Reducing Gun Violence: Part 2 [73]

By Dr. Keith Witt
January 9, 2013
BulletsIn Part 1 I detailed David Kennedy’s amazing success reducing street gang shootings all across America ( The conclusion he offered was:
  1. Study the problem.
  2. Find promising approaches.
  3. Try them out.
  4. See how they work.
  5. Apply effective ones across the country.
This strategy yielded phenomenal results. But there are other forms of gun violence that freak us out–America has the dubious honor of being the world’s leader in both gun ownership and gun violence. What can we do? What about mass shootings? They don’t have anything to do with urban street gangs. As far as I can tell, the most potentially useful dialogues about reducing “Lone crazy gunner” threats exemplified by the Newtown tragedy have involved examining lots of perspectives in intelligent, respectful dialogues like those we often see on the PBS News Hour. The consensus is that “Study the problem–Find promising approaches–Try them out–See how they work–Apply effective ones across the country” is a great way to go. Everybody has unique sets of opinions, but most reasonable experts don’t dismiss studying optimal solutions. Some intriguing and practical ideas I’ve heard discussed:
  • Targeting isolation and mental health in children to offer connection and support to families early. Mass shooters almost always turn out to have nobody in their life who knows them deeply. Let’s bring focused care to young couples and their children–at worst spending community money to give special attention to troubled kids (especially boys) who might not be killers, but could give so much more to the rest of us with the right help.
  • Taking a closer look at involuntary hospitalization laws in different states (stronger laws seem to be associated with fewer mass shootings).
  • Successful anti-bullying campaigns get kids involved in mediation and other forms of adult partnership and feeling more responsible for their school cultures. What if these programs extended to social isolation, or even danger concerns about other kids?
  • Promoting a national culture that finds wide proliferation of assault weapons objectionable. Countries where owning assault weapons is not practical or fashionable have way less gun violence.
There is data in all these areas that practical real world multi-disciplinary solutions can reduce mass shootings. Young mass murderers who survive and receive therapy in prison become profoundly depressed as the magnitude of the injuries they caused becomes clearer to them in non-crazy states. Similarly, unsupervised teen boys are the most likely age group to engage in transgressive behaviors like minor crimes, sexual coercion, and impulsive risk taking. People in their right minds generally want to do right, and if young men can be better shepherded into adulthood–with special attention to those who especially need it–a lot of horrific crimes will never happen. Also, with such attention, would the rates of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, drug and alcohol abuse, and high school drop-outs decrease? Who knows until we do the research and see? All we need to do is wake up, really study what’s happening, and then work together to generate and test solutions to reduce harm (we pass way too many laws based on bias and prejudice rather that scientific findings and rational inquiry). Violence on every level is the problem in the world, and we can help make everybody more peaceful and secure. What’s not to like about that? Image Credit: controlarms

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