Reports of mass shootings occur quite frequently in the United States, more so than in other countries, for example, in Norway, France, and New Zealand, to name a few. Yet, when the recent mass shootings took place in El Paso, Texas, and near Dayton, Ohio, people everywhere were shocked. The fact that the incidents took place within nine hours of each other was of great concern. When it was revealed that the El Paso shooting was instigated by white nationalist sentiment and carried out in a city bordering on Mexico, because of hatred of Mexicans as the shooter attested to, this was even more troubling.
Concern about Mass Shootings
While the shooter in the El Paso incident testified to his racist intent, some see guns, particularly assault rifles, as the source of the problem. The rationale is that assault rifles, weapons for a war zone, have no place in city living. Others point to inadequate mental health services as contributing to mental health problems among youth. A retaliation for bullying and a sense of hopelessness among the young are other factors also blamed for some of these shootings.
Some Common Factors among Shooters Studied
According to Jillian Peterson, psychologist, and James Densley, sociologist, both of whom are cofounders of the Violence Project, common risk factors were found associated with mass shooters studied (Raddatz, August 6, 2019). For example, their project showed that mass shooters were exposed to childhood trauma, experienced a specific crisis in their lives, were fascinated with the lives of other shooters and found people who validated their ideas, and had the opportunity to plan for their attacks. These mass shooters also had access to weapons. Mass shootings were also seen as something that caused imitation.
Emphasis should be placed on prevention. This means that family and friends who are in contact with those who become mass shooters should give attention to cues telling them that something is not right. According to the Violence Project, a few days before carrying out their dastardly act, many mass shooters exhibit markedly different behaviour. We can all help by observing our family members and friends, regardless of their ages, and asking the right questions that would help us to identify when they may need help. This could be a very difficult thing to do, because of issues pertaining to civil liberties. But sometimes, such intervention could save lives.
What Can We Do?
On observing these changes, family and friends have the opportunity to intervene and help their loved ones. They also have the opportunity to possibly interrupt proposed attacks. It is important that we recognize personal boundaries, but at the same time we should know to which authority to reach out for help and expertise: law enforcement, counselling and mental health, or other body that could help in this situation.
Provision of Mental Health Support
When children and young people experience trauma, including domestic violence, they should be provided with proper counselling to help them deal with the effects of this violence. Parents, teachers, and other adults who are aware of this early exposure to violence can take the opportunity to provide some debriefing and appropriate counselling where this is warranted.
Knowing When We are In Crisis
Being able to identify when we ourselves are in crisis is very important. Some people feel at their wit’s end, overwhelmed, very depressed, and sometimes desperate, thinking that they may hurt themselves, or others. At times like these, talking to someone could be a means of finding some relief. If there is no one around to help, it may be time to call 911, go to an emergency department of a hospital, or make a call to Emergency Response. It is important that we keep a check on ourselves, recognize when we need help, and get that help.
Racism was also seen as a factor in recent mass shootings. Racism is nurtured in our society through implicit race bias, and fostered by institutional and societal racism, evident in the images, the language, the behaviour, the jokes, the teasing, and much more, that we see as normal in describing or referring to non-white peoples (Shockness, 2019). These are some of the areas where we accept implicit bias without questioning and thereby implicitly support racism. This has to stop if we are going to live up to our potential of being one of the most civilized nations in the world.
Hopefulness as Antidote to Hopelessness
Dent, from the film, The Dark Knight, expresses his duty when he says, “The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.” However, it was Thomas Fuller, a preacher and author, who in 1650 first expressed this same sentiment in his writings: “It is always darkest just before the day dawneth.” This may have been a common saying back then.
Basically, what this means is that although situations may appear to be rather bleak, there is something better coming. If we could all remember this, then very difficult situations can be made less threatening, when we consider that something better is just around the corner. Even when opportunities may appear absent and obstacles appear insurmountable, it is good to remain hopeful and optimistic.
MindYourMind (2019). I’m in Crisis. Retrieved from https://mindyourmind.ca/help/im-crisis. MindYourMind is a program of ConnexOntario, which is supported by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Ontario, Canada
Raddatz, K. (August 6, 2019). Violence Project seeks to shift focus from reaction to prevention in mass shootings. CBS Minnesota. Retrieved from https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2019/08/06/violence-project-seeks-to-shift-focus-from-reaction-to-prevention-in-mass-shootings/ July 31, 2019
Shockness, I. (019). Respect is Only Human: A Response to Disrespect and Implicit Bias. Vanquest Publishing. Available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1775009483 and at other book distribution channels.
Israelin Shockness at www.successfulyouthliving.com and at www.successfulyouthlivingblog.com