Is Laughner mentally ill?….too soon to know….

It is intriguing to observe the observers of the tragedy in Tucson regarding Jared Lee Laughner.  As the details and identity of the shooter trickled out the early commentators conjectured that this must be a “mentally unstable person”.  No one of sound mind could do something like this.  Purely speculating in the early hours of the tragedy Laughner was characterized as a sufferer of mental illness.  Randomly shooting innocent people certainly defies rational thought, but determining a person’s mental abilities without a shred of knowledge or history is rather irresponsible.

Six days out there is still very little information to determine Laughner’s mental state.  That is not deterring observers in the culture from concluding he is mentally ill based on…on what?  Reports use  these descriptors regarding his observed behavior; “creepy, weird, unstable, disturbed loner” as if those quoted have some evidence or inside first hand knowledge of both mental illness and Laughner.

What do you do with the other descriptors from family and friends?  His aunt described him as a beautiful, loving boy.  His girlfriend remembers him as “sweet, caring, and kind”.  Those words are foreign to the mental illness world and yet they come from people who knew him much better than those declaring him mentally unfit.

Just five years ago, Laughner was involved in a “normal” relationship with a “normal” girl.  They did the normal teenage budding romance things.  Movies, parties, high school dances.  Was Laughner suffering from mental illness then?  His break up with his girlfriend did not result in any immediate violent behavior.  Some time after, he began using drugs and alcohol.  Sometime after his behavior started to become erratic.  Did mental illness creep up on him?  Was he genetically disposed to irrational behavior and at a particular age it all kicked in?  Did he just snap for no apparent reason and go from the sweet, caring, kind 16-year-old to a psychopath in just five short years?

It is too early to pass judgement.  It is too soon to render a diagnosis.  Today, Jared Lee Laughner is in prison.  We don’t know if he is saying anything.  We are not privy to information concerning a diagnosis.  We know his behavior is irrational and abnormal.  But we don’t know anything that allows us to declare his mental capacity or state.

Evil manifests itself in many ways.  I will not be surprised as this moves forward and more information is gathered the findings will involve evil.  I will not be surprised that somewhere in Mr. Laughners journey we will discover evil took advantage of him in some defining way.  I will not be surprised to hear that someone betrayed his trust and he could not handle it nor recover.  I will not be surprised that he will be declared mentally coherent, not suffering from mental illness and responsible for his behavior and held accountable for his actions.  It is evil’s desire to destroy the glory of God.  It remains to be known if and what evil changed Jared Lee Laughner overnight.

About Bill Harbeck

Founder and Director of Holding on to Hope Ministries. A non-profit work that helps survivors of childhood sexual abuse unveil their past and begin the healing process. Author of the book Shattered; One Man's Journey from Childhood Sexual Abuse
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