From my experience as a psychologist, here is our dilemma:

  1. Almost every community has young men who are recognized as dangerous but have committed no crime.
  2. School shootings have become an epidemic. 
  3. We have no idea how many copycat killers may be out there.
  4. We have no good way of differentiating between those people who talk about doing terrible things and those who will actually do.  Even well-trained mental health professionals have difficulty predicting who will act upon their fantasies.  
  5. Currently, the weapons are available and will be for a while, if not forever in the USA. To understand why, follow the money.
  6. There is a lot of money to be made through violence: guns, war, weapons of mass destruction video games, pornography, TV, movies, even sports (football, hockey, boxing), etc.
  7. This is a public health crisis. Fear has gripped parents, teachers, and grandparents.
  8. The media gains followers by to reporting on these crimes, which only reinforces the shooter.


Intervention & Prevention:

  • “create ways police can deal better with potential killers”
  • “We will need the school administrations and boards to create a system where parents are notified of bad behavior and held accountable.”
  • “The Center for Disease Control could study this and come out with real data”

Mental Health Reform:

  • “establish better maternal health care” 
  • “establish parent training classes”
  • “We will need the Mental Health officials to create a pathway of communication that decreases the amount of peril that a patient can create without violation of that patients’ rights..”

Increase Measures on Gun Control:

  • “there will have to be real enforcement of background checks,”
  • “Use retired personnel to protect our schools, whether it be armed teachers or armed guards at point of entry..”
  • “I suggest a very expensive, intense, background check paid for by the buyer nonrefundable. A long cool down period (maybe two or more months) If a repeating weapon (multi-round) is purchased it is to be sent to a supervised gun range, used there and kept under lock & key. Not to be held privately. Those are just suggestions that might spark better ideas.”
  • “How about requiring parental permission under 21?”

Create Culture of Awareness and Change:

  • “In the long run we have to get a national conversation going and get past entrenched positions to have thoughtful deliberate discussions to address the problem. This has several layers; breakdown of family, access to porn and violence on-line and isolation that results, entertainment industry putting out violent video games and other material, access to automatic weapons, etc. How we do this, I don’t know. Maybe a bazillion mothers march to Washington, Hollywood, NRA headquarters and wherever else needed?”
  • “Teachers are those who have direct contact with students daily. They need the flexibility while teaching to address issues like bullying, compassion, tolerance, personal relationships, and problem solving. Teachers need to be trusted, respected, and listened to so they can teach their students to do the same.”
  • “Maybe it’s time to start benchmarking what does work in other countries and address some of the archaic policies that remain in place.
  • “Educating local clinics, school psychologists and teachers about laws governing the release of privileged communication can improve the chances of identifying potentially dangerous students. Many educators and mental health professionals believe that they cannot disclose troubling confidences, even if they believe that there might be a threat to public safety. But this is not the case.”
  • “Students, teachers and parents are encouraged to report any troubling behavior. When a threat appears potentially serious, mental health workers and law enforcement officers might visit a student’s home, talk to the parents and even ask if they can see the student’s room.”
  • “Improved communication among agencies authorized to detect and prevent violence is one promising strategy.”
  • “Researchers have also found that in many, if not most, cases of school violence, the perpetrator has done extensive research on previous school shootings, studying them in detail, often with special attention to the killings at Columbine High School in 1999. A study of nine school shootings in Europe conducted by J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist in San Diego who consults on threat assessment for schools and corporations, found that a third of the killers had “consciously imitated and emulated what had happened in Columbine.
  • I am increasingly convinced that high school students, led by the ones that I am watching on TV who were directly impacted by this shooting in FL, are going to solve this problem.  They are articulate, engaged, they have little to lose, they are sick of older people not protecting them, they recognize cheap talk when they see it from politicians, and they are tired of shooter-fire-drills (and the real thing) happening when they are trying to learn. They are marching in the streets on March 24. I really think they will drive a solution here, and I wouldn’t presume to create it for them. Perhaps what those of us beyond our teenage years can do is work on supporting them in genuine ways (without telling them what to do), donate to gun control lobbies, and start refusing to vote for or give any money to politicians who don’t support gun control.  The whole (ridiculous) notion that this is “just a mental health problem” can easily be dismissed by realizing that other countries have the same prevalence of mental illness as us and much less gun-initiated violence.  Of course, we also need to support getting genuine help for those students who do have mental health problems.”

Check out these additional resources:

Dekalb Elementary

The Things We Know About School Shooters by Erica Good Article

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Interested in joining the conversation?  Go to my Facebook post to view all the comments thus far, and share your insights. I look forward to a continual dialogue on this serious subject. ~Dr. Rob

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