RFK, Jr. Might Have a Point on Causes of Mass Shootings

AP Photo/Cliff Owen

I've been skeptical of RFK, Jr. since he announced his candidacy for president. For one thing, he was running against an incumbent initially in a party that had no interest in anyone sharing the stage. For another, the guy is kind of a kook.

He's said a lot of things over the years that qualify as "bothersome."

And while he's said that he doesn't think gun control works, he's still willing to sign an assault weapon ban into law.

But right now, he's coming under fire for something he said some time back about mass shootings. More specifically, the potential causes of them.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has a reputation for promoting pseudoscience. But in a recently surfaced interview, Kennedy makes one of his wildest claims yet: that the rise in mass shootings over the past 20 years is due to antidepressants and video games.

During a January interview with Turkish state-owned TRT World, Kennedy claimed that in the past 20 years in the United States, “there’s been no per capita increase in the number of guns we have in this country.

He argued that other causes needed to be studied, such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), commonly used as antidepressants, and video games. Kennedy also claimed that the National Institutes of Health hasn’t been allowed to study the cause of gun violence in America since 1996.

Of course, the writer labels this as "pseudoscience" and RFK, Jr. actually is notorious for this. He's very anti-vaccine--and not just the COVID jab, either--and he's knee-deep in the pseudoscience known as climate change.

Yeah, I know, some people think that's real, but some people think communism works, so...

The author also takes issue with the claim that there's been no per capita increase in the number of guns we have in this country, which I think they're probably right about. We likely disagree as to whether this is a good or bad thing, but I think they're right.

Kennedy is probably wrong about video games as a contributor for one simple reason: The drop in the homicide rates in this country coincides with the rise of video games as a form of entertainment. If they drove people to violence, it would seem likely it wouldn't just be a small handful of people who are driven to massacre people while everyone else becomes more chill. Human psychology doesn't work that way.

But when I read this, I was ready to dismiss everything Kennedy said, until I thought about a recent conversation with a young man in his 20s. He mentioned having been on anti-depressants for a time until he tried one that made him want to kill people. He got off of the drug and hasn't had an issue since. Yet I couldn't help but think about this story when I tought about RFK's comments.

I'm not saying that he's right, mind you, but what if SSRIs do actually have that effect on a small number of people and, in conjunction with some other factors, triggers the most horrific aspects of human personalities.

Has this been looked at? 

I ask because all the criticisms seem to dismiss it outright, but human physiology can do some weird things. I know the young man's story I recounted above isn't unique, either. I've heard similar accounts before, just not from people I knew personally. 

While RFK has some kooky ideas, I'm not as ready to dismiss this one.

Especially when people really, really want to blame guns instead, all without a shred of evidence that guns are in any way responsible for the actions of homicidal individuals. I can't help but think that unless guns are possessed, cursed objects that make people insane, we really need to look at why people do things like this.

If it's SSRIs, we need to figure out why it helps some and makes things worse for others.

Yet we shouldn't just dismiss the question without evidence it's wrong.