Gunman, 20, believed to be autistic

Right, there you have it. Case closed. Of course, some media outlets are describing him as ‘somewhat autistic’, because, well, yeah, that’s in the DSM.

ASAN has a statement.

And if he was on the spectrum? The current autism diagnosis rate is 1:88, so the statistical likelihood of an autistic person committing a crime is not inconsiderable. Add in the fact that at least 85% of us are bullied, both at school and in employment, that we are frequently excluded, blamed, physically assaulted. Remember that NTs talk about the difficulties people on the spectrum face, but when it comes to adjusting their own behaviour in order to help, or even just being accepting of autistic difference, it becomes more of a ‘pigs might fly’ scenario.

People rarely act in a vacuum. Of course, someone can have a psychotic episode, (Remember when the media diagnosis de jour for a criminal was schizophrenia? Then it switched to personality disorder, and now it’s autism. Whoop-te-doo.) but in acute psychosis an individual rarely has the capacity to carry out major crimes. Leaving out those who carry out mass murder for political or religious reasons, the one thing that seems to link shooters is a history of exclusion from the community. And I would be very surprised if that exclusion didn’t go back to primary school.

You don’t have to be autistic to be bullied (but it helps!), and sadly, the majority of adults see nothing wrong with allowing their own kids (or the kids they teach) to bully and exclude, based on disability, appearance, poverty, race… it’s an endless and arbitrary list. And it produces individuals who see their community as inherently unsafe. They will not seek help, they will not tell someone of their despair, rage and loathing, because they have tried in the past and nothing has changed.

Add in the inherent irrationality of the young adult brain and ready access to guns, and you have a disaster. It’s likely many teenagers resort to suicide rather than turning their anger outward. Still more will believe that they can only lead lives devoid of human interaction. But occasionally you will get something much worse.

I believe every life has value. Probably some of the more concerning personality types – sociopaths, psychopaths and so on – also have an underlying structural brain difference that cannot change. But this does not take away an individual’s value. It doesn’t mean they cannot be part of society. To do this, however, society needs to show kindness, and the ability to be open and accepting of someone else’s experiences. The willingness to work to harness everyone’s abilities. The willingness to keep trying, to never walk away.

Parents and schoolchildren have paid an awful price. The long term solutions are not rocket science. Take away guns, the means to kill so many in such a short space of time, treat every one you come into contact with as a valuable person, and teach kids to do the same. Rather than giving lip service to inclusion, work to make it a reality. Watch to see who is being excluded, and work to change that.

Because otherwise, this isn’t going to stop.