President Joe Biden issued a series of executive orders on gun control Thursday, and experts are weighing in with possible solutions to prevent mass shootings.
Colorado has suffered three of the nation’s most notorious shootings: Columbine High School in April 1999, the Aurora Century 16 movie theater in July 2012 and the Boulder King Soopers in March 2021.
While gun control is often discussed in the immediate aftermath of mass shooting, many also point to the mental state of the offender.
Dr. Carl Clark, president and CEO of the Mental Health Center of Denver says shooters may not necessarily have a mental illness.
“If you look at people with diagnosed mental illness, the amount of violence is no more than it is in the general population,” Clark said.
Clark said mental health is an important issue in our society, but it’s a distraction when people believe mental health treatment would prevent mass violence. He said co-responder programs, which pair law enforcement with behavioral health professionals, can help when dealing with people with anger and impulse control issues.
For those who would resort to violence to deal with grievances, a better approach could be noticing and reporting these red flags. A secret service report on school shootings in 2019 found 81% of school shootings involved an offender who told someone about their plans. In 93% of cases, someone observed behavioral warning signs.
In the years after the Columbine shooting, Colorado launched the Safe to Tell program, which allows people to report their concerns anonymously. The Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado Boulder has a list of warning signs that may predict violence.
Center Director Beverly Kingston said warning sings are important, but it also matters what happens after those concerns are raised.
“We definitely want to make sure that firearms are kept away from anyone who is motivated to use them for dangerous reasons for criminal reasons,” Kingston said.
With guns so prevalent in the United States, there may be a last line of defense when a person decides to use a gun for evil purposes. Arizona based company Defendry developed artificial intelligence technology that integrates with existing surveillance systems. The software recognizes a weapon then triggers actions like automatic door locks, cell phone alerts and calls to law enforcement.
Defendry has clients including schools, retail centers, businesses and amusement parks. CEO Pat Sullivan said the cost can be about as much as an security guard, but the impact is priceless.
“What is the emotional cost to the community, for it to happen, you can't put a number it,” Sullivan said.
There’s no way to measure what Colorado has lost in the 22 years since Columbine and what the country has lost to so many horrific acts of gun violence. But experts say they remain hopeful.
“As humans, we're really wired more towards kindness than we are violence,” Clark said.
Kingston added she’s seen the research and knows that violence can be prevented.
“I know in every cell of my body that it's possible to prevent violence," she said, "and we don't have to have this anymore.”
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