Public Opinion on School Shootings and Violence

After each school and mass shooting, the debate turns to gun control, security and mental health. Two are filled with massive constitutional and legal barriers, thus it’s not surprising when the default provision becomes an emphasis on school security per the data below.

Gallup states that by 56 to 41 percent, we should change laws related to “school security and mental health system” rather than the “laws on the sales of guns and ammunition” as the best way to prevent future school shootings.

Research is offered from additional sources as to armed officers in schools and gun purchases.

Firearms

In 2013 there were roughly 357 million firearms in the U.S. — 40 million more guns than people per The Washington Post.

If you made the possession of all firearms illegal, it would take decades before there was a decrease in gun violence. Yes, the constitution currently makes that impossible.

We could eliminate the AR 15 and similar weapons and ban high capacity magazines or clips, but that would leave us with hundreds of millions of high capacity handguns that are, quite frankly, more lethal in close-up shootings than rifles.

Hi-powered hunting rifles and shotguns would remain.

Gallup

Americans continue to be more likely to say that policy makers in Washington should focus on making major changes to school security measures and the mental health system than on making major changes to laws on the sale of guns and ammunition. However, more favor focusing on gun laws than did so five years ago.

By 56 to 41 percent, Americans are more likely to say the government should change laws related to “school security and mental health system” rather than the “laws on the sales of guns and ammunition” as the best way to prevent future school shootings.

Republicans and Democrats have overwhelmingly different responses to this choice. Eighty percent of Republicans favor the safety and mental health approach, while 61% of Democrats favor focusing on guns.

Gallup also measured Americans’ views on seven specific proposals for ways to prevent school shootings. Of the four proposals Americans favor most, three deal with school safety protocols and mental health, while one — background checks — deals with gun regulations. Smaller majorities of Americans favored raising the age at which guns can be purchased and banning sales of semi-automatic weapons, reported Gallup.

School Shooting Solutions

More Armed Resource Officers At Schools

Armed security officers are becoming more prevalent at America’s schools, according to a federal study released amid a heated debate over whether teachers and other school officials should carry guns.

Armed officers were present at least once a week in 43 percent of all public schools during the 2015-16 school year, compared with 31 percent of schools a decade before, according to data from a survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, reported the Chicago Sun Times.

Gun Purchases

Google search activity for specific gun models tends to rise and fall in a similar pattern to the number of background checks conducted by the FBI. When Pew examined monthly, nationwide Google searches for the gun models between February 2012 and February 2018, as well as the adjusted number of gun background checks the FBI carried out each month during this period, Pew found a strong correlation between the two.

A 2017 paper published in the journal Science also found that the search term “buy gun” is strongly correlated with background checks.

Unlike in the aftermath of some other recent mass shootings, Google search activity did not increase in the months of the Las Vegas or Parkland attacks, reported Pew.

Context

America has always been a country awash in firearms and violence but mass and school shootings in the past were rare. Why are they increasing now?

Mental health issues have increased, Psychology Today. The criminal justice system reports substantially more mentally ill and impacted offenders.

Crime increased since the mid-1960’s along with substance abuse, especially the use of harder drugs.

The dismantling of two-parent families is a major crime correlate and child abuse and neglect among the criminal population is a considerable problem. It’s rare to interview offenders without hearing of abuse and neglect as a child. The majority of female offenders refer to child sexual assault by someone they knew.

We eliminated our system of state-run mental health hospitals without currently increasing community-based services.

In short, for whatever the reasons, America has entered new territory where we have a combination of extremely distressed and untreated people coupled with massive firearm availability.

Conclusion

The options available to deal with school and mass shootings are filled with endless Constitutional and legal pitfalls. The most aggressive gun control proposals still leave hundreds of millions of high powered firearms in the hands of the vast majority of Americans.

Just because a person has indications of mental illness does not mean that he will turn violent; the vast majority do not. Even a person with a history of violence (i.e., charged with assault) with mental health issues doesn’t mean that he is capable of or willing to inflict mass violence. Most psychologists can’t predict with precision who is truly dangerous without a sustained violent history.

This means is that school and public security measures are probably our best available options. Mental health and possibilities for treatment should be expanded considerably. The rest will be tied up in litigation for decades.

Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. – Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Post-Masters’ Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. You can contact me at [email protected].