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    School Shootings: Looking For Warning Signs
    By News Staff | December 19th 2012 02:39 PM | 7 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    There's no way to legislate evil out of existence and mentally ill homicidal people are sometimes going to commit gruesome crimes. It has no cultural boundaries. The same day a mentally ill American attacked children in Connecticut a man in China did the same thing. While some are busy politicizing the issue to advance their agendas, society needs to take a renewed look at warning signs.

    Banning things doesn't help, since violent crime in the UK is highest in the developed world but guns are illegal. And while an 'assault weapons' ban existed in the USA, the Columbine shootings still happened in Colorado. Connecticut has strict gun control laws and the guns in the Newtown, CT murder spree were owned by the murderer's single mother, who bought them for home defense, but the recent attack has renewed the volumes of opinion about what can be done to prevent the next tragedy. 

    Can anything realistically be done to prevent these horrific crimes? An article in Current Psychiatry Reports reviews prior papers on the topic, focusing primarily on "targeted" and "rampage," or "spree," shootings. Targeted shootings are those where there is a specific target, individual group or institution, and rampage or spree shootings are those that involve multiple victims, either known or unknown to the assailant.

    Unfortunately, while there are some characteristics shared by past shooters, such as narcissism, depression, low self-esteem and a fascination with violence, the authors conclude there are not enough similarities to create a profile of a potential mass murderer. 

    But they argue that threat assessment may work, focusing on traits as: suicide risk, homicide risk, thought processes, reality testing, mood and behavior as well as relevant social and developmental histories. Any obsession with firearms or violence and the presence of writings or drawings with violent themes seems obvious but we've gone through a period in the last few decades where being mentally ill is regarded as the same as having a cold. Where the mentally ill used to be stereotyped and demonized, society may have gone too far to the other side and now be ignoring obvious problems. After a psychology grad student killed people in a theater in Colorado during a "Batman" movie, it was revealed that people in the department were concerned about him.  A local gun club turned him down for membership because he was too strange to be on their shooting range.

    Mental health workers and adults - including parents of children - must be socialized to take threats of interpersonal violence seriously, just as recent efforts have been made to treat all threats of suicide as calls to action.

    "School shootings are not all the same and may require different approaches to prevention and treatment, especially with respect to identifying risk factors at the individual, school or community levels, and particularly with regard to examining the role that mental health issues may play to increase risk for perpetration," the authors conclude. "Community mental health providers and professionals, particularly psychiatrists, are essential partners and must continue to seek avenues for working with schools to conduct thorough threat assessments, to identify young persons with significant mental health needs and to develop protocols for identification, prevention, and treatment that will effectively support the social and emotional needs of our most vulnerable youth and communities." 


    Comments

    UvaE
    Some observations:

    The issue is indeed far more complicated than gun-ownership. In Montreal, there's no preoccupation with a constitutional right to bear arms. There's no paranoia about the government turning against its citizens in a violent way. If they ever decide to turn against us, the hit will be preceded by so much paper work that we'll all have time to escape to Vermont and New Hampshire. Gun registries have been off, on and off again---regardless, there are weapons of all kinds on the black market.

    But the majority of homes are weapons-free. 

    Despite its disproportionate share of mob whackings, which contributes to a violent crime severity index that's higher than that of Canada (97.7 versus 85.3), seven Canadian cities are more violent than Montreal. And all have smaller populations.   ( source : Stats Canada 2011)

    And yet few citizens have to be reminded that Montreal has had 3 mass shootings in colleges or universities in the last 23 years---

    a) Sept. 13, 2006: Dawson College, Montreal

    A young man opens fire outside Dawson College, a CEGEP serving about 10,000 students in downtown Montreal, and then continues the rampage inside the school.

    Witnesses describe seeing a tall skinny youth with a Mohawk haircut walk into the cafeteria shortly before 1 p.m. ET carrying a large gun.

    The shooter, Kimveer Gill, 25, later kills himself in a confrontation with police inside the school. One woman, 18-year-old Anastasia DeSousa, are killed and 19 people wounded.

    b) Aug. 24, 1992: Concordia University, Montreal

    A professor at Concordia, Valery Fabrikant, fires on his colleagues, killing four and wounding one.

    c) Dec. 6, 1989: L'École Polytechnique, Montreal

    Marc Lépine, 25, walks into a classroom at Montreal's l'École Polytechnique engineering school, separates the men from the women, then tells the men to leave. Then he begins shooting from a semi-automatic military weapon, shouting "I want women" as he roams the school's floors. Lépine kills 13 female students and a college employee, and injures 13 others before committing suicide.

    Hank
    Italy bans guns but is number two in Europe in gun murders.  So banning is not enough. And Canada has a different cultural history than America, which is why it has less government distrust. They asked for permission to be a country and got it but Britain killed its citizens and garrisoned soldiers in homes in America, which led to a violent uprising.

    What stories in the US about these shootings leave out - their reasons are their own - are the difference in deaths when criminals are in gun-free zones, like a Sikh temple or an elementary school, where people with permits to carry concealed weapons are not allowed.  The many, many times when this did not make the news as a national tragedy are when some clown tries to kill people and gets shot by a person with a permit to carry a weapon.


    UvaE
    And Canada has a different cultural history than America, which is why it has less government distrust. They asked for permission to be a country and got it but Britain killed its citizens and garrisoned soldiers in homes in America, which led to a violent uprising.
    But it happened such a long time ago.  
    Hank
    Cultural heritage exists. If it didn't, the Mid-East would be like our MidWest - but it clearly is not.
    Gerhard Adam
    The many, many times when this did not make the news as a national tragedy are when some clown tries to kill people and gets shot by a person with a permit to carry a weapon.
    I always hear that, but have yet to see a real incidence of it.  Of course, we also hear about those people that shoot the wrong or unarmed people too. 

    I'm not clear that an arms race to see who can carry the most weapons is a viable solution, since that's exactly where the idea of concealed weapons leads.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    What leads to?  This is the same paranoia that infects the atheist movement about creationism in schools, despite the fact that there is less religion than ever.  Gun ownership and concealed weapons are lower than ever.  Who said there should be an arms race to arm everyone? I didn't. What I said was that there are more instances where concealed weapons holders shoot someone before there are 20, or 6, people dead, than there are of legal permit holders flipping out and acting like maniacs.  You said those instances do not exist.  Which one of us do you really think doesn't know what they are talking about?
    MikeCrow
    FOX reported that Adam's Mom was in someway involved with the courts discussing his placement into an Institution, and that she had some kind of relationship with the Principle and Psychologist at the school, and was very upset over it. It was also reported that he tried to buy a gun about a week earlier, and was turned down.

    We'll find out at some point how much of this is factual or not.
    Never is a long time.