Preventing school shootings: Is it possible?


(WTNH) — It happens far too often. A lone gunman unleashing unimaginable terror inside a school. Students are often trapped, caught in the cross-fire. Helpless, frightened parents with tear-stained faces rush to rescue their children from an ordeal they will never forget.

The Center for Homeland and Defense Security estimates that there were nearly 70 incidents nationwide in 2019, 400 since 2010.

So, how can you identify the next school shooter before an attack? Secret Service Special Agent Pete Quinn, who is in charge of the New Haven Office, says the bottom line is to see something, say something. He says people need to be vigilant and speak up when something does not appear to be right.

The Secret Service has been analyzing active shooting incidents that include 41 K-12 school shootings between 2008 to 2017 and came up with some characteristics of a potential active shooter.

On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza took the lives of 20 young children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Although this shooting was not among those addressed in the Secret Services analysis, The Connecticut Child Advocate’s Office looked into Adam Lanza’s actions and issued its report stating, “Nothing can mitigate or fully explain those actions.”

“While authors’ focus has been on AL’s psychological deterioration, we reiterate that this should not be taken to mean that we do not recognize the ubiquitous role that guns, and especially assault weapons with high capacity magazines, play in mass murder. In fact, while mental illness plays only a small role in violence in America, assault weapons are an increasingly common denominator in violent crimes. The widespread access to assault weapons and high capacity ammunition is an urgent public health concern.”

– State of Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate

See full report here.

The Secret Service Analysis and the Child Advocate’s report both indicate that early intervention can help. The Secret Service says early intervention teams can go a long way in gathering information to see if a person is on the pathway toward a school shooting but it would not necessarily mean that person will become a shooter.

After Sandy Hook, Connecticut passed a law requiring schools to have a threat assessment team.

The Secret Service says it’s important for parents, students, neighbors, staff and teachers to share any concerns they may have. Each may have what the Secret Service says is a piece of the puzzle and the earlier it’s determined that there may be a problem the sooner a person can be directed to get help.

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