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We’ve Known How To Prevent A School Shooting for More Than 20 Years

  • FiveThirtyEight: “…Marisa Randazzo’s and Mary Ellen O’Toole’s parallel reports came to remarkably similar conclusions….So how do we spot the ones who are planning an attack at a school? The studies she and O’Toole published years ago showed that, like people planning to attack the president, would-be school shooters don’t keep their plans to themselves. They tell friends or even teachers that they want to kill. They talk about their anger and their suicidality. They lash out violently against family and friends. And as more teens have attacked their schoolmates, that pattern has proved to hold true over time. It was true for Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter. It was true for Payton Gendron, the Buffalo shooter. It was true for Salvador Ramos, the Robb Elementary shooter.  While all the experts I spoke with said that policies that keep guns out of the hands of teenagers are an important part of preventing mass shootings, they all also said it is crucial to set up systems that spot teens who are struggling and may become dangerous. You can’t predict violent events or who will go from threatening behavior to murder, O’Toole said. But it is possible for us to look around and see the people who are having problems and need intervention. Interventions can prevent violence, even if we can’t predict it, she told me. For example, at least four potential school shootings that were averted in the weeks after Parkland all stopped because the would-be killers spoke or wrote about their plans and someone told law enforcement…”
  • See also Your Local Epidemiologist (YLE) Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, MPH PhD “…Mental illness and violence in general – If we cast a wider net and examine violence more broadly, evidence suggests mental illness does not cause violence. Large epidemiological studies have shown that rates of violence among people with mild-to-moderate mental illnesses range from 2%4%, compared to 1%-3% in the general population. One of the strongest longitudinal studies, called the MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment Study, found that only 1% of patients discharged from psychiatric facilities committed an act of violence against a stranger with a gun.  Stronger associations emerge between having a mental illness and victimization. One study found individuals with mental illness were three times more likely to be a victim than a perpetrator of violence. Those with mood disorders, such as major depression, are not more likely to hurt others, though they are more likely to harm themselves. Firearms are used in 50% of suicides and account for 3/5 of all gun deaths in the U.S. People with anxiety disorders are less likely to harm others. Some studies have shown severe mental illness predicts violence, even after accounting for substance use/abuse. Specifically, people with psychosis—very severe symptoms such as hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that are not there) and delusions (false and sometimes bizarre beliefs)— are 15 times more likely to commit homicide. However, it’s uncommon for symptoms of psychosis to immediately precede violent acts. This also doesn’t explain all mass shootings, as psychosis only plays a major role in 11% of mass shootings… A research group studying mass shootings for decades (called The Violence Project) concluded that mass shootings are largely the results of a constellation of behaviors involving a buildup of childhood trauma, an identifiable crisis point (separate from psychosis), the need to blame someone, and the opportunity to conduct a mass shooting (i.e. access to firearms). Blaming mental illness entirely “conceals it more than it reveals it.”  Among mass school shootings, in particular, the U.S. Secret Service found a similar theme. While they reported that most teen perpetrators had symptoms of mental illness, few had a psychotic illness and nearly all had histories of severe bullying, social isolation, school discipline, and adverse childhood events, like abuse, substance use in the home, parental incarceration, or parental mental health problems…”

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