In My Opinion

Fred Grimm: Florida has too much “intermittent explosive disorder”

The National Institute of Mental Health has identified a malady called “intermittent explosive disorder,” a condition, NIMH reports, “marked by episodes of unwarranted anger.”

Add the proliferation of firearms, and IED can turn deadly. Think of it as the Florida disease.

“Unwarranted anger” surely describes Monday’s shooting in a Pasco County moviehouse that left a 43-year-old man dead and his wife wounded. Most Americans would categorize a deadly altercation over someone texting during the previews as “unwarranted,” though the shooter might find refuge in Florida’s famously permissive self-defense laws.

It was the utter banality of the dispute that held the country’s attention through a day’s news cycle (until a 12-year-old shot two fellow students at a Roswell, New Mexico, middle school on Tuesday). In a nation that records 30 gun-related murders a day (along with 162 gun maimings and 53 firearm suicides), the killing at the Wesley Chapel cinemaplex grabbed the collective imagination, because it added to the sense that in our gun-toting society, any damn idiot squabble could lead to homicide.

“You don't shoot someone over a texting incident,” Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco insisted after retired cop Curtis Reeves was charged with the murder.

In Florida, maybe so. Reeves’ attorney was already talking self-defense Tuesday, arguing that the victim had thrown something at Reeves. “At that point in time he has every right to defend himself.”

Witnesses said it was popcorn that got tossed at Reeves. But it wasn’t popcorn or a cell phone that escalated a petty argument into the stuff of national fascination. It was the .380-caliber handgun Reeves pulled from his pants pocket. It was yet another confirmation that, nowadays, intermittent explosive disorder can come with a bullet.

According to NIMH, IED (excluding cases of bi-polar disorder and antisocial or borderline personality disorders) affects some 7.3 percent of adults. It seems as if we have more than our share in Florida.

It was a loud radio, blaring from a car full of teenagers parked at a convenience store, that irritated Michael Dunn, a 46-year-old Brevard County software developer. His burst of pique came with a 9 mm pistol. He fired four shots, killing a 17-year-old. Dunn’s murder trial is set for Feb. 3 in Jacksonville. On Nov. 3, three days before that shooting, a jury found 71-year-old Trevor Dooley guilty of killing a 41-year-old man in front of his eight-year-old daughter in a Hillsborough County park. The two had been arguing over another kid skateboarding on the basketball court.

We’ve seen road-rage shootings. We’ve had angry drunks ejected from bars and coming back blazing. And more angry shootings are on their way: Just last week, the state’s gunslingers filed a lawsuit to force the University of Florida to allow students to keep guns in their dorm rooms.

That’s something worth pondering for the parents of Florida’s college kids, mindful that, nowadays, “intermittent explosive disorder” often comes locked and loaded.

Read more Fred Grimm stories from the Miami Herald

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