Negligence: America's Culpability for Mass Shooters

by Jennifer Riesel

Currently there are more guns in America than there are people. Guns are America's foundation and identity, a symbol of our freedom. The United States has roughly 90 guns for every 100 residents.

Since 2006, Americans have acquired an estimated 150 million new or imported firearms in addition to the 250 million guns already in circulation. (Peterson, 3) In 2022 so far, at least 3,179 people have been shot in mass shootings, resulting in 637 deaths and more than 2,500 injuries. In November 2022 alone there were at least 32 mass shootings. For decades, mass shootings in America have been on the rise. In 1970, eight lives were taken as a result of mass shootings; in 2022, that number is 51 deaths per year and rising. Mass shootings are becoming more frequent and more fatal. The definition of a mass shooting, according to criminologists and the FBI, is 11any event in which four or more victims (not including the shooter) are murdered with guns in a public location such as a work place, school, house of worship, or restaurant" (Peterson, 4).

Mass shootings have become an epidemic in America. Gun regulation is needed to control this widespread violence; however, America suffers from a condition that no amount of gun control can regulate: 11the angry young American male." These young men are often referred to as monsters, their actions shocking and beyond understanding. If as a society we are unable to keep guns out of people's hands, then attention needs to be paid to those individuals who use these guns destructively. Guns and the gun culture of America alone is not enough to explain why mass shootings are occurring at such an alarming rate. There are other social forces we must look at. According to The National Institute of Justice, ''Persons who have committed public mass shootings in the U.S. over the last half century were commonly troubled by personal trauma before their shooting incidents" (Peterson, 36). The National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the American Psychological Association explains that trauma is 11An emotional response to a terrible event, something frightening, dangerous or violent that poses a threat to someone's life or bodily integrity" (Peterson, 37).

A combination of numerous patterns, traits and life experiences exists in mass shooters which contribute to their violent behavior. Mass shooters are described as suffering from mental illness; however, mental illness is a factor that plays a minor role in mass shootings. Mass shooters share other characteristics that include, childhood abuse/trauma; crisis points, (i.e. getting fired from a job, relationship problems, money problems) in the days, weeks and months before their violence; behavior changes; and access to firearms. There has to be a plan to devise ways to identify, help, and treat the "angry young American male" to reduce the threat of mass shootings in America. Recognizing the patterns of mass shooters represents the beginning steps to finding solutions on how to stop these mass casualties.

Mass shooters often suffer from a long history of frustration and failure and additional unrelated factors that give the mass shooter a diminishing ability to cope. This begins early in life but will continue through adulthood. As a result, a mass shooter may develop a condition of profound and unrelenting depression, although not at a level of psychosis. Most mass shooters have had experiences of childhood illnesses, accidents, abuse, physical defects, isolation and poverty.

There is no one single profile of a mass shooter, but the pattern emerging is concrete. The all­ too-familiar pattern tells society that these shooters are young, white, male, angry and disturbed. Past shooters have engaged in online threats, shared the threats openly, and had an obsession with guns. These young men often exhibited violent behavior, had an absent parent, were anti-social, refused to attend school, developed anger towards girls and women, and had no sense of belonging. These are some factors that can contribute to identifying a potential mass shooter. Each factor ignored becomes a missed opportunity for intervention.

Younger mass killers have also experienced repeated spells of severe frustration and depression, especially related to school and or family. The 20-year-old male who killed 26 children and teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, had been bullied in school, was failing at work, and school, losing his relationships with his only friend and members of his family and living in total isolation and on the verge of ruining any contact he had with his mother, his only caretaker.

The book, The Violence Project, written by Jillian Peterson, Ph.D., a Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Hamline University, and James Densley, Ph.D., a Professor of Criminal Justice at Metropolitan State University, argues that recognizing mass shooter profiles is where our attention needs to be focused- not simply on stricter gun laws and background checks. Densley and Peterson reflect, "This is why we started studying mass shooters four years ago. Frustrated that policy conversations arising out of grief, fear and 'common sense' weren't getting us any closer to the 'never again' America kept promising, we decided to start from the bottom up to find solutions that would really work" (Peterson, 8). The two authors decided to learn why mass shootings are occuring more and who exactly mass shooters are.

It's important not to forget, according to Peterson and Densley, "America was built on violence and has always been tolerant of it" (22). Peterson and Densley write,First, violence against Native peoples; slavery rationalized a culture of violence against Black people, especially in the old Confederate States, where murder rates are still highest; a bloody Civil War; the revered violence of revolutionaries, frontier outlaws, and Prohibition-era gangsters; violence against women; violence against children; violence against immigrants; police violence; capital punishment; serial killers. America's history is a history of violence. (Peterson, 22)

Brief history of mass shootings

The earliest known recorded mass shooting took place on August 14, 1903. A war veteran deliberately fired into a crowd of people in Winfield, Kansas. He killed nine people and wounded 25 more before he turned the gun on himself. Around 1940, there were three more mass shootings, but it was not until the summer of 1966 that Americans became cognizant of mass shootings. In 1966, at the University of Texas campus, a former Eagle Scout and marine opened fire from a 28th floor observation deck, killing 14 people. Before he committed this irrational act, he stabbed his wife and mother to death. The advent of live television broadcasting allowed reporters on the scene to introduce America to the sensational media coverage of a mass shooting. Sixteen of the 20 deadliest mass shootings in modern history occurred between 1999 and 2019, and eight of those 16 occurred between 2014 and 2019. As Peterson and Densley report, The National Institute of Justice states "Most individuals who perpetrated mass shootings had a prior criminal record (64.5%) and a history of violence (62.8%), including domestic violence (27.9%), and 28.5% had a military background. Most of the shooters died on the scene, with 38.4% killing themselves and 20.3% being killed by the police that responded" (Peterson, 55).

In 1999, America experienced its first high school mass shooting at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado. Two young men killed 13 people before committing suicide. The media did not mention the 100 school shootings in the decade leading up to Columbine. More than 20 years after the Columbine school shooting, children continue to be shot and killed in classrooms in America. For instance, on December 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a young man armed with a semiautomatic rifle shot his way into the school and killed 20 first graders and six faculty/staff members. All of the first graders in Sandy Hook were gunned down in a classroom with

nowhere to go; 19 of these children were under the age of 11. Nothing and nowhere is off-limits to gun violence anymore. Since the Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings, there has been nearly one school shooting per week somewhere in the United States. This year alone, 2022, there have been 67 shootings on school grounds. Hundreds of thousands of children have been exposed to gun violence in K-12 schools since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. Gun violence is now the leading cause of death among children in the United States.


The United States of America is the only country in the world that experiences mass shootings daily. The active age of a school shooter is 16; the youngest active school shooter was only 12 years old. Many of these children and adolescents are not able to purchase a gun and are instead obtaining them through family or friends. Sixty-three percent of mass shooters have obtained their weapons legally, while 28 percent acquired theirs illegally; nine percent of the guns used in mass shootings were stolen.

Mass shootings and school shootings are associated with more lenient gun laws in the United States. Easy access to lethal weapons in the United States has created opportunities for lethal violence to occur, including mass shootings with excessive casualties. On January 9, 2016, a 15-year-old in New Mexico shot his father, mother, and three younger siblings. The father had an arsenal of weapons purchased through private sales, including two AR-15 rifles and 15,000 rounds of ammunition. (Griego, 305) When it came time to acquire these firearms, the young man would accompany his father. The guns and the ammunition were stored together in the home unsecured. The young man that killed four fellow students and injured seven others during a shooting rampage at Oxford High School in Centennial Park in Oxford, Michigan, in 2021 confessed that his parents did not secure their guns in the home. It has become clear that parents have given youth access to weapons by leaving their guns unsecured inthe home. Who is responsible for mass shootings when a teenager has access to unsecured firearms and ammunition in the home? Does society blame the parents of the shooters? Are parents responsible for countless deaths? Should they be charged?

Guns cannot be sold to juveniles, convicted felons, fugitives, undocumented Americans, drug users, or formal mental patients; however, there are ways for children to obtain guns even if the buyer is not able to pass a background check or old enough to purchase them. Online there exists a do-it­ yourself kit of interchangeable parts allowing the purchaser to build a .45 caliber "ghost gun." Ghost guns are a growing weapon of choice because they are untraceable and unserialized. These guns are designed to avoid all gun laws. Labeled and described as "buy, build, shoot kits," they are widely available and can be purchased online by anyone, including prohibited purchasers, domestic abusers, and gun traffickers. Ghost guns are specifically marketed as unregulated and untraceable to attract consumers who want or need to avoid proper background checks. Anyone can assemble a ghost gun; it is fully functional in 30 minutes. Online sellers completely disregard federal and state gun regulations.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives does not consider the do-it­ yourself kits to be firearms. The do-it-yourself kit does not come assembled with a firing pin attached to the model of choice, allowing the ATF to be able to declare that it is not a firearm. Selling ghost guns undermines every gun safety policy in America. In November 2019, at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, a student opened fire in the outside courtyard shooting five students, two fatally, before killing himself. The weapon was purchased on the internet and built at home. The father of one of the young women killed in the Santa Clarita shooting bought a ghost gun from the internet using his dead daughter's name and assembled the same model of handgun that took his daughter's life. A tutorial video was also available online to coach the purchaser through assembly. The kits available online are advertised by stating that no background checks are required and there are no interactions with federally licensed dealers to obtain a ghost gun kit or parts.

Ghost guns have ballooned in popularity in recent years. According to the White House, ghost guns reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms Explosives have increased tenfold from 2016. (Sykes, 4) Ghost guns have been used in three separate mass shootings in California: Saugus High School (2019), Tehama (2017), and Santa Monica (2013). Twelve people (including two teenagers) were killed in these mass shootings. The Tehama and Santa Monica shooters had been prohibited from purchasing firearms. The Saugus shooter was a minor, who under California law was forbidden to purchase any firearms. (Brady United, 6)

President Joe Biden is proposing new restrictions on ghost guns and announced an executive order to regulate ghost guns. The order aims to substantially curb the proliferation of ghost guns by requiring those who sell them to abide by the same rules and regulations as traditional gun sellers in the United States. The purchase of ghost guns allows for dangerous and mentally unhealthy individuals to elude federal and state gun regulations. The availability of ghost gun kits continues to create gaping and dangerous loopholes that disregard currently enacted gun-related regulations. In October, 2022, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, condemned the St. Louis High School shooting, calling it 11senseless violence," and repeating President Joe Biden's call for Congress to pass a ban on assault weapons and other measures meant to restrict access to firearms. Jean-Pierre stated, 11We need additional action to stop the scourge of gun violence" (Fisher, A18).

Under the new regulations, manufacturers and dealers of ghost guns must be federally licensed; parts used to make the weapons will need serial numbers, and purchasers must undergo a background check. This will prevent convicted felons, domestic abusers, and other prohibited persons from acquiring these firearms. The new regulations will also allow the Bureau to trace ghost guns when used in crimes. Stemming the flow of ghost guns will be a huge step toward limiting accessibility for those who should not be in possession of a weapon.


A number of risk factors are more closely associated with gun violence than mental illness. The Adverse Childhood Experiences history (ACE), captures a wide range of circumstances and/or events that pose serious threats to a child's physical or psychological well-being. Examples of childhood adversity consist of child abuse and neglect, family or community violence, and bullying. For many mass shooters, an erratic and chaotic childhood was the first step on the path towards violence. Two factors were prevalent amongst mass shooters: childhood trauma and adult trauma. Childhood trauma does not explain or excuse a mass shooting, but understanding the conditions that need to be addressed is important. Trauma in individuals and their life experiences play a huge role in identifying mass shooters.

Gender identity, race and socioeconomic status create the variations; people have different experiences, have different vulnerabilities, different personalities, different relationships and interact differently with peers and spouses.

In 60 percent of mass shooting cases, there was significant childhood trauma, which continued to shape who the perpetrators became in adulthood. Many youths that experience some form of adversity do not demonstrate any clinical symptoms; however, for some children, these experiences have severe consequences, especially when they occur early in life or if the violence escalates as the child grows older. Many young men that have experienced childhood trauma had no way to communicate what was happening with them. They came to feel completely lost and alone. ACE does not doom children to become mass murderers; nonetheless, it is a warning sign. If left untreated and without intervention, adversity can lead to lifelong physical or mental health problems.

It is difficult to assess the role of symptoms of certain serious mental illnesses in motivating mass shootings because some symptoms are traits that motivate violence for individuals both with and without serious mental illness. Former President Donald Trump made a statement concerning the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that killed thirty-one people in the summer of 2019, declaring, "Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger. Not the gun" (Peterson, 59). This statement risked stigmatizing the millions of people who suffer from mental illness; it made it believable that all mass shooters suffer from mental illness, missing other explanations and motivating factors that lead to violence.

The mass shooters that experienced the most childhood trauma were at risk to suffer a higher rate of mental illness. When stress is consistently triggered, it is more likely to be activated in the future. Everyone responds differently to adversity, but a stress response can present itself as aggressiveness, agitation, or withdrawal. If ignored with no outlet or intervention, stress will wear down the brain and body over time. This is called "toxic stress." Jillian Peterson states, "Toxic stress changes how the brain makes connections and processes information, and because of this, children exposed to extreme, long­ lasting adversity can have a warped view of the world" (38). Toxic stress can cause a retreat inwards, pressuring the individual into isolation, and the reaction can cause dangerous violent outbursts.

Most mass shooters can qualify as "emotionally disturbed." An outburst of mass violence would not necessarily satisfy the diagnostic requirements for mental illness; however, trauma often triggers mental health concerns. The symptoms include depression, anxiety, hallucinations and delusions, self­ harm and suicidal thoughts. Repeated exposure to trauma is a risk factor. In the current societal system, there are numerous professionals, from doctors to teachers, that are not trained to recognize trauma. Most critically, unsafe home environments or individuals that show signs of repeated trauma need to be identified and addressed with whichever interventions are necessary, so that numerous life stressors do not trigger the already struggling male to join the ranks of mass shooters. There are no guidelines onhow to step in and provide the needed resources for an intervention for a child or a parent. Generational trauma is prevalent, trickling down from parents and from the parents before them. Parents will refuse treatments or interventions for their children because they lack understanding or are tormented by their own trauma, in addition to the stigma attached to mental illness. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, "60 percent of children don't get the services they need due to [lack of] access and stigma" (Peterson, 37).

Toxic Masculinity is a concept that originated in the 1980's during the pro-feminist men's movement. The movement argued that hegemonic ideals of being a "man" promoted and idealized the suppression of emotions. The gun industry has created a market campaign that specifically targets such young men. Advertisements are designed to appeal to young men because they are easily impressionable. Young men have disposable income, a long customer life, and a fascination with guns, all of which can be exploited. Gun manufacturers' advertisements showed the power of an appeal based on masculinity to the 18-35 male demographic. Targeting young men with advertisements of masculinity creates new consumers for gun manufacturers. Using firearms and displaying superior behaviors to enhance a sense of ultra-masculinity has become widespread among mass shooters. The Pulse nightclub shooter allegedly abused his wife emotionally, financially and physically prior to the 2016 massacre. The young man responsible for the Sandy Hook shooting had a document on his home computer that explained "why females are inherently selfish" (Riggio, 2). The University of California shooter posted a YOUTUBE video in which he ranted about women not being attracted to him and swore to seek revenge. The Virginia Tech shooter allegedly stalked and harassed two students leading up to the massacre. The Nova Scotia shooter allegedly beat his partner leading up to-and just hours before the shooting. (Riggio, 2) The authors of The Violence Project explain, "one shooter in our study named his guns. He slept with them. He even simulated sex with them in a video sent to a former classmate a few weeks before his crime" (Peterson, 21).

Ryan Busse, a writer for The Atlantic reflects, "The Bushmaster [a rifle] Man Card declares and confirms that you are a Man's Man, the last of a dying breed, with all the rights and privileges duly afforded" (6). Busses addressed the "dying breed" as the echo of the "Great Replacement" theory that inspired the killer in May's mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. The thought that this type of marketing is intended to target young men and has contributed to creating today's deep-seated violent extremists is horrific but unavoidable. By 2016, publicly traded gun companies such as Smith & Wesson and Ruger were deeply dependent on the emerging tactical market. By 2020, Smith & Wesson's M&P15 had become America's bestselling rifle. (Busse, 11) The company's stock price soared as its customer base grew to include the young killers in the mass shootings at Parkland, Florida; Aurora, Colorado; and Highland Park, Illinois. (Busse, 11)


Millennials (anyone born between 1981-1996) make up over 40 percent of all mass shooters since 1998, according to The Violence Project. Realistically, these young shooters could be someone you have walked by or interacted with. They could be someone you know, or even a family member. A vast majority of mass shooters signal their intentions in advance-it is a fact that nearly half of all mass shooters tell someone that they are thinking about violence before they act on it. (NU, 6) Leakage can be described as leaking hints about their plans before they carry them out, said former FBI profiler Mary O'Toole. The FBI investigation into the Red Lake massacre states that, "at least 39 people knew the student was thinking about shooting up the school. Some students who suspected his plan even notified school authorities; no one believed he would do it" (Peterson 78). The young man that carried out this mass shooting had a map of the school; he was obsessed with past school shooters; he loved firearms; he had access to them and used to target practice in the nearby woods. He was ignored, and his actions and behaviors were ignored. This resulted in senseless slaughter, again.

Leakage is often present in school shooters before they carry out their attacks. The former FBI profiler states, "I've seen it in nearly every case. And leakage is very specific because it is the shooter talking about what they are going to do before they do it" (NIJ, 3). Mass shooters leak their plans to someone else either online, in a letter, or via phone or text messaging. Leakage happens because the shooter is excited about what they intend to do. Researchers reflect that leakage is a cry for help; if discovered beforehand, the potential shooter could have an intervention with a therapist. Shooters who leak their plans are more likely to be suicidal and more likely to have been in previous counseling than shooters who were not. Leakage may even be a part of their plan. The Uvalde mass shooter was a loner who bought assault rifles for his 18th birthday and sent a photo of himself posing with his rifles to a friend. While a troubling social media post or a disturbing comment might not indicate any threat, it is important to tell someone in authority because others might have additional concerns regarding the individual. It is difficult for students to report their peers; they need to trust that the adults will handle the situation accordingly. Students need to be comfortable enough to go to a specific adult and voice their concerns. Adults need to be comfortable enough to report concerns to the police as well, and have the confidence that their concerns will be taken seriously. An anonymous reporting system in schools and within the community would be beneficial in identifying potential mass shooters.

Behavior changes

Dramatic changes in behavior can be a warning sign that someone needs help. These changes in behavior can show up in different ways: For some, it is outward behavior. There will be an escalation in anger; there will be difficulty in managing emotions. Others can become the opposite and appear to isolate themselves more than usual. Mass shooters can appear to be withdrawn; they no longer interact with their groups of friends, and they spend more time on the internet. Eight percent of all mass shooters were in a state of crisis in the minutes, hours, days or weeks prior to committing their shootings. A crisis overwhelms a person's usual coping mechanisms which can lead to a change in behavior.

According to the authors of The Violence Project, "Mass shooters don't just snap, acting violently out of the blue; data shows that there is a slow build over time" (54). Mass shooters exhibit a change in behavior from baseline-something different or unusual from that person's norm, something noticeable. Parents, spouses, friends, co-workers, neighbors, pastors, mental health professionals and law enforcement reported observing significant behavioral changes in a majority of mass shooters. In 2012, behavioral changes were detected in the Newtown, Connecticut, shooter who murdered 27 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He became a recluse and wrote about violent and graphic things in his journal. The father of the shooter participated in an interview with The New Yorker in 2014. He declared that he wished his son had never been born, that there could be no remembering who he was outside of who he became. (Soloman, 28) The Newtown shooter had social awkwardness; he developed an uncomfortable anxiety; he was unable to sleep, had a hard time learning, and was extremely unfocused; he began to walk funny and reduced eye contact with others. (Soloman, 8)

Increased agitation was a prominent behavioral change in 67 percent of mass shooters; 59 percent had a mental health history. Focusing on mental illness as a mitigating circumstance in mass shootings leaves plenty of room for mistakes, namely ignoring other explanations and motivating factors that can contribute to behavior using violence. Mental illness is not the major factor that plays the role in mass shootings; it is trauma. Other changes in behavior could include being nonreactive in situations, having difficulty bonding with others, difficulty making eye contact and not wanting to be touched.

According to Andrew Soloman, a psychiatrist who assessed the Newtown shooter describes him as a "pale, gaunt, awkward young adolescent standing rigidly with downcast gaze and declining to shake hands" (Soloman, 10) There were numerous behaviors that were observed; however, the young awkward adolescent did not get any further help and his mother enabled his behaviors.

The 2021 Atlanta, Georgia, spa shooter bought his gun just hours before the attack-no waiting required. That same day, over a thousand miles away, a twenty-one-year-old man bought a Ruger AR- 556 pistol, a semi-automatic weapon with a capacity of thirty rounds, and six days later he used it to kill ten people in a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket. (Peterson, 164)

The shooter that killed six colleagues at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia on November 22, 2022, was described as a recluse. Former employees described the shooter as an off putting supervisor who voiced fears about government surveillance; neighbors described him as quiet; and someone they rarely saw unless he was mowing his lawn. He would leave for work at night and return in the morning, that was all you would see of him. (Wilson, A21)

The St. Louis school shooter was flagged in an FBI background check but was still able to legally purchase the AR-15 style rifle he used in the attack from a private seller. When the 19-year-old first tried to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer, his background check blocked the sale. However, the shooter was able to legally buy the rifle from a private individual who had bought the firearm from a licensed dealer in 2020. His mother detected changes in his behavior and was worried about his mental health, so she called the police. Missouri does not have a so-called "red flag law" which would allow police to confiscate a person's gun if they are at risk of causing harm to themselves or others. However, the police arranged for his rifle to be given to a third party so it could be stored outside the home. Somehow the shooter had the rifle when he forced himself into the Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in October 2022.

Colorado's gay club shooter was arrested a year and a half before he shot up the Denver nightclub and left five people dead in November 2022. He allegedly threatened his mother with a homemade bomb, forcing neighbors in surrounding homes to evacuate. (Condon, 1) The shooter evaded Colorado's red flag gun law. Authorities did not seize the weapons and the ammunition the man's mother said he had. Although charges were never filed regarding the bomb threat, the shooter's mother was concerned about her son. The arrest of the 22 year-old prior to the mass shooting should have prompted the police to confiscate his guns, but the red flag law was ignored. While it's not clear the law could have prevented the nightclub shooting, the young shooter would not have had his guns returned without a court order. The judge would have reviewed his case on a six-month basis. Since the red flag law was passed in Colorado in 2019 it has seldom been used, another warning sign missed and more senseless slaughter.

In November, 2022, the University of Virginia shooter who killed three football players and injured two, was investigated by campus police following a hazing incident. No charges were filed, and the investigation was closed after witnesses refused to cooperate. The shooter had previously violated a concealed weapons rule while outside the city of Charlottesville, Virginia in February 2021. (Archie, 4) These were warning signs that the University of Virginia ignored and the people around the shooter ignored. Missed warning signs has allowed potential mass shooters to carry out their acts of violence.

The Associated Press studied 19 states and the District of Colombia with red flag laws on their books, and found they have been used about 15,000 times since 2020, less than ten times for every 100,000 adults in each state. Experts called that woefully low and hardly enough to make a dent in gun killings. (Condon, 4) Implementing red-flag laws statewide would allow authorities to remove weapons from people who pose a risk to themselves and to others. Utilizing the red-flag laws that are available in various states could stop potential mass shooters from obtaining firearms.

There have been at least 607 mass shootings through November 2022. The pace of mass shootings in 2022 is part of a three-year uptick that began in 2020. Between 2019 and 2020, the total number of mass shootings each year jumped from 417 to 610. The number of mass shootings jumped again in 2021 to 690. (Boschma, 2)


Crisis intervention can save people's lives. Crisis intervention is nothing more than recognizing when someone is in crisis and stepping in to help the person get through that moment. Intervention is taking the individual out of the danger zone and bringing them back to a place where they feel they have control over the situation. The problems in the lives of mass shooters feel so massive and overwhelming that sometimes they feel that no one is able to understand. As a society, reducing the stigma and increasing knowledge of mental health will result in a call for and access to high quality mental health treatments and the funding of additional counselors in schools. There are at this time more police officers in schools than there are counselors or therapists. This fact alone should be addressed in terms of America's culpability for mass shootings, especially in schools.

Like all other health crises, we cannot rely on a single solution to prevent this kind of violence; rather, we need a multi-layered strategy that draws on stressing meaningful preventive efforts. Effective school violence prevention requires investments in specific policies that are known to effectively reduce access to firearms (such as total bans on assault weapons and use of extreme risk protection orders). It also involves putting into practice universal school-based violence prevention programming. The violence prevention programming should focus on prosocial skill development, restorative justice oriented conflict resolution practices, the removal of punitive disciplinary policies in schools (zero tolerance policies) and expansion of child mental health services.

After every mass shooting, the media like to obsess on "motive," but in reality, the signs that lead to mass violence are unpredictable. When mass shootings occur, the shooters have often experienced an existential and often suicidal crisis in the days and weeks leading up to their crimes. (Peterson, 186) They have searched for validation of their feelings and have found it in hurting and killing others, and they have had the opportunity to shoot, often because of negligent gun laws. This complexity of the problem does not mean that we give up, it means we should care more. There are ways that can make it possible to at least lessen the mass shooting epidemic, and it starts with treating the young angry male. As individuals and as a society we can work on building relationships and mentoring young people who suffer from trauma. Gaining knowledge and developing strong skills in crisis intervention and suicide prevention will give us the tools we need to deescalate situations of violence. The safe storage of firearms will limit the opportunity for mass shooters to acquire guns and proceed with their plans. Media concentration on victims and societal issues should be the focus when mass shootings occur, not the identity of the shooter. The media should be discussing solutions on how to stop massacres rather than providing a platform to give attention or publicity to mass shooters. {Peterson, 176) Children and parents should be educated and attend workshops on how to identify and report suspicious behavior to authority.

Big Tech needs to do more to flag violent content before it is even uploaded or prevent it from ever being reposted. Social media platforms could also limit the number of times that violent content can be shared and potentially ban shares between sites. Collectively we all need to be more alert, more compassionate and in some cases more restrained in order to stop mass shooters from killing. Social media platforms have failed to protect us; as users we must demand more of these companies and educate ourselves and our children on how to be better consumers of online content. And we must recognize that our own need to process mass shootings by posting them on Facebook and Twitter can unintentionally feed the disaster narrative that has become America's story.

As a society, it is important to create warm environments in schools, develop trauma informed practices, provide universal trauma screening, and build care teams that can focus on individual's needs. Placing more counselors and therapists in schools instead of police and resource officers will allow children to get the help they need when it comes to dealing with trauma. The training of staff in schools and the workplace to recognize trauma can influence others to get more involved in individual's lives, and then they will not feel the need to isolate themselves. Teaching users about social media platforms and the right way to address problems can dissuade others from posting hateful rhetoric online. The sharing of hateful and violent posts can be eliminated with software that flags pictures of guns, violence and profanity. Look at some of the most recent hate-motivated mass shootings and you will see that nearly every shooter posted some kind of indication of their hateful thinking on the internet in the days and weeks leading up to the tragic events.

To stop potential mass shooters, we need serious investment in the social determinants of health and well-being. Hospitals are very limited in what they can impose on people; they cannot force treatments and they cannot coerce patients into attending follow-up appointments. They also cannot medicate someone against their will. In an interview with doctors and nurses at a Minnesota psychiatric emergency department, the authors of The Violence Project stated, "the institution turned away over 80 percent of people who were sent to them, either because the patients were not in acute danger of hurting themselves and others or because the hospital didn't have the bed space" (Peterson 182). This is the type of negligence that leaves room for violent behavior to escalate. "America's gun violence epidemic is a result of an industry and culture that has made guns readily available to nearly anyone, with little interest in preventing these guns from being used to harm others" (American Progress, 9)

As the new year was celebrated, mass shootings and death continues to be the narrative of the United States. As a society, the "never again" rhetoric needs to be abandoned. It is detrimental to pay attention to the people that surround us. Being attentive will save lives.


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