We have had mass shootings in the headlines for over 50 years. But never before have we had three within a week, and from all across the United States. I am not a member of the NRA but have been a hunter and have shotguns and handguns. I have my concealed carry permit from Florida. So I am somewhat in the middle of the road on the Second Amendment. I do not see any purpose, however, of owning assault rifles as they are meant only to kill people in large numbers, as was proven again this past week.
I was able to read an article in the Los Angeles Times by Jillian Peterson and James Densley this past weekend and would like to share what they had to say. These two columnists have studied mass shootings for the last two years and were funded by the National Institute of Justice in their research. They have collected data from as far back as 1966 on every mass shooter who shot and killed at least four people in a public place. Here are some of their findings.
The first similarity in these shooters was their early exposure to childhood trauma, be it a parental suicide, physical abuse, neglect, or bullying. These traumas were often a precursor to mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, and even suicidality.
Second, practically every mass shooter reached an identifiable crisis point a few weeks or months before the incident. Workplace shooters had significant job changes and often were showing extreme signs of suicidal tendencies.
Third, and probably scariest, the shooters had studied the methods of other mass shooters. Our constant news coverage and the internet gave them specific details along with, almost immediately, the name of the shooters. These actions become socially contagious. The shooters are studying these previous shooters, searching for validation for making their murders somehow justified.
Fourth, the shooters had the ability to carry out their plans. Most decided that their life was not worth living and in some dark way justified that the murder of others would be a proper revenge for their troubled lives. Then the accessibility of a site and the availability of weapons of mass killings were sought out and easily found.
With these conclusions, the two professors of psychology, criminology, and sociology then tried to come up with ways of reducing these onslaughts. The control of weapons and security screening with metal detectors and bag searches in the various public venues were the foremost ways of reducing these violent acts. But just as important was the starving of potential shooters of information on the previous shooters. We should not like or share any of these acts on the internet. The press can help by refusing to mention the names of the shooters. Give them minimal publicity. While this may not help the Walmart victims, businesses can have in-school training with active shooter drills to minimize the risk once there is a breach.
One of the biggest issues is identification of the potential shooter. The majority of these shooters have leaked their intentions ahead of the act. People are often hesitant to inform authorities of what they think they may have observed. Our culture of personal privacy does work against us here.
According to the authors, prevention of these violent acts must have a proactive side. Such changes in behaviors or online postings, as many shooters have done, needs to be conveyed to or by schools, churches, employers, and even law enforcement officers. But then what? In our society with its freedoms, thinking of doing a crime is not an offense until it is done. This works against the proper authorities learning and then acting to prevent the catastrophe.
Certainly, there needs to be training in mental health observation and the duty to then report aberrations in an individual as well. But many have these early traumas with no such calamitous outcomes. School counselors, social workers, and even human relations employees with businesses need training in the recognition of such disturbances in their charges and at least give heads up of the possible behavioral problems.
It is clear that our society has seriously ramped up on disturbed individuals acting out their last grievances against society in these mass murders. Going back to 1966 and the killing of the Texas University students from the tower, we have given too much publicity to the killer. We know the names of that killer, the Sandy Hook shooter, the Boston Marathon attacker, and now the three persons who committed the crimes this last week. Why? Let’s make them disappear. Let’s scrub their rants from the internet. The internet providers can help directly by removing such postings.
While it may be an insurmountable task to discover these injured people before suicide and mass murder are their only solution, let’s at least start with banning the AK-47 and similar weapons. Wouldn’t it be easier to remove all these weapons of mass destruction from our society than try to find out which mentally disturbed people might use them to harm our society? Mr. President, it’s really your move, or will that cost you too many votes?