Sight Magazine – Essay: Five Ways to Reduce School Shootings

After the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, psychology professor Paul Boxer and his colleagues reviewed the research to see what could be learned from what they call the “violence prevention science.” Following the May 24, 2022, massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Boxer revisited this research — and other research conducted since then — to gain insight into what can be done to reduce risk. school shootings. coming. Here he proposes five policy changes – based on his findings – that can be implemented to achieve this goal…

1. Drastically limit access to firearms
Gun regulations are important.

When my colleagues and I looked at firearms regulations state by state, we found that more restrictive gun laws are associated with lower rates of firearm homicides.

Cat Perez, 39, lays flowers at a memorial at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Monday, May 30, to honor the victims killed in the school shooting last week. Photographs of the victims, left to right, show Layla Salazar, McKenna Lee Elrod, Jayce Carmelo Luevanos and Nevaeh Alyssa Bravo. PHOTO: AP Photo/Jae C Hong.

This relationship held even after controlling for demographic, economic, and educational factors. Other researchers have found that “permissive gun laws and higher rates of gun ownership” are linked to higher rates of school shootings.

What these results essentially mean is that in states where it is harder to acquire a gun, fewer people are killed by guns. Examples of these restrictions are raising the legal purchase age, imposing long waiting periods before access, requiring extensive background checks, etc. These and similar measures – for example, eliminating access for people at high risk of committing violence, such as perpetrators of domestic violence – all tend to make access to firearms much more difficult, which would significantly reduce gun violence.

“When my colleagues and I examined firearms regulations state by state, we found that more restrictive gun laws were associated with lower rates of firearm homicides.”

Imposing meaningful restrictions or outright bans on firearm equipment associated with greater lethality, such as assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, should also reduce the number of people killed. by firearms. To research has already shown that greater access to firearms is associated with a higher number of firearm deaths.

2. Use more school violence risk assessments
In the years following the 1999 Columbine shootings, researchers and federal law enforcement agencies have studied school shootings and developed risk assessments to assess the likelihood of actual violence by a young person identified as a possible risk.

These assessments are conducted by professionals who include police officers, school officials and teachers. They also involve mental health professionals, such as school counselors and psychologists. Together, these professionals consult to determine a young person’s risk of violence.

These teams may not be able to prevent all possible incidents. Yet this type of approach is essential to improving the process of identifying and apprehending potential shooters overall. Tips on how to use these assessments are available for free and based on extensive applied research. For example, in a 2015 studythe Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines – a set of guidelines for the investigation of a reported threat, a thorough assessment of the threat actor and the preventive or protective measures to be taken in response – reduce levels of student aggression. They have also been shown to reduce out-of-school suspension rates while improving teachers’ and students’ perception of safety.

3. Develop evidence-based strategies to reduce violent behavior
To help reduce the number of young people who become violent as they grow up, government agencies could increase the availability and use of evidence-based interventions in schools.

It has been shown through research that aggressive and violent behavior emerges from a combination of personal and environmental risk factors. Factors include impulsiveness, insensitivity, exposure to violence, and victimization.

In light of this research, effective approaches have been developed to to prevent aggression by teaching students to problem solve for better responses to peer conflict. They also teach students to think carefully about the motivations of others when they feel provoked.

Programs shown at reduce Aggressive behaviors typically train young people who have previously been aggressive on new and better coping skills to deal with stress and anger. And for young people who have become seriously violent, treatments teach new constructive behavioral and communication skills to young people and their caregivers. Treatments also help young people develop better relationships with family members and school staff.

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4. Make school buildings safer
Elementary school shooter Robb entered the school building through a door that allegedly malfunctioned. This underscores the absolute importance for schools to take and maintain physical security measures.

In the wake of school shootings, schools often turn to solutions such as enhanced camera surveillance or enhanced law enforcement.

These measures may have mixed effects on students’ perceptions of safety and support – cameras placed outdoors seem to increase feelings of safety, while cameras placed indoors seem to promote unease.

An increased presence of law enforcement could teachers feel safer at school. But it could also criminalize student misconduct without make schools safer.

Yet there are many ways for schools to improve physical security without increasing student anxiety or unnecessarily deploying law enforcement. For example, in a large study, students were less likely to miss school due to security concerns when metal detectors were on. used at school entry points. In this study, these metal detectors also reduced the likelihood of weapons being introduced into schools.

5. Reduce exposure to violence via media and social networks
Entertainment media and social media are saturated with violent images of physical assault, gun violence and gore. Exposure to and participation in virtual violence may not lead to aggressive behavior for all children and adolescents. But watching violent programs and playing violent video games can cause an increase hostility, aggressive feelingsemotional desensitization to violence and ultimately aggressive behaviour. These effects can potentially be mitigated by reducing the amount of screen violence that children and adolescents are exposed to over time, especially early in their development.The conversation

Paul Boxer is a professor of psychology at Rutgers University-Newark. This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

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