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Tue Oct 3, 2017, 02:46 PM

Why Mass Shootings Keep Happening

This is an excellent article about how some believe that implementing a program based on "threat assessment" can help decrease these shooting incidents. I remembered the article and searched for it. It turns out Esquire just reposted it yesterday. It's a long read but well worth the time.


Sure, he was Trunk Full of Guns. But was he one of them? Was he a psychopath? He didn't think so. He had come as close as a human being could possibly get to abandoning his humanity. But he hadn't. He wasn't, well, evil. And he didn't think that even the most prolific shooters necessarily were, either. He knew them—he knew what they had gone through because of what he had gone through.

The pathway to violence: That wasn't just a term of threat assessment. He didn't know what threat assessment was. But he had been on the pathway and remembered its milestones. And so when he got an e-mail asking if he had any ideas about stopping mass shootings, he volunteered to talk. He didn't just have ideas; he wound up doing a kind of threat assessment on his former self, if only so that people might be able to assess the threat—and yes, the humanity—of people like him.

Trunk does, however, think often of the person who is out there right now feeling the way he used to feel. The person with a grievance. The person with a plan. The person with a gun—hell, an arsenal. The person we feel powerless against, because we don't know who he is. All we know is what he—or she—is going to do.

Can he or she—they—be stopped before they become what we in America call "mass shooters"? We are so convinced they can't be that we don't even know if anyone is trying to stop them. Can they be understood? We are so convinced the evil they represent is inexplicable that we don't try to explicate it. Mass shootings have become by now American rituals—blood sacrifices, propitiations to our angry American gods, made all the more terrible by our apparent acceptance of them. They have become a feature of American life, and we know very well what follows each one: the shock, the horror, the demonization of the guilty, the prayers for the innocent, the calls for action, the finger-pointing, the paralysis, and finally the forgetting. We know that they change everything only so that everything may remain unchanged.

But we are wrong about that. Mass shootings are not unstoppable, and there are people trying to stop them. They are not even inexplicable, because every time Trunk hears of one he understands why it happened and who did it. We have come to believe that mass shooters can't be stopped because we never know who they are until they make themselves known. But Trunk was almost one of them once. He was a heartbeat away. And what he understands is that shooters want to be known, not through the infamy of a massacre, but before they have to go through with it. They want to be known as much as he, years later, wants to remain unknown, walking to the bus stop in the rain.


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