Guns and Threat-Related Behavior: Still Missing The Target
Earlier this week, the political report The Daily Signal released an article showing data that outlined the ineffectiveness of “gun-free zones” as it pertained to mass shooting violence. The article stated that there have been 54 cases of recorded mass shootings since 2002, where an assailant attempted to commit mass violence at random. Of those 54 cases, 37 incidents occurred in “gun-free zones”, while 17 cases occurred where citizens were authorized to arm themselves.
Guns Rights vs. Gun Control is a hot-button item, especially now in an election year. It seems whenever a politician needs a boost in their numbers they go back to the well and bang on their respective political drum. Like Pro-Choice v. Pro-Life or Immigration, a stance on guns is always a dependable argument for the debates. Rest assured this topic will come up more and more in the coming months as the election nears. If you think the nominees are getting feisty now we’re not even through the primaries. This is only pre-season, gun debates are saved for the playoffs. You may want to grab some popcorn for the title fight.
But back to The Daily Signal. Research on rampage violence has been going on for decades. After the Columbine Massacre sociologists, behavioral specialists, law enforcement and mental health professionals really started to take an interest in what conditions caused such a tragedy. Even the United States Secret Service got involved and worked in conjunction with the Department of Education to develop a series of recommendations to protect our schools. These studies branched into office spaces, public locations and military installations. The ultimate goal was to ensure that we never had another person killed again from active shooter/rampage violence.
So what have we learned from decades of mass shooting data research? According to The Daily Signal, gun-free zones are more likely to be attacked by an active-shooter assailant.
That’s it? That is what we have come away with? Was there really nothing else we could have taken away from such a comprehensive study?
We have actually learned so much more, but the articles like the one in The Daily Signal (and others) keep avoiding it. For starters, political pundits on both sides continue to focus on research that supports reactive measures to active shooter violence, and they further continue to miss (or ignore) the most important part of the data: Whether it is a gun free zone, or a place where you can carry a firearm, you are still an eligible target. The goal should not be whether we should have gun free zones or the right to carry firearms. The goal should be to identify threat-related behaviors in people, and develop programs to address these conditions before they manifest into an active shooter situation.
Researchable data, gun-free zones, political debates (“common sense solutions”)…. They make perfect sense to us…. You know, people who are sane. No one who walks into a building, or a school, or a church and guns down a group of innocent people is a sane person though. At that moment, he is motivated by the behavioral and mental instability that has made him a killer. He will not reflect on the long-term consequences of his actions; he doesn’t care about the grieving parents and heartbroken communities; he sure as hell doesn’t care about the sign that is threatening legal action against him for having a gun on the premises. What he cares about is violence, and no gun or “no guns allowed” sign will deter him from his bloodlust. Look no further than the case of Aaron Alexis. Alexis entered the Washington Navy Yard on September 16, 2013, and killed 12 innocent people, injured an additional 8, and then took his own life. At the time of the attack, the Washington Navy Yard was a place both armed to the teeth AND promoted a gun-free zone policy, and NEITHER of these measures did anything to deter Alexis. But one thing that might have stopped him was identifying the threat-related indicators that he had shown throughout his life.
At NAPS, we work with the community, the schools and the businesses in how to identify these behavioral conditions and then consult in the best methods to address such conditions in a positive and proactive manner. It is time for our community to develop the skills to recognize threat-related indicators so we can proactively protect each other… and stop arguing over gun proposals that continually fail to address the real issues in an attacker.
Jason Wells is the President and Founder of the National Advancements for Proactive Safety, an educational non-profit organization committed to providing a safe community through intervention processes. He is a former Special Agent with the United States Secret Service, and holds a Masters of Science with highest honors in Strategic Security and Protection Management. Mr. Wells is currently pursuing his doctorate in Strategic Security with a focus on proactive interventions to stop threat-related behavior. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.