The Shooting Spree Next Door

Published, NY Times: September 19, 1999

To the Editor:

As a psychotherapist who works with people afflicted with psychopathic disorders, I was disheartened by your implication that it is a kind of wishful thinking on the part of society to believe that shootings like the one in Fort Worth, Tex., can have a discernible psychological pathology, and therefore, a possible cure (editorial, Sept. 17). Rather, you say, ''there is only one overriding pathology, and it is guns.''

In fact, the psychopathy that can lead to such shootings is generally understood by mental health professionals to be a psychiatric disorder marked by a lack of empathy for other living beings and a numbness in general to feelings, combined with paranoid and grandiose delusional thinking that, unlike typical psychosis, can be hidden from the untrained eye behind a seemingly appropriate, acceptable facade.

Requiring mental and emotional evaluations as often as we require physical exams for school-age children would be a lot more practical and appropriate than focusing on eliminating guns through the legal system.

New York, Sept. 17, 1999