Dr's In: A mindless killing in Wesley Chapel

Upscale people live in Wesley Chapel, FL. Recently, a moviegoer upset that a man sitting in front of him was texting, shot him dead and wounded his wife. The movie had not started.

Another patron, an off duty lawman, held the gunman until his arrest. The 71 year old gunman is a retired police captain, according to news reports.  Others tried unsuccessfully to help the victim.

Wesley Chapel, the community that spawned Saddlebrook Resort, the home of many tennis greats, joins the locations across the nation where mindless shootings have erupted.

I suspect the gun lobby will defend gun rights. It may suggest that had other patrons in the theater pulled guns, the perpetrator would have been thwarted in his efforts. Perhaps the movie ushers should carry guns. Theater employees could stroll down the aisles ready to shoot or handcuff suspicious characters watching the movie.

The Wesley Chapel tragedy adds to the carnage that Americans have witnessed for decades. The first one I remember is the 1966 Texas University massacre by Charles Whitman, who shot and killed 17 people and wounded 35 more from his perch atop the school bell tower.

Whitman was a former Marine and hunter. He displayed telltale signs of mental illness. Now, killings by deranged gunmen are commonplace.

My recommendations to curb this slaughter remain unchanged:

·         No one should be able to purchase a gun without a comprehensive background check.

·         No one should purchase a gun without completing an approved gun-safety course.

·         All guns should be registered.

·         No military style weapons should be in the hands of the untrained.

·         Magazine capacities should be limited to five rounds.

·         Guns must be purchased through authorized dealers.

·         Severe penalties should be meted out to those who ignore the above policies

·         State mental hospitals and reception centers should be adequately funded and all U.S residents should have access to comprehensive mental health care.

I am not against guns. I own them. As an Army private in basic training during the Vietnam conflict, I trained on many types of weaponry. I practice gun safety at home, keeping them properly secured. Guns are very dangerous in the hands of the untrained or the mentally ill.

If reports are accurate that the shooter was a retired police captain, what could have prevented this tragedy?

In the weeks to follow, we will learn more about the casualties and the shooter. My thoughts and prayers are to the victim’s family; this needless calamity cannot be explained or understood.


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Robie Waterworth January 17, 2014 at 05:44 AM
I completely agree with all that you wrote
Shelly January 17, 2014 at 08:12 AM
I So Agree to your statement! Our son was allowed to walk into a Walmart, purchase a rifle!!!,require NO background check nothing!! he had been under care right here at Baycare but his Dr Theiman decided to leave on vacation, not leaving him a refill for his med's for over 2 weeks! He took his own life.
Georgia Robinson January 17, 2014 at 08:45 AM
You are absolutely correct. why is this thinking so foreign to so many?
Lourin January 17, 2014 at 09:02 AM
Oh Dear God In Heaven Shelly, I am so sorry! I loved Sheriff Nocco's interview with CNN .. If you can locate it on line it's worth watching. God Rest the Souls of those gone too soon and the Families that now have to find a way to go on, irrevocably broken, shattered and forever changed.
Marc J. Yacht MD, MPH January 17, 2014 at 09:12 AM
Thanks All for your comments. Sensible gun policy continues to allude us as a nation. It will come about when legislators act responsibly and do what's right. They will also respond when the fear of voter backlash overcomes their grabbing anti gun regulation lobbying dollars. Shelly accept my profound sympathies on the loss of your son.
dollydaggero5 January 17, 2014 at 09:35 AM
vincent gimble January 17, 2014 at 09:41 AM
Yes I too remember the 1966 Austin, tx incident. But you're way off base with this article stating that mentally deranged people should not be able to get a firearm. While this is true, thus former police captain ALREADY had not only a firearm but a permit to carry the concealed weapon. What happens when people legally get a firearm then become deranged Yeats later? That us obviously what happened here, but more importantly you missed a very strong point: Florida and many states have become gun happy and it has become the norm to settle disputes with a gun. What makes Florida worse than other states is that it seems most everyone here is so angry- about what I don't know but its like people want to shoot then hide behind this "stand your ground" defense. It is not going to happen in this case because a former captain should have known that throwing popcorn dies not constitute someone's life being in danger & he was well aware of the consequences of his actions. This state is trigger happy and stand your ground was definitely not needed and certainly has made matters worse. But the good ole boys who run this state will never see this point of view. It will only get worse.
Marc J. Yacht MD, MPH January 17, 2014 at 09:58 AM
Thanks DollyD, Vincent - good points. If good policy is put in place we will not end the violence just reduce the risk and hopefully have less violence. I would also state - that "gun Happy" is becoming a cultural norm in many places! The "Stand Your Ground" law has added fuel to an already raging fire in Florida. I appreciate your comments.
Grace January 17, 2014 at 10:44 AM
As usual Doc you are right on the money. All good suggestions, but Jesus will come back before Tallahassee even considers any of your suggestions (total lack of common sense in this state!) In our area there is a man who has major anger management issues and he obtained a concealed weapon permit. In fact his wife moved to the west coast to get away from him. He owns a glock. Since we all found out, we do what we can to avoid him. The man had also been to a psychiatrist but that didn't stop him from getting the gun. SCARY! He thinks that the shooter in WC was justified in doing what he did. It's all about COMMON SENSE, something which disappeared in America after the election of 2000!
Nancy MacDonald January 17, 2014 at 10:53 AM
Dear Vincent, I agree about the intense anger I feel in the Florida society. Rage probably erupts from a deep place psychologically, but when allowed a social outlet that is covered by law it becomes dangerous. A man who picked me up to transport me to a clinic said even though he is a gun owner, while he is in traffic and someone next to him gets irritated with his driving they will pull alongside him and point to the gun lying along side the seat on the passenger side. Here's another thing, because I find the light from a person's cell phone or camera interferes with my visual concentration at Ruth Eckerd Hall or at the movie theater, I am often caught in a bind. It can become so intense in my mind that the ushers do not tell the person to shut it off, that it can become a reason that I no longer want to pay the money to go to some high end expensive entertainment and it may be that the Netflix less enjoyable but private viewing is the less enjoyable alternative. We are really in need of good gun laws and enforcement of appropriate social behavior within these places that we think are enforcing their codes of conduct.
J N January 18, 2014 at 02:26 AM
You don't know the circumstances. You don't know the reasoning. You're calling the actions of a former highly ranked law enforcement officer "mindless" without any justification for doing so. And finally, you're proposing a bunch of laws that would target ME and my freedoms based on his actions—actions you're up on your soapbox about before there has even been a trial. Your chain of illogic recounted above means there's only one response to people like you. Want my extended magazines? Come and take them; the ammo they hold helps defend against people like you. As for free mental health care for everybody: how about you pay for yours and I'll pay for mine? If you want to pay for someone else's, maybe you can think of a way to do that without taking the money from other Americans by force. You know, they used to have 75% more institutions in this nation, and an according level of confinement of the mentally ill. Guess who shut down so many of the institutions and insisted they wanted the crazies out on the streets? Bleeding hearts like yourself. But violent crime is at a 21-year low in spite of that bad decision, and yet you want more and more restrictions on firearms...
Marc J. Yacht MD, MPH January 18, 2014 at 05:34 AM
To each his own soapbox. Stick to the issues you know nothing about me. I advocated to keep the mental hospitals opened. I continue to advocate that. Since the "popcorn" shooting in Wesley Chapel there was another shooting in New Mexico and and Philadelphia. The carnage continues. I don't want to take your guns away I just want the country a little safer if you are going to have them. Thank you for your comments.
Bob Langford January 18, 2014 at 07:25 AM
Great observations Marc. I also remember the beginning from the Tower on the University campus in Texas. Sad then and continues today. I thought that the shooter in WC had all the requirements to have and carry a gun until he went nuts that day! Vincent Gimble addressed that pretty well. I believe, as you, that it's perfectly okay to have guns as long as you're responsible in both knowledge of use and safety. The mental health part of owning a gun should come into play as any requirement. And with folks like JN here, it will only get harder, along with Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. It's far from a perfect world.
Marc J. Yacht MD, MPH January 18, 2014 at 08:10 AM
Thanks Bob: The gun issue is a polarizing one. Sadly, policy has not come forth to dampen the tragedies that also include accidents and suicides. 30,000+ a year die due to guns. As I have stated, I am an owner yet I cannot blind myself to the ongoing carnage relating to the mentally deranged (temporary or otherwise) as well as the lack of sensible gun policy. Add the frustrations of unemployment and poverty and you have what is described as "The Perfect Storm" for community violence.
Grace January 18, 2014 at 08:34 AM
The reason why guns are a polarizing issue is due to groups like the NRA which "buy" politicians and spend millions to influence public opinion. In my old neighborhood we found out that one of the neighbors owned over 30 guns and nobody knew until after Tropical Storm Debbie when somebody broke into his home and stole his gun safe. (He had been evacuated) Why would anyone need 30 guns? Since we aren't going to stick to the Founding Father's view of guns and there are 300 million of them, there should be some common sense rules. Why not tax them? Why not register them? Why not have responsible gun ownership? Nobody is coming to take them away and I have the right also to not allow guns in my home. If you want one, that's your business. I see absolutely no need to have so many guns and to see such senseless killings. 2 school shootings so far in January! A disgrace. With the cuts that the GOP wants to implement to groups which need help, the poor and seniors and unemployed, I can see your "perfect storm" happening one day.
Marc J. Yacht MD, MPH January 18, 2014 at 11:43 AM
Good comments - only one problem - I am sorry to say - the "Perfect Storm" is here, we are living it. Since the Wesley Chapel shooting there have been two school shootings. One in New Mexico and one in Philadelphia. The carnage continues. One argument against gun control (which I do not agree with) is that we have so many guns out there already - what's the point! We will see many more horrifics before responsible people with the right kind of influence (elected officials) do what's right for the safety of our communities.
vincent gimble January 18, 2014 at 02:06 PM
TO J N - yes, i do know the circumstances and most definatly yes this was a mindless act. What makes this act so heinous is exactly what you say in your post - just the mnere fact that this individual was a highly ranked law enforcement officer makes this act more heinous and mindless. He miss abused all power. He knew before hand what would;d be the consequences of his actions - he is no longer a law enforcement officer and he chose to be the cop, the judge and the executioner all in one heinous, mindless act of ANGER. He already knew that he would be facing jail time for even taking out his weapon and brandishing it to the victim, let alone shooting and killing him - all for what? popcorn being thrown at him??? Now a little girl is without a father a wife without a husband having to live with extreme trauma and possible loss of use of her hand and I'm sure even this bozo of an ex bad cop has loved ones who will see him die in prison. who wins here? the defense attorney who will be paid tens of thousands of dollars to defend this idiot knowing all the while he cannot be defended. There is no defense attorney who walks on this earth that will convince a jury that this rouge cop's actions were justified or substantiated in any way, shape or formm. He will die in prison for what? FOR BEING ANGRY AND HAVI9NG TO WIN A POINT AND GET HIS WAY. So your rights are being violated??? who the heck cares about your rights. My rights are being violated every time I go to an airport and have to be searched just because of a handful of terrorists who decided to attack the U.S. on 9/11. My rights are being violated by having to take a drug test for employment because of a few bad apples that do drugs. My rights are being violated by the NSA which collects phone data on me just because of a handful of terrorists. Your rights and any gun owners rights should be violated also for the handful of people who use a gun to kill others because they think they have the right to interpret this ridiculous "stand your ground" law for their own self interests. What do you suggest? every time somebody's cell phone rings in a restaurant just shoot them because they are annoying you? Just shoot a baby because they are crying and they are annoying you? You're the one with a very dirty soapbox. You are just as angry as anyone else who owns a gun and thinks he has the right of entitlement. If this bad cop had any sense of the law, why didn't he just move to another seat if the texter was annoying him? It was a monday morning - i would be willing to bet my bank account that no more than 10 people were in that theater. With people like yourself who think that they have a God given right to own firearms, Florida has become an ANGRY trigger happy gun mentality state with totally uneducated morons who think that just because they hear something that sounds good, it's OK to act upon it. You talk of the constitution and your right to own firearms - well the constitution ALREADY has provisions that exist in where you can defend yourself in case your life is in danger - this "stand your ground" good ole boy crapicola is totally unnecessary to say the least - and nobody's life is in danger for having popcorn thrown at them. Gee I think I'll bring a handgun to Gasparilla next week and shoot all those who throw beads at me. I should have the right, no? After all beads are heavier than popcorn and surely my life is in danger when someone throws beads at me, no? jerk.
Marc J. Yacht MD, MPH January 18, 2014 at 06:47 PM
I am very pleased to see folks stand up to the anti-gun regulation bullies. They scream second amendment rights. There is nothing in my article that denies anyone any right. They name call - in my articles I've been called a bleeding heart, liberal, and much worse. The name calling is because they're typically ignorant of the issues and have to fall back on character assassination. Vincent your points are excellent. I could not have said them better. I hope we are turning a page in the dialogue for sensible gun regulation. My message to the politicians, you still need the votes in spite of the anti-regulation money. I would take very careful heed of the mood of an ever growing public that is weary of the ongoing tragedies. My best to all. MJY


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