National expert Dr. Jaclyn Schildkraut, executive director of the Regional Gun Violence Consortium at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, shared ways mass shootings can be prevented during a presentation on Sept. 22 at Niagara University. During the address, Dr. Schildkraut identified the similarities of mass shooters and offered a detailed discussion of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., where she had grown up.
Dr. Schildkraut noted that one of the most important factors in mass shootings is that they are not spontaneous; rather, the shooters meticulously plan their attacks weeks, months, and even years in advance.
She explained that profiling a mass shooter is not possible, because they “don’t all look the same.” However, they do exhibit common behavior, so she urged people to “focus on what they’re doing, rather than what they look like.”
Some of the commonalities include having a grievance, either real or perceived, and a fixation with using violent means to overcome the grievance. She said that mass shooters gather information and research other shooters to learn what they did. They also begin acquiring weapons and ammunition to prepare for the attack and practice their plan in advance. They tell others of their intent and complete final acts including writing manifestos and suicide notes. These actions are “the most overt indicators that a shooting is about to happen,” Dr. Schildkraut emphasized, and reporting them is “one of the best ways to prevent it.”
These behaviors don’t always happen in a linear order, and shooters may exhibit more than one at a time. What’s critical, Dr. Schildkraut said, is that if someone sees something, they say something to the appropriate authorities.
“We have to get information into the hands of people who can do something,” she said.
Dr. Schildkraut also discussed the Parkland attack, the U.S.’s deadliest high school shooting, which took place on Feb. 14, 2018. She explained the actions of the shooter, whom she would not name, both before and during the attack to illustrate the kinds of behaviors that are indicators of a potential shooting rampage.
“We need to learn from this or else these people lost their lives for no reason,” she said.
Mass shootings are “absolutely preventable,” Dr. Schildkraut concluded, if we are all willing to change our mindset from “It can never happen here,” to “It can happen here, even if it’s unlikely to,” and report signs of a potential attack to people who can help in stopping it.
Dr. Schildkraut is the author of six books and numerous journal publications related to school shootings, is a consultant for educational institutions, and has hosted trainings and presentations for agencies, organizations, schools, universities, and academic conferences.