Will Focusing On Those With Mental Illness Reliably Predict Who The Next Shooter Will Be?


It has been a week since the horrific shootings in Newtown, CT.  We have heard many in the mental health community demand more funding to address the many mentally ill; as if this might help us better predict the next shooter.  But sadly, it has been our experience from previous shootings that those with mental Illness have not garnered any reliable predictive quality, as to who might be the next shooter.


Following the Virginia Tech shooting the “Report to the President on Issues Raised by the Virginia Tech Tragedy, June 13, 2007 clearly stated, “Most people who are violent do not have a mental illness, and most people who have mental illness are not violent.”  In fact Seung-Hui Cho , the VT Shooter was evaluated on three separate occasions and on each occasion he was deemed to be, “Depressed and anxious but not at risk of hurting himself or others”!  Further, Jared Lee Loughner, who pleaded guilty to 19 charges, of murder and attempted murder, in connection with the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, clearly had a Thought Disorder and may be Schizophrenic, but less than 1% of those with Schizophrenia have ever murdered others.  How do you get from 1% to he is the next shooter?


Mental Illness is like “Profiling;” illustrated by the seminal study conducted with the U.S. Secret Service & U.S. Dept. of Education, called the Safe School Initiative, which concluded, “There is no accurate or useful profile of the school shooter, nor for assessing the risk that a particular student may pose for school-based targeted violence.”   Those in this study discovered what we already knew; “Profiling” tells us that within a certain group of individuals, there is a higher probability of a shooter.  It does not tell us who the next shooter is!


This study continues with a solution, “An inquiry should focus instead on the student’s behaviors and communication to determine if the student appears to be planning or preparing for an attack.” “The ultimate question to answer …. is whether a student is on a path to an violent attack, and if so, to determine how fast they are moving and where intervention may be possible”   The most reliable means of identifying the next shooter is through observing and defusing “emerging aggression.” A better understanding of mental illness is important but if we are to identify the next shooter we must focus on “emerging aggression,” usable objective observables, culturally neutral body language, behavior and communication indicators.


If we are to truly “prevent” the next school shooting, we must focus on “emerging aggression” and use a forensic recording and tracking software system, we call this the Critical Aggression Prevention System (CAPS). To learn more watch our 3-minute CAPS Movie: www.AggressionManagement.com/movie/

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