It takes just two words to drive liberals to their corner and conservatives to theirs: “Second Amendment.” The mere mention will send liberals into conniptions and conservatives into code red defense mode. Lost in this repetitive exercise is any opportunity to solve a serious problem facing 21st Century America – young people so alienated and detached from any moral or ethical moorings that murdering young school children presents itself as appropriate behavior.
The problem is not that we as a society are bereft of solutions. The problem is that a partisan political curtain descends whenever there is a mass shooting, effectively blocking us from taking meaningful steps to reduce the chance for a recurrence of such tragedy.
A recent opinion piece by C. Joshua Villines, a certified threat manager and a board member of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, addresses the problem and suggests realistic solutions, without ever using the words “gun control” or “Second Amendment.”
His recent essay, “We know how to prevent school violence [by] Adopting research-based, established procedures [that] can mitigate risk,” focuses not on partisan or political policies, but instead on the existing body of research about the “risks for a person to commit an act of targeted violence” and the known “strategies that can mitigate that risk.”
Villines correctly notes that those who commit acts of “targeted violence” do so in ways that by and large are predictable, and that we know “from decades of work” the risk factors that can help us identify potential shooters. If followed, this process can lessen the chances that those factors will play themselves out in tragedies such as that which occurred last month at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee.
The federal government has itself conducted significant and valuable research on these matters, much of which is publicly available in publications, including the FBI’s Making Prevention a Reality: Identifying, Assessing, and Managing the Threat of Targeted Attacks.
Despite having such resources readily available, following the most recent targeted school shooting at Covenant School, all President Biden did was to push his political proposal to “ban assault weapons.”
It has become a false hope that this or a future administration will shift from repeating partisan talking points to a meaningful focus on the body of knowledge we already have accumulated, and which is available right now to identify risk factors for mass shooters and to implement plans to mitigate those dangers.
Experts like Villines urge that rather than repetitive calls for “gun control,” political leaders should be taking steps to ensure that schools at all levels implement and keep updated actual plans for assessing their vulnerability to known and likely risks, including a coordinated Threat Assessment and Management Team (TAMT).
These procedures are not new. They have been recommended by the U.S. government ever since the Columbine shooting more than a generation ago. To be effective, however, these threat assessment plans cannot be left to gather dust on the shelves of police agencies or school administrators.
Every parent of every student, whether their child is in first grade or college, should acquaint themselves with such studies and recommendations, and demand they be implemented. It may be a sad reflection on our culture that parents need to make such inquiries along with acquainting themselves with reading lists and proposed curriculums, but it has become an essential component of responsible parenting.
Demands for “gun control” will do nothing to help in identifying the next potential shooter. Insisting on “Second Amendment rights” — as vital as this is to any policy debate about gun control — will not help to identify “perpetrators of targeted violence” in advance of such awful actions.
Parents themselves need as well to assume far more responsibility for, and awareness of the lives of their children than did those of the hate-filled 28-year old transgender living at her parent’s home before she murdered six individuals at Covenant School.
And finally, when a governor, such as Tennessee’s Gov. Bill Lee does the right thing in proposing to fund measures significantly strengthening school safety, he should receive broad bipartisan support from state legislators, and not be targeted by political opponents as an excuse to engage in raucous, partisan exhortations that accomplishes nothing except to further polarize an already deeply divisive issue.