Letter: How can we prevent mass shootings?
It was recently suggested by a responsible gun owner that to deter shootings the country should pass a law that would mandate the death penalty within 30 days of the shooting. This would also require a court trial speed we have never seen. But there is more to consider. Perhaps if we knew more about the shooters, we could focus on other measures of prevention.
A May 2021 research report in the journal Injury Epidemiology concluded that: “Between 2014 and 2019, in 68.2% of mass shootings, the perpetrator either shot or killed at least one partner or family member or had a history of domestic violence.” Almost all (98%) were male. The authors conclude that people with a history of domestic violence should be barred from owning firearms.
Other research on mass shooters suggests that those planning mass shootings can be identified early and treated. Based on the profiles of 180 mass shooters since 1999, published in the 2021 book, “The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic,” a data-backed, mental health-based approach could identify and address the next mass shooter before he pulls the trigger. Researchers found that mass shooters often have childhood trauma, low self-esteem and are loners. They have emotional immaturity and cannot control their anger. Most mass shooters are on a suicide mission. They either plan to kill themselves or expect police to kill them. We can identify them if we have a system to do so.
Putting together these two findings on mass shooters, we could decide as a society to bar gun ownership from those convicted of domestic violence, support red flag laws and put more emphasis in schools and workplaces on identifying the signs of troubled males.
Responsible gun owners want action on gun violence as much as the rest of us. Research suggests that fear of the death penalty will not deter many shooters, as they want to die anyway. So, let’s pass laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, and let’s educate the public on early identification of troubled males.
Mayling E Simpson
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