Looking Back at the Oregon School Shooting – Could It Have Been Prevented?
As you probably know by now, on Thursday, October 1, 2015, 26-year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, killing nine people and injuring others before turning the gun on himself. The victims range in age from 18 to 67.
“In all honesty,” said Ana Boylan, 18, who survived Harper-Mercer’s rampage after being shot once in the back, “I feel sorry for him. I feel bad for him. I just wish he could’ve not done that.
“I don’t know what happened to this man in his life, but it really must have messed him up.”
Now, as the dust settles on another school shooting tragedy, we are left to wonder what could have been done differently. Could this incident have been prevented?
“It takes a whole community to prevent school violence. But I assure you, it is preventable,” said Kristina Anderson, a survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting on April 16, 2007. “We have to teach our students, our faculty what the signs are.”
What’s Being Done to Prevent Future School Shootings
Following this latest school shooting, The Portland Public Schools Board of Education is asking state lawmakers to enhance gun control: require permits for all handgun owners, restrict concealed carry permits, stop the sale of semi-automatic weapons, and enact a 14-day waiting period for legal gun purchases.
“In Oregon that does not mean banning an individual’s use of firearms,” reads the resolution, which the board unanimously passed. “It means insisting that all state elected officials work even harder to fill the enormous gaps in our laws allowing easy access to firearms.”
However, is this the best way to prevent school shootings? N-O!
Threat Assessment is the Only Way to Truly Stop the Violence
“Reactive answers continue to be the mainstream argument with politicians and the media, and these tired solutions are not working, said Jason Wells of Defender Training and Consulting L.L.C.
Threat assessment training is a proactive approach to school violence based on the fact that there are warning signs before most incidents. According to research, incidents of targeted violence in schools are rarely ever spur-of-the-moment actions. They are premeditated. All we have to do is pay attention.
“In most cases, these folks have been time bombs who have been ignored for a long time,” said James McBride, retired chief of the Lakeland Community College Police Department and co-author of K-PhD School and Campus Shooting Awareness.
Most people who carry out these attacks talk with others about their ideas and intentions, and record their thoughts in journals, diaries, and even online sources, such as social media, blogs, etc. They also seek out weapons and practice with these weapons.
“I think they want to get in touch with us,” explained Dr. Frank Robertz, co-founder of the Institute for Violence Prevention and Applied Criminology in Berlin, referring to students who carry out acts of targeted violence. “They send us signals along the way.”
These deliberate actions may occur over several days, weeks, months, or even years. There are warning signs and it is up to teachers, school staff, and parents to recognize these warning signs and act accordingly.
Harper-Mercer’s mother, Laurel Harper, knew of her son’s fascination with guns. In fact, she encouraged this obsession, despite acknowledging the fact that her son struggled with mental illness.
According to Alexis Jefferson, who worked with Harper at a care center in 2010, Harper told Jefferson that “’my son is a real big problem of mine” and that “He has some psychological problems. Sometimes he takes his medication, sometimes he doesn’t. And that’s where the big problem is, when he doesn’t take his medication.”
As you can see, there were plenty of warning signs, but no one was listening – truly listening.
Threat Assessment Training with Defender L.L.C.
“The first and best line of defense is always a well-trained, highly-alert staff,” said Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services.
Defender’s OA2 program, which stands for Observe, Assess, and Act, teaches educators, parents/guardians, and school staff how to recognize the warning signs of school violence and how to address these issues in a positive and proactive manner. The results are for the good of the community, the families and most importantly, the students.
OA2 is a one-day training session (with access to follow-on consulting).
We will work with your program to find an affordable solution to ensure your staff has the training they need to help keep your students protected.
If you have any questions about Threat Assessment Training and how it can help put a stop to senseless school violence, like the Oregon school shooting, please contact Defender, L.L.C. by calling 410-381-8003. We believe a proactive approach to be the best tool in the fight against school violence.