California law gave police and therapists all the tools they needed to prevent troubled college student Elliot Rodger from carrying out his bloody spree, psychoanalyst and author Heath King told Newsmax TV on Friday.
"This could have been potentially averted," King told "America's Forum" hosts J.D. Hayworth and John Bachman.
"California has changed its laws with regard to therapist-patient privilege," said King, explaining that "privacy laws have been loosened for the benefit of society" with such cases of imminent harm in mind.
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Applying the law, he said, might have saved all seven people, including 22-year-old Rodger, who died last Friday in what the perpetrator himself called a long-planned "Day of Retribution" against his perceived enemies.
King and two other "America's Forum" guests pointed to a number of red flags raised by Rodger's personal history and behavior that, in hindsight, might have tipped off others to the danger he posed.
Rodger stabbed, shot and car-crashed his way through the campus town of Isla Vista— where he once attended Santa Barbara Community College — before turning a gun on himself. Another dozen people were injured in an assault Rodger said beforehand was to punish women who had spurned him.
Panelists including Newsmax contributors Morgan Thompson and James Hirsen also debated how much influence violent media might have had on Rodger, a self-described video game addict who admitted in a rambling written manifesto that he took pleasure in his simulated kills.
"It's a contributing factor and it's a warning sign," West Coast correspondent Hirsen said of immersion in violent, role-playing video games like those Rodger preferred.
The biggest warning sign of all lay just out of view of sheriff's deputies, who interviewed Rodger at his apartment on April 30, unaware that guns and ammunition sat in the next room.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff's deputies showed up after hearing from Rodger's therapist, who had in turn received a phone call from Rodger's increasingly anxious mother.
King argued that chain of notifications empowered Rodger's therapist to waive patient privilege and police to get a search warrant. "That's exactly what the sheriff's deputy should have done," said King.
Deputies even knew of — but had not watched — the hate-filled video diaries Rodger had posted online. The meeting went no further than questioning. The Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office has said deputies lacked probable cause to detain Rodger or search his home.
The killings have also reignited the debate over gun ownership. Rodger bought his firearms legally.
"There's room for debate about that," said King, "but the … dimension of this problem goes far beyond that, and so it's no point just addressing the symptoms — which is the use of guns. You've got to get to the cause. And the cause is to be found in the family nucleus and in our culture."
The evidence of culture's role in such killings is still producing what Newsmax's Thompson called "chicken and egg" debates. Do violent video games cause aggressive behavior or are "aggressive people … drawn to these types of these games?" said Morgan.
Newsmax's Bachman pointed to federal statistics showing that youth arrests for violent crime have dropped since the 1990s.
Brad Bushman, a professor of communications and psychology at Ohio State University, said studies show personality traits of the kind that Rodger seemed to exhibit in his videos and manifesto — narcissism and a "sense of entitlement"— are on the rise.
"We do know over time narcissism levels are increasing and over the same period of time empathy levels are decreasing," said Bushman. "That's not good when people become more self-centered. And media contribute to that."
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