Plan to Stop Mass Shootings? Monitor Phones of Mentally Ill


The Trump administration is considering “novel” approaches to stop mass-shootings. Of course, the administration is not considering restricting the sale of military armaments to the nation’s average HVAC installer or PE teacher. No, the latest ideas focus upon monitoring the “mentally ill,” perhaps from their phones. Via the Washington Post:

Advisers to Wright quickly pulled together a three-page proposal — called SAFEHOME for Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes – which calls for exploring whether technology like phones and smart watches can be used to detect when mentally ill people are about to turn violent.

Under no circumstances will you ever hear me make light of the ravages of mental illness, or pass up an opportunity to highlight the need for better, more compassionate healthcare for such insidious diseases. And we do certainly need to discuss mental health issues with regard to the mass-shooting epidemic.

However, fighting mental illness as the primary approach to decreasing mass-shootings is, well, insane. As you might guess, it is exceedingly difficult to effectively predict which people needing care are the type that will soon turn to violence.

“I would love if some new technology suddenly came along that would help us identify violent risk, but there’s so many things about this idea of predicting violence that doesn’t make sense,” said Marisa Randazzo, former chief research psychologist for the U.S. Secret Service.


Nor does it make any sense to take a gun designed to mow down fifty enemy fighters on a battlefield and sell that gun to the average produce section manager in Tulsa.

There are a few other pragmatic concerns about monitoring the phones of select at-risk people:

Beyond the civil liberty concerns about monitoring people through their gadgets, Randazzo said, there’s the problem of false positives.

Even if the technology could be developed, such a program would likely flag tens, or hundreds of thousands, more possible suspects than actual shooters. How, she asked, would you sort through them? And how would you know you were right, given the difficulty of proving something that hasn’t happened?

Yes, I can see how it might be a difficult correlation.

However, I have no difficulty correlating mass-shootings, especially those involving double digit victims, with the AR-15 and variants thereof. Indeed, we are getting to a point where it is a near 1:1 “correlation.” This nation once had the good sense to ban assault rifles like the AR-15.

Of course, addressing the AR-15 correlation is off the table, a non-starter. This country lacks the requisite mental health to gauge cause and effect, benefits versus costs, freedom to arm versus freedom to go out in public.

I would like to be able to take the Administration’s concern about mental illness and its role in mass shootings more seriously. But Republicans have been indefatigable in their effort to rid many Americans of access to healthcare generally (especially those with pre-existing conditions, such as mental illness). It is exceedingly difficult to imagine Republicans funding medical interventions that both help the sick and protect the innocent.

The current focus on mental illness” seems designed primarily to distract from the real question about deranged thought. Just what the fck are we doing selling military weaponry to the average Dorito-eating American?


Peace, y’all

Jason, and please follow me on Twitter @MiciakZoom



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10 Comments on "Plan to Stop Mass Shootings? Monitor Phones of Mentally Ill"

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p j evans

It feeds the idea (loved by the right) that everyone with mental-health problems is going to be violent at some point, even if the actual probability is close to zero for 99% of them.


W.T.A.F. All of these points take a problem, make it worse, and then propose the exact wrong solution. Not to mention ignoring the rights of people experiencing intense emotional states. Multiple disability rights organizations are working on rebuttal statements now, but don’t expect to see pushback from NAMI.


Given the number of preemptive arrests on would-be shooters that happened right after that deadly weekend, I’m left to wonder if the FBI already has a far effective methodology which is in play than this Ponzi scheme.

p j evans

I think a lot of those were of people who had been making threats already.


Yeah, people have gotten VERY lousy at keeping secrets in the online age. I wouldn’t be surprised if most to all of them posted it up on an online forum for all and sundry to see. It’s a better predictor than the mental illness crap (does anyone else not see the irony of our first objectively mentally disturbed “president” pushing for this?).

p j evans

Some people – particularly conservatives – seem to think that when they turn the computer off, the stuff they typed will disappear, the way they think that what they say and do disappears when the cameras and microphones are shut off.


And by amazing coincidence, some people are overconfident idiots about how modern tech works.

dana fairfield

I like the caption on the Trump photo accompany this Daily Kos diary on the same subject ( “Yeah, if only you could tell who was about to go off the deep end based on their phone usage.”

Markm Mitchell

No NRA !