A multi-faceted approach to reduce school shootings
Recent events in Buffalo and Texas show that mentally unstable persons are capable of the most egregious violence. On May 24, 2022, nineteen students and two teachers died at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. On May 14, 2022, ten people died at a Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, New York. This is not the first time, In February 2018, seventeen people died at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation considers when at least four people are murdered a mass shooting. Over the last 30 years, the US has seen an increase in mass shootings. There are some important differences in these events. Due to the number of victims, many drug and gang related shootings are inaccurately associated with public place and school shootings. There are significant differences, these events should never be linked. School shootings are a specific type of crime, like terrorism, where the defenseless are specifically targeted.
Since 1999's shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, fourteen mass shootings at U.S. schools have killed 169 victims. For perspective, Chicago had nearly double the homicides (336) for the first six months of 2021. Approximately 28 people die every day across the country because of drunk drivers. Another 117 people die from motor vehicle accidents and 232 from all alcohol related incidents.
Yearly deaths by firearms for all causes (31,000), including suicide, rank just above deaths for STD’s (20,000). All which pale in comparison to yearly totals of medical errors (400,000), tobacco (400,000), or obesity (112,000). This is not to diminish the losses felt by the communities of impacted by these crimes. This perspective reminds us that other preventable tragedies destroy far more lives across our country.
We must be conscious of political grandstanding to distract from failed policy. Political opportunists seek to make these tragedies about their campaigns or raising donations. Regardless, we can make real headway against these crimes. It is critically important to classify these events as crimes. To label them as anything else detracts from their heinous nature.
For too long there has been confusion as how to find effective solutions. This is directly correlated to the fallacy of legislation and the government funded studies used to justify them.
Many of the studies conducted by US academia on this matter are ideologically driven or intellectually misguided. Any dispassionate observer would see many US based studies are overtly conflicted by political and funding motivation. These studies are skewed towards a desired outcome. Not that the methods are inaccurate, but the aims of the study are inaccurate or ideologically driven.
With a good amount of effort, we can screen the empirical facts from many of the US based studies. However, more ethically conducted foreign studies allow for several straightforward conclusions.
There is a 2011 study called "Canadian Firearms Legislation and Effects on Homicide 1974 to 2008". This looked at Canadian gun control legislation and the effects in homicide rates. It found no significant reductions between homicide rates because of legislation.
As any rational observer already knows, the mentally unstable or those with criminal intent have no reverence for the law. The law only restricts those willing to abide by it.
School shootings are often an extension of suicidal ideations. Where the shooter who is mentally unstable and suicidal decides to make others pay for their suffering. The CDC shows a connection between suicide and other forms of violence. Emotional abuse such as child abuse, neglect, and sexual violence are prevalent in the history of these events. Bullying, social isolation, and peer abuse are of particular concern in these crimes.
A study was conducted in New Zealand called “Access to Firearms and the Risk of Suicide”. This study examined the association between access to a firearm and risk of suicide in a consecutive sample of individuals who had made serious suicide attempts. The study had 197 suicides and 302 serious suicide attempts. The control subjects were 1028 people.
Access to a firearm was not associated with a significant increase in the risk of suicide. However, such access was associated with an increased probability that death by gunshot would be the method of suicide.
Therefore, access to a firearm does not mean a suicidal person is going to use it. However, it does mean if they do have access, they are more likely to be effective when they use it. In addition, if firearms were less readily available, suicidal persons simply acquire a gun elsewhere or kill themselves by other means.
We can conclude that new laws will not affect those who ignore them. Additionally, those who are intent on killing themselves or others will find a way. New laws or firearms ban will do nothing except inflame political division.
I outlined a simple 3-step plan that would radically reduce the probability of these crimes happening in the future. They are; Reduce Motivation, Harden the Target, and Study Anti-Depressant Drug Effects.
Key element #1 Reduce Motivation
We must reduce motivation to commit these crimes. During criminal investigations, suspects have three elements that are required to commit the crime: Motive, Means, and Opportunity.
Reducing motive should be the focus of our preventative methods. This requires proactive measures. School shooters are normally suicidal. Quite often, their suicidal ideations are known before the shooting occurs. The vast majority of school shooters communicate their plans.
Unfortunately, many who see or sense something is wrong do not always say something. To overcome this, we must develop clear reporting guidelines. We also must have very clear protocols to prevent inaccurate, or false reporting labeling someone a threat. Our social structures such as schools, colleges, churches, social media sites, and employers need to establish systems for identifying individuals in crisis and reporting concerns. These should not be punitive measures. Instead, our response should be with professional care, resources, and rehabilitative intervention.
Everyone should learn to recognize a person in psychological crisis.
We should also remove any recognition or mention of the person who does choose to attack a public place or school. Media fanfare and 24-7 coverage is a part of the motivation for these shooters. A media “blackout” of the events as they happen will help eliminate attention sought by future shooters. The incessant media coverage of these events exacerbates the problem. We need to do everything in our power to insure there will be no recognition for the shooter.
Removing the means for committing the crime is much harder. It is clear, a person intent on harming themselves or others will find a way. In particular, gun or magazine bans will have no effect. We all know these are failed policies used to score political points and raise donations. The most stringent gun laws come from our most violent cities. Yet every year the deaths mount showing these efforts are completely ineffective.
Therefore, what we should do, what we can do is constrict the opportunity to commit the crime by hardening the target.
Key Element #2 Harden the Target
Enhancing physical security at schools is a key element in reducing the risk of school shooters. The State of Florida has the most comprehensive and effective policy in the United States. The Florida Office of Safe Schools serves as a central repository for best practices, training standards and compliance oversight in all matters regarding school safety and security. Their mission is to support districts in providing a safe learning environment for students and educators. Their model should be emulated to fit the needs of all local school districts.
The Florida Office of Safe Schools outlines significant reforms to make Florida schools safer. Office of Safe Schools responsibilities include many novel approaches. One example is the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program.” Named for the Football Coach who gave his life to protect students, this program creates school guardians to help prevent school shooting. Persons certified as school guardians under this program no authority to act in any law enforcement capacity except to prevent a school shooter. An expansion of this program should to seek out volunteers from veteran community.
The Florida Office of Safe Schools utilizes the “Fortify FL” mobile suspicious activity-reporting tool. Fortify FL is a suspicious activity-reporting tool that instantly relays information to appropriate law enforcement agencies and school officials.
There are also requirements for mental health services and training, a safe-school officer at each public school, school safety assessments, and funding appropriations to address identified school safety needs.
A key component to these efforts is development of a standardized behavioral threat assessment instrument. The threat assessment procedures and guidance from the Florida Office of Safe Schools are a synthesis of best practices and established standards. The procedures guide school districts in developing policies and procedural decision-making regarding threat assessments. Law requires many elements of the procedures be enacted.
Expand and solidify legal protections for LE who act in exigent circumstances. In Missouri v. McNeely (2013), the Supreme Court found that if the facts suggested that the suspect is armed, one would believe their safety or others’ safety was threatened, the officer should act with urgency to save lives. While this is specific to obtaining a warrant for searches, the mindset should be the same for school shootings. Specifically enable and expand liability protections for LE in response to these crimes.
Train Law Enforcement to react better to school shootings. There is a still ongoing effort to defund the police departments. Organizations with divisive political agendas persecute Law Enforcement tactics and methods. Those efforts have resulted in training for school shooting being defunded. When activists within the legal system incarcerate officers over mistakes made on the job. Law enforcement become risk adverse and slow to react.
In cases of active mass shootings time is life, the longer you take the more you lose.
Defunding police training for high risk, low frequency events such a school shooting has cost lives. Every Anti-Law Enforcement activist must be reminded crimes like Uvalde are exacerbated by defunding the police.
While highly respected organizations like the Direct Action Resource Center in Little Rock, Arkansas or the National Tactical Officers Association can provide specific training curriculums, it is time to re-establish protected funding to prevent this type of crime.
Key Element # 3 Study Anti-Depressant Drug Effects
It is critical to determine the role SSRIs and other psychotropic drugs may play in these events. There are elements which demand an open examination of medication-exacerbated violence. There are cases forming and one law firm, Baum and Hedland in Los Angeles is leading the charge. They are a great resource on this matter.
There is evidence these drugs can make people psychotic, aggressive, suicidal and even homicidal. These are proven reactions to the drug and not the actual mental illness. There are over 70 Random Control Trials (RCT) in Europe that have shown the many of these drugs have a period where violent outbursts are likely in early stages of use. These reactions also may disappear with a lower drug dosage. These reactions also cease when the drug is removed, and reappear when the drug is resumed.
There are studies, with normally healthy volunteers, where patients take the drugs with no psychiatric disorder. These volunteers frequently experience drug-induced reactions. These volunteers show suicidal and aggressive tendencies. This reflects similar evidence on medications that affect the brain in ways similar to psychiatric drugs, but prescribed for non-psychiatric disorders. These drugs often create the symptoms of psychiatric disorders in people whose mental health is stable. Several different classes of medications appear to have these destabilizing effects. These drugs include antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedatives, and drugs for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Many school shooters were taking or withdrawing from psychiatric medications at the time of their attacks. Some of the shooters had a long history of taking these medications. Some appeared to have degrading mental states. It is unclear whether to what level the influence of these drugs had when they committed their crimes.
The privacy of medical records (HIPPA) is often a barrier to discovering the role psychiatric drugs have in these crimes. Legislators must create pathways for opening the medical histories for those involved in these crimes.
A March 3, 2006 memo written by two members of the FDA's ADHD psychiatric review team set forth some of the leading drug-safety issues for ADHD drugs:
"The most important finding of this review is that signs of psychosis or mania, particularly hallucinations, can occur in patients with no identifiable risk factors, at usual doses of any of the drugs used to treat ADHD."
The current labels, or package inserts, for these ADHD medications neither adequately address these psychiatric risks nor do they "clearly state the importance of stopping drug therapy in any patient who develops hallucinations or other signs or symptoms of psychosis or mania during drug treatment of ADHD."
Remarkably, a "substantial portion of the psychosis-related cases were reported to occur in children 10 years or less," an age group which does not typically suffer from psychosis. "The predominance in young children of hallucinations, both visual and tactile, involving insects, snakes and worms is striking and deserves further evaluation."
In European Neuropsychopharmacology Volume 36, July 2020, Pages 1-9 we find a study called “Associations between selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and violent crime in adolescents, young, and older adults”.
This study used individuals ever prescribed a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) aged 15–60 years during 2006–2013 with a violent crime conviction. The main statistical analyses assessed risks of violent crime during periods on compared to off SSRI treatment within individuals. Further analyses investigated risk over time in relation to treatment initiation and discontinuation. The study identified 785,337 individuals, experiencing 32,203 violent crimes.
Individual analyses found statistically significantly elevated hazards for 15–24 and 25–34-year-olds. But non-significant risks for 35–44 and 45–60-year-olds. In the overall group, risks were significantly elevated throughout treatment and for up to 12 weeks post-discontinuation.
While questions remain, these results indicate that there may be an increased risk of violent crime during SSRI treatment. It may persist throughout medicated periods, across age groups, and after treatment discontinuation.
Further study is needed with different designs, and clinical focus should be on high-risk individuals, as a majority of SSRI-users (around 97% in this study) will not commit violent crimes.
The factors mentioned; psychiatric medications ability to induce violence, and the fact many perpetrators of school shootings took these drugs, show we must fully investigate the possibility that these crimes were exacerbated by events by psychological medications. We must identify the at-risk populations for these drugs and take appropriate action by adjusting how the medications are prescribed.
We should also allow for a period of liability removal for the pharmaceutical industry. It is critical that we create a period where liability and litigation are removed so that pharmaceutical companies will be open to a full investigation.
Political obstacles are why we have we not fixed this before
Some within the groups who support gun control do not want measures in place that would prevent these high-profile crimes. Without these tragedies, they would not be able to exploit them for donations or political gain.
There is an element within the far left that is rooted in Marxism, specifically Maoist cultural warfare. Maoist political ideology permeates their ethos and their economic and social allegiances. A key objective of the far left is to disarm their political opposition.
Most gun owners have been long aware that many on the left hold Mao’s perspective. Mao Tze Tung stated” Every Communist must grasp the truth; Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.” The dead children of Texas are another utilitarian circumstance for some of these activists.
There are an estimated 393,000,000 firearms owned by more than 70 million people in the United States. Of those there are 17.4 million veterans with an oath to protect the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Outlawing any firearm is an infringement of the Constitutionally protected right of self-defense. So not only is the genie never going back in that bottle, attempts to enforce disarmament would probably result in large-scale violence.
We should never surrender our rights because of the actions of criminals. There are solutions, that we can do today, with many ways to pay for them, without further infringing on our rights.
There is much we can correct. There is much we can do right now. There is much that has been proven to be effective. There is no excuse to not immediately implement the suggestions outlined above. We can do better, and our families and nation demand it.