Another school shooting happened on Friday. Another ten people dead. And, with this weekend’s migraine, I’m too tired to even be angry. But not too tired to care. This has to stop. Somehow, our society has to find a solution to this horrifying problem.
Right now, we’re just flailing in the dark. Gun control seems like a reasonable place to start, but the NRA makes sure that we get nowhere fast with that. Dealing with mental illness also would also be a rational jumping off place. But, how? There are many variables in the mass shooting equation but it would help tremendously to have some data to guide us to the most important places to start making changes.
Let’s start to address this problem from a public health perspective and let the CDC take the lead. After all, that is their forte. Where do we begin?
Guns. They are the most commonly used weapon in mass attacks. Not only that, but the US has a problem with guns being used in domestic violence and with accidental shootings. The CDC needs to do/fund research into how guns are used, what kinds of guns are used, how they are procured, etc. (Of course, the CDC is not currently allowed to do research on gun violence because of the Dickey amendment, so that would need to change.)
Families. Each perpetrator in a mass shooting comes from a family. In school shootings, they are usually teenagers. What is their family situation like? Are there commonalities? What makes them alike or different? This doesn’t mean I want to blame their families - each individual is responsible for their own choices - but understanding how family structure and family dynamics might have affected a shooter could be important not just in identifying those at risk, but in identifying behaviors that are protective.
School. After the Parkland shooting, some people were suggesting that school shootings could be prevented if other students had just been more welcoming to the shooter while he was a student (I doubt it). What is the school situation like for a school shooter? Are they the bullies or the bullied? School social worlds are a rich source for data mining, but we have to look closely at the data to try to understand the social world of a shooter. Again, the goal is not only to identify those at risk, but also to identify protective characteristics or behaviors.
Mass society. What are other things that might incite shooters? Are violent video games really triggers to school shooting? What about movies and music? How can the rest of society help prevent school shootings?
Coordinated research into questions like these might give us some answers. Those answers would likely require that we make some changes as a society, either through legislation, changes in our schools, or changes in social mores (such as recommended changes in family habits). But, we would be more than willing to make research-based changes if it saves our children's lives. At least, I would be.