Targeted violence and mass shootings in the United States in 2023 has established record highs from January to May. During this time frame we have had 22 mass shootings resulting in four or more victims killed.
One of the latest shootings occurred May 6 in Allen, an upscale suburb of Dallas, Texas, when a young man opened fire in the parking lot of a shopping mall. The carnage left eight killed.
Some politicians immediately called for new legislation in order to keep guns off the street and out of the hands of people who exhibit questionable behavior or mental illness.
There are over 300 million personally owned weapons in the United States. Confiscation of weapons is not the answer to this horrible issue. Besides, perpetrators have used vehicles to mow down innocent victims. We all remember the bombing at the Boston marathon.
- The National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) established by the United States Secret Service conducted a study of targeted violence and mass shootings. Some of their findings are:
- Most attackers exhibited behavior that concerned family members, neighbors, classmates, and co-workers who feared for their lives.
- Many attackers had a history of physical aggression as expressed in criminal charges for domestic violence, arrest for assault, and other recorded violent acts.
- Many attackers were motivated by a perceived belief they were wronged in the workplace or in a domestic relationship. Their solution is retaliation.
- Most attackers used firearms, and most were obtained illegally.
- One quarter of the attackers espoused some attachment to a hateful belief system.
- Many of the attackers experienced some stressful event like a romantic breakup, termination from employment, and legal problems. Attackers acted out from a specific triggering event.
- Over half of the attackers exhibited mental health issues such as depression, psychotic systems, and suicidal thoughts.
So, the question is, can these attacks be prevented? The answer is complicated due to health regulations, rules for a 5150 commitment, people who refuse to come forward when they observe or hear a threat, and finally, how does the District Attorney and law enforcement view threats of violence and what is their reaction?
Knowing that “threat actors” frequently leak or advertise their diabolical scheme, a better answer is to train everyone to identify aberrant and dysfunctional behaviors that act as a “red flag” and report their observations to a professional threat assessment entity, or to law enforcement. In Orange County California, the Sheriff’s office has trained their officers on how to handle threats and to be proactive in seizing weapons for those who make a threat of violence.
At Talon, we follow US Secret Service protocols on threat assessment and threat management. When consulted we review three things:
- Threat Posturing – is the person making threats using specific language that indicates a narrowing of focus on a target. Is the person using social media to make threats and how specific are the threats.
- Preparatory Behaviors – is the person or persons fascinated with their weapons and purchasing weapons, conducting surveillance, and developing plans. Is the person engaged in stalking.
- Rehearsal Fantasies – frequently perpetrators engage in leakage of their plan to commit violent acts through social media, or in a conversation or letter.