That distinction is described in Clayton Cramer's newest book in which he points out that every one of these non-political mass murderers had some sort of serious mental illness that in earlier decades would have resulted in their involuntary committment. He also points out that astonishing rise in violent crime in the 60's and 70's coincided almost exactly with the left's (led by the ACLU) push to deinstitutionalize these psychotic individuals.
The brilliance of the Left, and the MSM's shilling of the leftist points, is that they institute a policy that is sure to lead to an increase in human misery (in this case, deinstitutionalization), and then find a way to blame liberty itself for the inevitable tragedies.
So, according to the MSM, the way to keep psychotics from obtaining firearms is to prevent everyone from obtaining firearms. So we get proposals to enhance "background checks" for people with mental illness -- surely the definition that the left will insist on will include minor neuroses to which virtually everyone at some point in his or her life is subject, rather than the obvious altnernative of figuring out a civil commmittment procedure that treats the treatable, and protects society in the interim.
I was for deinstitutionalization before I was against it (sorry, Kerry) when it started in Florida back in the 60’s-’70s. I was working indirectly on helping to reduce the population at institutions for the developmentally disabled. Sure, there were higher functioning people who could have coped in the community, but the vast majority did a lot better in the institution. It was much worse for the mentally ill whom we now find under bridges and along river banks (as well as in jails). I am all for opening up the institutions and repopulating with appropriate individuals who need a safe place to be (and so do we out here in Society). Unfortunately, Loughner and Holmes would not be in there because they did nothing prior to their crimes for a judge to commit them. Right?