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When Republican Congressman Tim Murphy posted on Facebook that a stabbing and fatal shooting at Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue in Brooklyn a week before Hannukah was another preventable tragedy, some had doubts about his prescription to treat bigotry and violence. Rep. Murphy, a psychologist, has prescribed his Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis bill as a panacea for every societal ill – from spree killings to suicide, homelessness and crime.



The violent attack at a Brooklyn synagogue came on the heels of the May 24, 2014 shooting spree that left four dead at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, and the March 19, 2012 shooting spree that left four dead at Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse.

Toulouse killer Mohammad Merah, an Al-Qaeda militant, had been on a terror watch list since 2008 after being caught planting bombs in Afghanistan.  Brussels killer Mehdi Nemmouche, an Islamic State militant, was identified by French journalist and former hostage Nicolas Henin as being one of his captors and torturers in Syria.

After casing the Brooklyn synagogue twice earlier in the evening, Calvin Peters charged into Chabad-Lubavitch in the early morning on December 9, 2014, stabbing 22 year-old Israeli student Levi Rosenblatt multiple times, before being shot dead by police.  According to a Chabad-Lubavitch spokesperson, witnesses heard Peters shout repeatedly "Kill the Jews!"

Memories were still fresh from the April 13, 2014 Passover Eve shooting spree targeting the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and the Village Shalom retirement community in Overland Park, where neo-Nazi Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr. opened fire, killing three.  Miller, a white-supremacist and former Grand Dragon of the Klu Klux Klan in North Carolina, was reportedly heard yelling "Heil Hitler!" as he was taken into custody.

The Brooklyn synagogue attack was also reminiscent of the July 28, 2006 shooting spree targeting the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, where Naveed Afzal Haq shot six women, killing one.  According to a probable cause affidavit, Haq told a 911 dispatcher, "These are Jews and I'm tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East."

In 2009, the FBI foiled a plot to detonate explosives at Riverdale Temple and Riverdale Jewish Center in the Bronx; four men - identifying themselves as Abdul Rahman, Daoud, Hamza, and Amin - were each convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison.  On an FBI surveillance video released as part of a recent documentary film, Abdul Rahman can be heard commenting on the selection of Riverdale Temple as a bomb target: "I hate those bastards... Those f***ing Jewish bastards."

So what did Rep. Murphy mean when he said that another attack against Jews on U.S. soil was preventable?  That the country should step up security at Jewish sites?  No.  That we should confront a culture that has fostered racism and anti-Semitism?  No.
  
E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist and founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), supports Murphy's bill and lobbies for involuntary Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) and psychotropic medication of the mentally ill.  TAC maintains a so-called "Preventable Tragedies Database" on its website.

Among the "preventable tragedies" in TAC's database is the story of Mansor Mohammad Asad.  Mr. Asad disrupted Delta Northwest Airlines flight 2485 bound for Detroit from Miami International Airport on January 6, 2010 when he shouted "I want to kill all the Jews!"  According to court documents, Asad had a lengthy prior rap sheet, which included two counts of assault on a police officer. Asad pleaded guilty to disrupting a flight, was placed on a federal "no-fly" list, and was ordered to pay the airline $27,500 in restitution.



Another story in TAC's "Preventable Tragedies Database" is that of Saudi national Yazeed Mohammed Abdulrahman Abu Nayyan.  On February 21, 2012, Abu Nayyan was removed from Continental Airlines flight 1118 from Portland to Houston after invoking the name of Osama bin Laden, swinging his fist at a flight attendant, and spewing hatred for women.   Earlier that week, Abu Nayyan led police in Oregon on a car chase, ramming into two police vehicles.

Abu Nayyan pleaded guilty to state charges of attempting to elude law enforcement and criminal mischief, as well as federal charges of interfering with a flight crew.  He was ordered to pay restitution and returned to his native Saudi Arabia - where he now stands accused of the April 8, 2015 assassination of two police officers in Riyadh.  Saudi officials say Abu Nayyan confessed to the killings, and they believe he acted with the assistance of the Islamic State militant group.    



In a position paper entitled "No Room at the Inn," of which Dr. Torrey is the lead author, TAC also cites the 2006 Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle shootings as an avoidable consequence of public psychiatric hospital closings from 2005-2010.  Rejecting claims of insanity, jurors convicted Naveed Afzal Haq in 2009 of first-degree murder, attempted murder, unlawful imprisonment, and malicious harassment - the state's hate crime statute. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus 120 years.



During a congressional hearing on Murphy's bill on June 16, 2015, former Congressman Patrick J. Murphy testified, "The notion that we treat these issues as moral issues as opposed to medical issues is really the central issue before this committee."


The fundamental flaw with the medical approach of "treating" violence is that hate crimes are more a product of what is in people's hearts than of what is in their minds.

Accused Charleston spree killer Dylann Roof wore symbols of racist oppression, expressed hatred of another race, and intended to strike terror in the African-American community and ignite a race war.

Misogyny appears to have been the motive for Isla Vista spree killer Elliot Rodger, who sought to punish random members of a gender with death for the slight of not having sex with him.

Rather than target a particular religion, race or gender, misanthropic Aurora theater shooter James Holmes hated the entire human race indiscriminately, referring contemptuously to the people he intended to slaughter as "sheeple".


What unites these cases more than mental illness is hatred.

Claims by Murphy, Torrey, Kennedy and others that somehow modern medicine can predict or even prevent such violent acts are false on their face, and amount to nothing more than shameless promotion of their respective self-interests.

If anything, these cases argue more forcefully against their proposed mental health interventions.

Toxicology results showed Elliot Rodger had "benzodiazepines and alprazolam present within the body" at the time of his death.  A recent Karolinska Institutet study found an elevated risk of homicide associated with benzodiazepines, and to a lesser extent antidepressants.

Psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Fenton testified during James Holmes' trial on June 16, 2015 that she prescribed him 150 mg of the antidepressant sertraline and .5 mg of the benzodiazepine clonazepam. District Attorney George Brauchler asked Dr. Fenton during direct examination, "Did he ever tell you that he wanted to stop the sertraline?"  She replied, "No."

Medical records released as part of a recent documentary film revealed Riverdale Temple bomb plot conspirator Amin, aka Laguerre Payen, was reportedly prescribed 50 mg of the antidepressant Celexa (citalopram hydrobromide) and 100 mg of the antipsychotic Seroquel (quetiapine fumarate).

In defense of his client Yazeed Abu Nayyan's crimes in Oregon, attorney Mark Cogan argued in court, "The cause for all these events was a change in the medication that was made by a doctor in California."

Clearly, modern medicine has not advanced to the point where it can cure hatred or prevent violence.

Filtering hate crimes through the prism of mental illness is problematic, for reasons President Obama has articulated: "The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people. It's not the only country that has psychosis. And yet we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than any place else."