December 5, 2015


Five ways the US can reduce mass shootings . (Patrik Jonsson,  DECEMBER 5, 2015, CS Monitor)

1)  Threat assessment

In a nondescript FBI building near Washington, D.C., sits Behavioral Unit No. 2, a federal threat assessment laboratory that disseminates its strategies to pinpoint potential havoc-makers to local police departments. Its mission to spot potential domestic mass shooters was added onto the FBI's profiling wing in 2010, as an outgrowth of counter-terror activities going back to 9/11. Many of its interventions don't involve arrest, but rather helping someone get help to address mental health issues.

It is not a perfect system. Santa Barbara police supposedly versed in threat assessment visited Elliot Rodger on a so-called welfare, or check-up, call from his mother. Everything seemed fine to the officers, but they failed to ascertain whether he had recently purchased a gun, a standard question that threat assessment professionals say can be crucial in stopping a shooter in the planning stages. A few days later, Mr. Rodger killed six people during a campus rampage in Isla Vista.

But despite such failures, the American government, as well as states, already has investigators combing leads for any common thread of danger. It's a strategy in its infancy, but proponents say the tactics, which when used correctly don't violate individual constitutional rights, can be further shifted from terrorism to mass shootings.

Unit No. 2 has been involved in at least 500 interventions that might have ended in mass shootings. "Threat assessment has been America's best and perhaps only response to the accelerating epidemic of active shooters and mass shootings," Tom Junod reported for Esquire last year.

2)  Common sense gun controls

No, the science is not settled on whether stronger gun control laws actually quell mass gun violence. In the case of San Bernardino, the weapons were bought legally. Also, California already has some of the strongest gun control laws in the country.

But "there's such a clear middle ground" in the gun control debate "because you can stem gun violence without taking away guns," says Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center for Medicine, Health and Society, at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn.

Experts would like to see more of that middle ground employed.

The 2009 Heller decision by the US Supreme Court did guarantee the right of Americans to have access to firearms for personal protection, but left municipalities and states with room to regulate weaponry among the citizenry. And some of those legal checks on gun ownership have proven effective in saving lives.

When Connecticut enacted a law in 1995 that required that people purchase a permit before purchasing a gun, studies found a 40 percent reduction in the state's homicide rate.

When Missouri in 2007 repealed a similar permit-to-purchase law, the state saw a 16 percent increase in suicides with a gun.

Posted by at December 5, 2015 10:44 AM