Rampage Violence: Missing the Point
Just a few short weeks removed from the San Bernadino massacre, a greater tragedy has now occurred: Our country has fallen into the pitfall of self-absorption and made no effort to fix a serious problem logically.
We have defaulted to the regurgitated, antiquated arguments of stricter gun control laws and more federally regulated background checks. The Commonwealth of Virginia has since mandated that all Virginia residents would not longer enjoy the privilege of concealed carry reciprocity throughout six states in the country. Liberal ideologies of gun control continue to battle against conservative interpretations of the 2nd Amendment, and it rages as a hot-button topic on talk shows and podcasts. Celebrities have seen the chance to gain face-time for their waning careers, and even politicians have seized on the “opportunity” to push their preferential agendas as the 2016 election draws near. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”
And still, weeks after San Bernadino the problem is here. There has been no logical recommendation to fix rampage violence in our country. If the answer had been gun-control regulations, then by theory, rampage violence would be non-existent in a country like China (where firearms are outlawed). But in contrast, there have been 16 incidents of rampage violence in China’s schools alone. All of the incidents occurred between 1996 and 2014, none involved a firearm and yet 82 people were killed.
The point is this; whether you side with those who argue for firearms control, or with those who support the right to bear arms, the argument is the wrong one when it comes to stopping rampage violence in our communities. Here’s why: Society is failing to argue the most important piece of Marcus Felson’s Routine Activity Theory, and that is the idea of the “likely offender” and his/her motivation to do harm. So long as an individual is motivated to harm others, be it a mental disorder, a jihad, a lifetime of being victimized by bullying at school. Once the decision is made to commit rampage violence, then the motivation will drive the assailant. At that point, the means for such tragedy doesn’t matter, whether it is a firearm, a truck bomb, a mail package detonator. For proof of this, look no further than Timothy McVeigh, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Ted Kaczynski or Richard Reid. All were motivated to commit carnage, and all had a modicum of success in doing so without the use of a firearm. Granted, Reid and Abdulmutallab did no physical harm, but their goal of travel fears and paranoia was successfully achieved.
The only way we will stop rampage violence is through behavioral identification and assessments of individuals. Through this positive means of intervention do we stand the best chance of stopping rampage violence. The federal government trains our law enforcement and military personnel in this to protect some of our most important political officials and the public can learn the process as well. We can train our communities to be mindful of behavioral indicators that have been studied and identified to show a propensity for threat-related behavior. This would not involve diagnosing the condition, but would at least give people the justification to contact behavioral health specialists, law enforcement, etc.
For now though, our society is content with arguing points that make no sense to addressing the problem. As such, we should all be prepared for the fact that there will be another violent attack. It will happen again, whether that is in a school, an office building, a church, a mall…. Pick the spot, as they are all equally eligible.
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.