Preventing Mass Shootings

Solutions Journalism Network

Like most people in this moment, in the aftermath of the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Fla., mass shootings are much on my mind. Long before these became disturbingly commonplace, one my my favorite professors was a victim in a mass shooting. It happened in 1991 at the University of Iowa and the shooter was former graduate student who had been unable to find jobs in his field, physics. Although he was not a citizen, he was able to purchase a gun fairly easily. He killed four faculty members and a student, as well as shooting and paralyzing another student, before killing himself. For years afterwards, I could refer to this incident and people knew immediately what I was talking about. Now these kinds of shootings happen with such frequency, only the most heinous events with the greatest numbers of victims stick in people's minds.

So what do we do about what seems to be, with a few exceptions,  a uniquely American problem? This collections brings together possible options for policy makers and advocates to explore.

-Megan Kamerick

One that is getting more attention since the Parkland shooting is the idea of extreme risk protection orders. These operate sort of like restraining orders to keep guns away from people when they're in crisis or present a danger to themselves or others.

Japan has nearly eliminated gun deaths with intensive background checks that include mental health and drug tests. The country was the first  in the world to impose gun laws many decades ago and even had a gun buyback program in the 17th century, so culturally it's quite different from the U.S. Police must know martial arts and rarely use guns. One way they deal with difficult suspects is to roll them up in a futon and take them back to the station. A US initiative tackles gun violence reform by addressing climate change, with new research that shows a correlation that in less green areas there is more of a prone to violence.

Many see no action at the federal level, but there are more targeted initiatives that research suggests can lower levels of gun violence, such as tougher laws for those under domestic violence restraining orders or threat assessments where numerous agencies, families and law enforcement connect the dots on a potential mass shooter. Several groups in cities around the country engage in violence disruption by grassroots organizing that seeks to reach troubled young men before violence escalates.

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