Mass Shootings: What Next?
With 5-10 million so-called "assault rifles" and a far larger number of functionally equivalent firearms legally owned in the US, the push to outlaw certain types of firearms is unlikely to deprive aspiring mass shooters of weapons. Indeed, long guns of all types represent a very small fraction of the weapons used in either homicides or suicides in the US. We argue below that one of the serious gaps in our system for preventing these terrible events is the absence of a credible and workable system for limiting the access by the small number of seriously mental ill individuals with a history of violence and substance abuse to firearms. No single solution for mass shootings in the US is at hand, but there are steps that could help ward off future tragedies. Mass shooters fall into three - often overlapping - categories: severely mentally disturbed individuals, domestic terrorists and evil individuals who are neither insane as defined in law nor motivated by political beliefs. Disrupting future attacks arguably will require departures from current practices of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to monitor social media to identify those who display attributes of extreme hatred or mental instability. This will require new legislation and clear safeguards to prevent abuse. When individuals “of concern” are identified by social media posts or expressions of concern by family, friends or acquaintances, the next step will be searching criminal history databases, a relatively straightforward exercise. However, our criminal justice system routinely bargains away serious charges to avoid trial or to achieve progressive changes to the criminal justice system itself. As a result, potentially dangerous individuals escape identification because their names are not submitted to the FBI’s database as ineligible to possess firearms. ... Read More