In contemplating these mass shootings and how they might be stopped, something that we have learned from suicide prevention might apply. When the Duke Ellington Bridge in DC had a preventive barrier installed, there was no increase in suicides from the nearby Taft Bridge. In general, impulsive suicides can be reduced by any interruption in the plan. We hear patients tell us “the rope broke.” We don’t ask why they didn’t just get another rope, but the question occurs to us. Depressed people have a plan in mind, and if it is interrupted, some of them just seem to accept that’s that and cease the attempt. As near as we can tell, there is an intense narrowing of focus, a type of dissociative or otherwise distant state in which the individual experiences himself as on a particular path that heads in only one direction.
Patients will even use the phrase “It’s like the spell was broken.” Interesting to contemplate. From what I read of mass shooters, expected obstacles are no problem, and after the excitement switch is turned on by the first shots (or breaking glass, curiously), further interruptions are overridden without pause. I do wonder if something that interrupted the act earlier in the chain might break spell. The shooters do often close the event by committing suicide, so there is that similarity. But the interruption gambit tends to work best on impulsive suicide, and mass shootings seem to be more planned events.
Still, we don’t know. We seem to assume if the killer missed the 9AM bus he would just take the 10, or that if the weather was bad Friday he would come back Monday. Perhaps not. The need for drama may be such that preventing things from having their giant impact might be enough to prevent them altogether.