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Lunatics Are Always on the Loose

        Of course a shooting rampage by a deranged student encourages some talk about preventative detention.  When the shooter is someone like Cho, who was obviously disturbed, had reportedly been disturbed since childhood, and had recently been held for a psych evaluation, people are naturally apt to imagine that the shooting could have been prevented.  Civil libertarians rightly condemn detentions based on fears of future behavior.  But I wouldn't disdain the poignant, underlying desire to believe that we can control the dangers around us, that we can discern patterns and order even in arbitrary, random violence that render it predictable.  People are, after all, only human.

        Fortunately, in the wake of the shooting, we have not simply been inundated with psychobabble and calls for preemptive action, as Harvey suggests.  NPR’s
Morning Edition hosted a thoughtful conversation about the impossibility of predicting violence. Slate senior editor Emily Bazelon wrote about the challenges of dealing with troubled students without reflexively curtailing their liberties.  Violence can’t be predicted, but deeply troubled people can be identified, counselled and at least offered treatment, sometimes with relative success; and, for what they're worth, laws against selling firearms to people with records of mental illness can be enforced.


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