checking into a luxury suite at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Paddock spent three days preparing -- he installed video surveillance equipment in his room and in the hallway, transported 23 guns up to the 32nd floor and turned his room into a makeshift bunker. On the final night of the Route 91 Harvest Festival, he smashed out two windows with a hammer and opened fire on the concertgoers below.

The massacre left 58 people dead and about 500 injured. As SWAT teams converged on his room, Paddock committed suicide.

Speaking about the shooting on Tuesday morning, President Trump said Paddock was probably "a sick, demented man with a lot of problems." In a widely shared and warmly received monologue on Monday night, Jimmy Kimmel described Paddock as "a very sick person." These are observations many people reflexively make after heinous atrocities like the one we witnessed in Las Vegas -- what else could possibly explain such pointless, random cruelty? How could a man like Paddock be described as anything other than "demented" and "sick"?

There's just one problem: we have no idea if Paddock was, in fact, "sick." Investigators haven't found any evidence of mental illness in his past and his brother says there's no reason to believe they will. Of course, this doesn't prove that mental illness wasn't a factor -- we don't know what will be revealed in the coming weeks. Plus, Eric Paddock isn't exactly a good guide to Stephen's interior life -- despite the 47 guns he had accumulated since 1982, Eric says he never thought of his brother as an "avid gun guy."

That said, we shouldn't make unwarranted and premature assumptions about Paddock's mental health. When we do, we risk increasing the intense stigma that those with mental illnesses already face in our society. …

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