Parkland school shooting memorial
Messages painted on rocks at a memorial for the 17 students and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
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Beverly Kingston, University of Colorado Boulder and Sarah Goodrum, University of Colorado Boulder

In the months leading up to his 2012 attack that killed 26 people in Newtown, Connecticut, a 20-year-old man exhibited a cascade of concerning behaviors. He experienced worsening anorexia, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. His relationships deteriorated, and he became fixated on mass murders.

In 2013, an 18-year-old had enraged outbursts at school and threatened to kill his debate coach. Concerned, the school’s threat assessment team interviewed him, rating him as a low-level risk for violence. But three months after the assessment, he shot and killed a classmate and himself on school grounds in Centennial, Colorado.

By 2018, a 19-year-old man had more than 40 documented encounters with law enforcement and a history of threatening others and weapons purchases. After his mother died in 2017, family friends contacted law enforcement and expressed concern about his behavior. In 2018, he perpetrated a shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida.

All three perpetrators displayed disturbing behavior before their attacks – and the people around them missed the opportunities to intervene.

We are sociologists at the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado Boulder. We study the circumstances that lead to violence in which an attacker picks a target – like a person, group, or school – in advance.

We find that the same patterns of concerning behavior emerge among the perpetrators, but that’s not all. We also find that there are often many opportunities to intervene with the perpetrator before the tragedy that peers, family members, school staff, law enforcement officials, and others miss.

Much of the public discussion on preventing school shootings focuses on whether and how to limit people’s access to firearms. While these efforts remain important, over the past 30 years, our work has identified other strategies that can reduce the risk for violence. Here are three evidence-based steps that schools and communities can take to prevent violence.

1. Teach students and adults to report warning signs

Most school shooters exhibited concerning behavior and communicated their plan to cause harm before their deadly attack.

These troubling behaviors and communications provide opportunities for adults to step in, for students to speak up, and for people to help a student who may be in psychological or emotional distress.

But the warning signs for violence can be difficult to distinguish from other types of problem behavior, particularly among adolescents.

According to the U.S. Secret Service, the 10 most common concerning behaviors among school attackers are:

  • threats to the target or others, and an intent to attack, including on social media
  • intense or escalating anger
  • interest in weapons
  • sadness, depression or isolation
  • changes in behavior or appearance
  • suicide or self-harm
  • interest in weapons or violence
  • complaints of being bullied
  • worries over grades or attendance
  • harassing others

Attackers typically exhibit five or more of these concerning behaviors.

Educational programs and training that encourage people to share their concerns about, and seek help for, those engaging in worrisome behavior may improve safety in schools and communities.

2. Develop and publicize around-the-clock anonymous tip lines

People need a way to safely report their concerns. Tip line systems include websites, phone numbers to call or text, email addresses, and apps. They let students and others anonymously, or confidentially, share their concerns about another’s threatening behavior or communications.

These tip lines can make people less hesitant to report situations that worry them or that they think may not be their business, such as bullying, threats, drug use, or someone’s talk of suicide.

Several states have modeled their tip lines after Colorado’s Safe2Tell, which is a 24/7/365 live anonymous reporting system that was created in the wake of the 1999 Columbine High School mass shooting. Safe2Tell relays tips to local law enforcement officials and school leaders, who investigate and triage each tip. These law enforcement officials and school leaders determine the nature of the concern, along with the most appropriate response.

A 2011 study found the system had helped stop 28 potential school attacks, but that research has not been updated in the years since. Recent Safe2Tell reports indicate that the system also helps students get help for significant mental health needs.

During the 2021-22 school year, for instance, Safe2Tell received 19,364 reports. Of those, 14% were related to suicide threats, 7% to bullying, and 7% to welfare checks. Of the 84 self-reports related to mental health that year, 32% received counseling services, 32% had their parents notified, 22% had an official check on their well-being, 12% were hospitalized at least briefly, and 10% were given a suicide assessment; some received more than one of those responses.

These types of interventions are known to prevent school violence. The National Policing Institute is a nonprofit organization based in Arlington, Virginia, that maintains the Averted School Violence Database. As of 2021, the database contained case information on 171 averted attacks, 88 of which were first discovered by a peer of the potential attacker.

3. Conduct behavioral threat assessment and management

Once people report their concerns, law enforcement officers, school staff and mental health professionals must evaluate the reports and determine how to handle the information, and the people implicated.

One method, called behavioral threat assessment and management, seeks to identify the cause of the concerning behavior – such as a grievance, psychological trauma, or mental health concern. In schools, this process encourages the threat assessment team to evaluate the risk for violence and build a plan for supporting and monitoring the student, their behavior and their communications.

Schools that use this approach are less likely to simply suspend or expel the students they evaluate. That means students can still receive services and support through their school, rather than being excluded from it.

This process also helps distinguish cases in which a student made a threat but does not intend harm from those in which a student poses a real threat.

Once the team has assessed the threat, it can share the results – and the plan of action – with other school staff members to ensure everyone knows how to handle the student and their behavior. School staff members then also know how, and to whom, to report any subsequent observations of worrying actions or statements from the student.

It’s important for all school personnel to know that the federal student privacy law allows this type of information-sharing because it relates to school and personal safety. Some school leaders hesitate to share the plan because they are confused about this provision of the law.

For that reason, and because resources may be constrained at school or may not extend to a student’s home life, the action plans that follow behavioral threat assessments aren’t always carried out properly. So the team may have completed the assessment paperwork, but not the actual work of supporting, managing or monitoring the student’s needs.

Americans are not helpless in the face of school violence. Research has identified solutions. We believe it’s time to act to consistently and effectively implement these solutions.The Conversation

 

Beverly Kingston, Director and Senior Research Associate, Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, University of Colorado Boulder and Sarah Goodrum, Senior Research Associate, Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, University of Colorado Boulder

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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55 COMMENTS

  1. It is a huge stretch of the imagination to claim these strategies “don’t involve gun control” when the ten reasons to treat a kid as a dangerous nutjob includes “interest in weapons” twice. “We’re not going to take your guns per se, but we will ruin your child’s life if he isn’t a gun-hating sheep.”

    • Yeah, I was thinking of the poor kid during the first year of COVID lockdown who competed in air rifle matches and had several on a wall rack in his bedroom who received a surprise visit from the Police after a hysterical “teacher” dropped a dime on him. yup, let’s psychologically beat this child into submitting to the Left’s Agenda.

      • Great example of two truths and a lie, school shooters exhibit behavioral cues, conditions deteriorate before the event, these are the cues.(review closely to see the game repeat in the clues).

      • Tough issue. On one hand, the only thing more preposterous than claiming the Founders regarded nutjobs (etc.) as “equals” is the idea that they wrote the Constitution to coerce one another to treat them as such.

        OTOH, most psychiatrists (and school administrators) are among the people least likely to make fair decisions over others’ rights.

      • We had that weirdness here once and only once.

        Summer vacation, dad and mom enrolled daughter, age 9, in a summer camp gun class. The kid loved it, proud of what they had learned and their accomplishment and their skill. The kid had lots of pictures to show their friends and lots of fond memories to share.

        New school year starts, a week into school one day mom gets a phone call from the school telling her that her daughter was being detained pending a mental health and threat assessment and asked mom to come to the school. The daughters sin was she had shown some of those pictures to a few class mates and was telling them about the summer camp gun classes. The pictures showed various things but on was her holding a gun standing next to the instructor and her target with this nice neat 2 inch 10 shot group right in the center of the target, and a big “hey! I did this!” grin of pride on her face. A teacher happened along and asked to see the pictures and saw that one and immediately took the child to the principals office and declared the child a risk for shooting up the school and that the child was in ‘crisis’.

        Even the school principal called the teachers report it BS, but gotta do the procedures and go through it. But Mom shut it down as soon as she got to the school by daring them to stop her from taking her child home and ran out of the school with daughter. Police showed up at the home with child welfare services, congratulated the little girl on her shooting accomplishment but refused to take the child over the screeching objections of the child welfare lady.

        Teacher got fired, but it was for something else. She appealed it, and got her job back then got fired again a few months later for being convicted as an accessory in a store robbery, she was the get away driver for her boyfriend who was robbing the store. Boyfriend got shot during his violent robbery – in a weird sense of irony that happens in life sometimes he was shot by mom who just happens to have been there shopping.

        • NO WAY!!!!! YOU MADE THAT UP!!!!

          No I don’t think you did but it IS that crazy and SO fun.

          So teach was busy attempting to project her own sick mind/heart onto the little girl. That girl will do just fine, based on her Mom’s taking control of the situation and PROTECTING her daughter. And teach got her just reward, it just took a while. I’d like to learn that the screeching “child PROTECTION” harpie got hers somewhere along the line too. Most of them should be treated just like sex offenders are… kept five hundred feet away from all minor children.

  2. 1: Repeal all gun free zones, make private companies that prohibit carry liable for preventable crime on their premises and treat workplace prohibitions as the OSHA violations they are.
    2: End “affordable bail”/racial equity based prosecution/whatever they call it
    3: Execute all politicans and the vulture press.

    • “1: Repeal all gun free zones,…”

      gun free zones, defined:

      “gun (gŭn) free (frē) zone (zōn)

      * Trap in which people congregate and are falsely promised safety by a make believe force field of a ‘No Guns” prohibition.

      * A place where people are disarmed and not permitted self-defense with firearms.

      * Hunting grounds for predator criminals where defenseless prey is guaranteed by law.

      * Place where existing laws against violent crimes do not work to prevent violent crimes the laws are touted to be able to prevent.

      * Places designed to attract violently mentally ill predators.

      * Places where police forces cease to operate to protect before the fact of a violent crime as they are touted to be able to do by politicians implying.

      In the Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 7(3-4), 135–156. (Lankford, A., & Cowan, R. G. (2020)) ( https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Ftam0000151 )

      … Cowan writes of their research they “…closely analyzed public mass shooters who attacked in the United States from 1966 to 2019 and found that correlates of mental illness were approximately equally common among perpetrators, whether they had been coded as mentally ill or not.”

      Forensic psychiatrists James L. Knoll IV, MD, and George D. Annas, MD, MPH, of SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse New York, both leading authorities on the mental health aspects of mass shooters, summed it up for the issue for the mental health community various studies on various aspects in terms of mass shooters…. Although mass shooters may not meet DSM-5 criteria for a recognized disorder, “they do have an ill-defined trouble of the mind for which the mental health field has no immediate, quick-acting ‘treatment,’” – in other words, mass shooters do have mental illness driving them but not something clearly defined and for which the mental health community basically has no treatment.

      Mass shooting response by Police? Not a solution, period!

      One word: Uvalde
      One word: Columbine
      One word: Parkland
      One word: Florida (Pulse night club)
      Two words: Las Vegas (Route 91 Harvest music festival)

      and even more words… We could list every one but in reality its all of them to which police have responded.

      Reason?

      Each police response gave the shooter exactly what they needed – and that is a minimum of ~3 minutes kill-zone dominance from time of entry before they are engaged by police. A lot of people can be shot in 3 minutes starting at shooter entry no matter if its a hand gun or rifle or shotgun or single shot or bolt action or semi-auto. If they shot anyone during that ~3 minutes or not is irrelevant – the fact they had this time without being stopped by police engagement gives them ~3 minutes kill-zone dominance and the choice is all up to them. This increases the likely hood of injury or death by around 80%.

      History and fact has shown that in areas where an armed law abiding ordinary citizen is allowed to be armed and is present and employs DGU to engage the shooter quickly the shooter has (on average) 15 seconds or less kill-zone dominance time resulting in less to none injury or death and decreases the likely hood of injury or death by around 94% overall.

      But, will an armed law abiding ordinary citizen allowed to be armed in an area and present employ DGU to engage the shooter quickly?

      No one knows, but we do know that police either don’t or don’t do it quickly enough and more people are injured or killed as a result than when an armed law abiding ordinary citizens allowed to be armed in the area and is present and employs DGU to engage the shooter quickly does it. But overall, when it has happened, an armed law abiding ordinary citizens allowed to be armed in the area and is present and employs DGU to engage the shooter quickly has happened a lot more quickly than waiting for police to do it.

      • Well Stated Sir. In this day and age, 3 minutes is an unusually fast response, as average response times have only gone up, not down.
        The Gun Free School Zone Act passed in 1992, yet since it became Law, it hasn’t stopped a single mass shooting. The partial list you gave weren’t prevented. In truth, all the Law does, is prevent school staff and concerned citizens from carrying, and let’s the prosecutor add another charge to the Perp if he/she survives their attack. it didn’t and won’t prevent future attacks.

        I strongly suspect these Shooters in the last 10 years or so, have been groomed to perpetrate their crimes. The Groomers are looking for Social Misfits, and even aided financially by the Groomer. Uvalde and several others only make sense if grooming went on.

  3. I blame Marilyn Manson? No? Are we past that part? Oh… uh, I blame the gun… No wait, I want to buy a vowel… it’s the media… No wait… is it everything?

    Fact is, it’s the person that does it and nothing more. They are mentally unstable and society has allowed it to be this way. You can’t have freedoms and be “safe”. So either we let these things they idolize exist or we don’t.

    I choose freedom. I choose YOUR freedom. You are free to be as looney as you want, and that’s why I will defend myself as needed.

    • gezackley so. When the demented puttive school shooters enter the campus carrying their tool of death, UNLESS they are met with skilled, trained, willig, and equipped individuals that will for certain immediately neutralise the threat by reducing its capacity to contain warm red liquid, quickly, then these incidents will end. The issue is the evil conduct is NOT met with unacceptible consequences being meted out to the evil one.

    • “I choose freedom. I choose YOUR freedom. You are free to be as looney as you want, and that’s why I will defend myself as needed.”

      It’s so simple, and yet, so hard for most to recognize and understand !!!!!!

  4. “We also find that there are often many opportunities to intervene with the perpetrator before the tragedy that peers, family members, school staff, law enforcement officials, and others miss.”

    I.E. talk therapy.

    Wonder if these researchers found any data regarding why school shootings almost never happen in inner city schools?

    • or have they ever happened at any school in districts in Ohio where the FASTER Saves Lives programme has been implemented. In those districts word has gone out that school shooters will be firing their last rounds ever as soon as they start their madness. The putative shooter may become publicly known but only as the abject failure he is… A few may attend is funeral next week.

      • “The putative shooter may become publicly known but only as the abject failure he is…”

        Quite the opposite. Notoriety, is the goal. Others aspire to gain even more notoriety than the previous “big name” in the news cycle.

  5. Interesting. No mention whatsoever of the removal of morals, let alone the concept of God and the recognition of Divine Providence by our nation back to its beginning.

    The only way we could ever see a return to a safe society is for the individuals who make up that society choose to conduct themselves in a manner that inherently makes it safe. The Left’s decades-long effort to remove any accountability to a Creator have resulted in a school system full of gr00mer teachers, woke school boards, and increasingly confused students.

    But please…let’s just focus instead on continuing on this path of creating schools structured like prisons and full of snitches. Not at all like East Germany behind the Iron Curtain.

    /sarc

    • Yeah this gets an “F” from me. Happy my granddaughters are home schooled. Glad my younger son’s are long gone from public school!

    • Haz,

      Leaders set the moral and ethical tone. There are plenty of studies that indicate the ethics of corporate leaders become the ethics of the corporations. The same applies to government, to schools, and even charitable organizations.

      There aren’t many of us, I will wager, that believe our government leaders have not sold their souls.

      In this year’s annual letter to shareholders, Warren Buffet decried the widespread practices of CEOs cooking the books to make things look better than they are. He called it disgusting.

      We all know the perversion being sold by the media elites.

      The most powerful in our society have lost their way and the country is following.

    • not to forget mentioning the huge number of presently warm bodies, totally unprotected in any meaningful or effective way. Lots of them. A killer’s target rich environment ready for the harvest by the grim reaper.

    • parents choose whether or not to inject some religion into their kid’s lives…it used to be fairly common…now increasingly rare…the result is more confused, self-centered moral idiots….

  6. Isn’t that the same list of flagged behaviors that identity your kid as a right-wing extremist, left-wing extremist, drug user, potential caliphate soldier, Satan worshipper, victim of satanic cults, consumer of milk duds and left-handed?

    Seems like every problem can be identified by noticing your kids are behaving like kids.

    Ergo, the solution: stop having kids.

  7. Fix your fvcking kids by raising them properly! It was easier to buy firearms in most of the country for decades. School shootings didn’t happen when our boys were raised by men and had confident male teachers to balance out the female. Soft/apathetic parenting, the SSRI craze, deadbeat fathers, and psycho feminist mothers/teachers have successfully raised generations of broken young men without masculine role-models, who lash out at the world in anger.

    • Milsurp,

      Seems like you have fallen behind. Nowadays, good parenting includes:

      Smoking dope with you kids.
      Shoplifting with the kids.
      Pirating videos for home entertainment.
      Blaming the school for your child’s bad behavior.
      Taking you child to drahg-kween story time.
      Encouraging your child to transishion.
      Feeding your child as much processed food as you can stuff into them.
      Making sure you child is on mood altering prescription medications.

      THAT is how we do it, nowadays.

  8. @SAFEupstateFML
    “Gangs know they can get away with doing a drive by and metal detectors mostly.”

    No, metal detectors would be treating schools like prisons, and students like felons. That can’t be the answer.

    Can it?

    • They aren’t? Sad I am only half kidding after having spent time with students from Troy and Albany over the years and realizing they had better guns than I did for most of the time. But yes very different environmental considerations.

      • “But yes very different environmental considerations.”

        Schools should be treated as the repositories for the national treasure they contain. Ain’t no going back to those Pollyanna years. High security measures should be the norm at schools.

    • a bit more security in schools would be a good idea…single monitored entry point..[hand wands are the cheapest form of metal detection]…locked doors that stay locked…armed school resource officers and/or teachers and an increased sense of awareness by all staff would help considerably …

      • FRANK, The only problem with “hand wands” is that they are not really very good. Frankly they don’t work very well. Like every other mechanical device, they are only as good as the person who is using it. They are very prone to making errors.

      • Then you get libidiots like Don Lemonhead screaming what? You wanna make the schools look like prisons? Completely forgetting their mantra “If it saves just one life”. When in reality they know these tactics will work but have nothing to do with removing guns from the populace. Meaning even if it would save just one life they have to fight it tooth and nail.

  9. get journalists to cease obsessing over what type of firearms mass shooters utilize. Mass murderers who employ the gun control lobby ‘s favorite weapons such as the AR-15 get far, far more reporting, publicity and attention than killers who use more prosaic weapons such as shotguns, automobiles or arson. Since our journalists are obviously not only influencing the weapons that mass murderers are using but inspiring and inciting these mass shooters to lethal violence, we need to tell them to just STFU.

    • Ive often wondered whether “outside provocateurs”have not been providing the equipment used in these shootings. Anyone else wonder how an unemployed high school kid could by a brand new AR pattern rifle, case, scope, fifteenor so standard cap mags, and the ammunition to fill them all, in addition to the decent car he drove, all of which enabled him to kill seenteen of is former schoomates? Or how bout the unemployed kid who plonked down about $7Gs to buy a new DanielDefense AR rifle and a boatload of mags and ammo? Then put them all in a near new pickup worth several times what my everyday work ride is worth, and drove to a small school in Texas to kill a bnch of kids he did not even know? That whole scenario smells about as sweet as a sockeye salmon been left on the table out on the deck for ten summer days ……

      • The one who murdered 17 was an orphan who had a sizeable inheritance. The DD buyer was a burger flipper living with his grandparents, whose truck he stole. Dropping a few K on your murder weapons isn’t difficult when others are covering most or all of your expenses and you aren’t saving for a future.

  10. only four of the ten on the list of “warning signs” are cause for concern when observed in a student. The other six are not unusual at all, and should give no particular cause for alarm. The other four have all been observed well i advance of the three events cited, but were ignored.FORTY interactions wit Broward County and other law enforcement and NO RESPONSE? Then we know from the record that the perp in that event was observed walking from the car park onto the campus carrying a Cabelas rifle bag that obviously had some weight inside it, and was so observed by one of the higher up schol officials who recognised the perp and KNEW there was a court restraining order against the perp prohibiting his entery onto that school property. He had been expelled from school and was in clear violation of that restraining order by even driving into the car park. Yet NOTHING was done. At that point in time intervention was STILL an option, but everyone involved did.. NOTHING.

    This whole schtick seems to be one more excuse for “the professionals” to make a big scene, spend lots of money, control and manipulate a lot of folks, and most likely DO NOTHING to end this pestilence.

    There IS one plan that has been put into place that has worked perfely for several years now. FASTER Saves Lives was developed in the wake of the Sandy Hook incident. Adult staff already working at the schools, known by the students, volunteer to take intensive training in a diverse but coordinated set of skills, then as they wish will come to work armed with their own chosen weapon and be ready to defend the students and anyone else should an armed intruder be foolish anough to attempt any funny business. After the training and in the qualifying testing, the trained staff almost always get the bettter of the trained law enforcement officers acting the part of armed school attackers. The cops always lose. One of he best parts of this system…. it cost the taxpayers NOTHING. All volunteer trainers, donated facility time, targets, ammunition everything is provided by concerned citizens and organisations. In the many yars since the programme has been in place there has been NOT ONE incident invlvoing firearms at any school in any district where this programme is in place. A few other states have adopted, working closely with the team of this programme, very similar prgrammes. In fact, the Broward County Florida school district had met with the FASTER team just two weeks prior to the “incident” at Douglas High School but decided NOT to ex0lore further. Had that plan been put in place the shooter in that Valentine’s Day never would have entered the building alive, and if he had would have been neutralised long before he ever could have harmed anyone but himself.
    Apply this same test to any of the school shootings we’ve seen, and NOT ONE would have gone past the first one or possibly two casualties before the perp would have been neutralised.
    ONLY when school shooters will have seen a consistent track record of UTTER FAILURE along with an ignominous death and NO free publicity in media will these incidents end. Anything short of this will be naught but wasting tax dollars and lives. And NOT ending the problem,

    • ….and ditch that “it can’t happen here” attitude that leads ro a sense of malaise among supervisors and staff…

  11. I am not sure if I missed it or if it was not addressed but I believe increasing the security inside and outside would help especially if and individual fell through the cracks in the above noted steps. Increased armed security all around the perimeter of the school would also be a visual as well as a physical deterrent.

  12. ….or perhaps a sign that says “Individuals within MAY be armed for the protection of the premises and its occupants”…nothing like sowing the seeds of doubt……

  13. Public schools now qualify as stupid places, with stupid people, doing stupid things, at stupid times. I would not subject any child who’s mine or under my supervision to that liberal woke Progressive BS. Even if you debrief your children every day about how stupid some of the things are at school it’s going to affect them negatively anyway. It is much easier to homeschool or send them to a private school. You get better education and they are not trying to sell your children values that are completely opposite of your own.

  14. American schools should adapt the Israeli model of ‘hardening targets’ to minimize casualties in the event of an attack. Regardless of motive, there will always be people willing to inflict mayhem on others. Israel’s biggest threat is and has always been terrorism. They can’t prevent it by ‘gun control’, counseling or ‘intervention’. They address the danger by making schools and other institutions less accessible to intrusion. They also have armed guards and armed school staff at all times when in session. Yes, that’s expensive, but Israel made the decision that their citizens and children are worth it. Are our kids worth the effort?

  15. There are several problems with this article. First, we will never be able to prevent mass shootings. We can reduce them but never prevent them. Second is the authors findings. The Parkland shooter had all the warning signs. He was reported to the school administration, the school board, the sheriff’s office and the FBI. With all these reports NO ACTION WAS EVER TAKEN ON HIM! Study all you want, make list’s all you want, but unless action will be taken your are just pounding sand.

  16. Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining . Who is TTAG Contributor ? Are they high ? TTAG published an article a while ago which is the only way to go . TAKE DOWN THE PLASTIC SIGNS ! 48 of 50 shooting happen in a “gun free zone” ! Then allow Constitutional Carry and dispatch the threat when applicable . If they survive, prison without parole for minimum 50 years . If they kill someone, minimum death penalty . Get ’em outta here . . .
    Good short read . Please forward to any anti-gun people you may know, particularly your state representative . . . the numbers prove it’s really this simple !

    https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/we-know-how-to-stop-more-mass-shootings-we-just-have-to-decide-to-do-it/

    d:-)

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