Aurora Shooting and Five Myths About Mass Shooters

In light of the Aurora theater shootings, I have a piece out in the Washington Post on five myths of mass shooters, the first being that "Shooters are Insane."

"Whether [suspect] [Holmes] could invoke an insanity defense will hinge on whether it can be proved that he had a mental condition that rendered him unable to distinguish right from wrong," I wrote. "In other words, if [suspect] Holmes says he carried out the shootings because aliens were guiding him, he might be deemed insane."

My piece comes out (online for now) just as news broke Friday that Holmes had seen a psychiatrist. It was unclear from the filings, which actually centered on leaks to the media, whether Holmes had been seeing Dr. Lynne Fenton at the time of the shootings. The filings were meant to address alleged news leaks regarding a package Holmes had sent to Fenton. Details of when the package arrived at the University of Colorado -- where Fenton works and where Holmes had attended school -- have been hotly debated because it is seen as a warning sign that could have stopped the shootings.

Among the other myths in the Washington Post piece: "Cutting down on illegal gun sales would help." Not necessarily, I wrote. "A friend of the Columbine shooters purchased at a gun show three of the four weapons they used and passed them on to the killers without breaking any laws. Holmes legally obtained four firearms from local gun stores, according to various news accounts."

The story comes out of my work covering the Aurora and Columbine shootings from the first hours, and my book Columbine: A True Crime Story.