Saturday, December 15, 2012

Guest Post: Let's Look at the Facts

Written By Josh Nankivel

Very sad about the tragedy today. Looking at everything on Facebook and the web, I started to get drawn in.

I started doing it too. I am outraged just like everyone else.
Pontificating on the topic as if my perspective must be the correct one.

Then I realized something.

It doesn't matter what I think the right policy is. It doesn't matter what feels right to me, or you, or anyone else.

There's RESEARCH out there! There's more research that can be done!
Perhaps the ACTION we must take now is to learn more, empirically, about what works to prevent tragedies like this.

I realized today that I am woefully uneducated about what science has learned on this topic.

And I think the vast majority of you reading this fall into this category right alongside me.

In fact, it's pretty clear the majority of people who voiced an opinion about gun control, one way or another, were just falling back on their prior biases - and if I were a betting man, I'd put my money down that the vast majority of us haven't done enough real scholarly research on this topic to support our opinions. (Note that's US, meaning me too.)

So bring up google scholar, pubmed, or any of the good journals available online. Most of the full papers are behind pay walls unfortunately - but even reading the abstracts can be enlightening. If you spend 30 minutes researching this way you will get a sense for where the evidence is pointing. NEVER rely on one study for your opinion - independent replication is REQUIRED among other things regarding good protocol in the studies themselves in order to say you know something.

And you know what? It's rather therapeutic as well - seeking true understanding in the face of a tragedy helps deal with it. It's actually the first step in really DOING something about it. The more you know about science, the more you can convince others about what's true. The more we as parents can understand what we can do directly to prevent

This is a COMPLICATED issue. After doing this research, it's clear to me that these single-solution opinions being spouted are myopic and don't come close to the truth of WHY and what we can do. (It's because of no gun control! - It's because they took God out of schools! - It's because of big pharma over-medicating kids!)

From the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: "Premeditated Mass Shootings in Schools: Threat Assessment" by Twemlow, et al. (Link)

What if we did a better job, in a systematic way of educating children, parents, educators, and other school staff about the following and how to handle them?

6 Major Risk Factors Include: (from the paper)

  1. Availability of guns - 2/3 took the guns from their own home or that of a relative
  2. Bullying - 2/3 of cases involved clear and obvious bullying of the shooter by social groups or individuals
  3. Concern expressed by adults or peers - more than 1/2 of cases involved explicitly expressed concern about the shooter's behavior prior to the incident
  4. Mimicry of media figures - shooter may behave as a mimic of a prominent media figure or character in concerning ways
  5. Change in emotions and interests - sharp changes in behavior and narrowed focus and interested precede many incidents
  6. Families low in emotional closeness and knowledge of adolescent’s life 
"Most shooters were from intact families who appeared to lack emotional closeness and intimacy. The shooters often seemed to have reversed the roles within their families; parents seemed afraid of their children and unwilling to set reasonable limits and boundaries. These parents seemed disinterested in their children’s behavior at school, as if the school was burdening the parents with reports of their children’s problems. The shooters appeared to have demanded (and received) inordinate amounts of privacy within their families. When the parents
were confronted with their child’s behavior, they tended to minimize it and expressed tolerance for extreme behavior in their child. Essentially, many shooters were successful at manipulating their parents into defending extreme behaviors" 
"The larger social and environmental issues involved in school shootings include factors such as easy access to violent and hateladen media, weaponry, and information on strategies for terrorist attacks. Less frequently noted is the school’s response to fixed patterns of teasing, ostracism, and bullying among various groups in the school. A school climate that tolerates physical and relational aggression, especially by popular groups such as athletes or economic elites, is at high risk for violence (Twemlow, 2000)."
"In more than three quarters of the incidents, attackers preplanned the murders, often months before the attack; revenge was a motive for half of the attackers. Three quarters of the children held a grievance communicated to peers before the attack, but in only 2 of the 37 cases was the threat communicated to an adult. In more than half the cases, the attacker told more than one individual, and in one instance at least 24 friends and classmates were told; some were actually warned not to go to school on the day of the proposed killings."
"More than three quarters of the children had previously threatened to kill themselves or made suicide attempts, and more than half had a history of depression or feelings of desperation. In more than three quarters of the instances there was a loss of status in a significant relationship, a personal failure, or a jilting by a girlfriend."

Suicide by mass murder: Masculinity, aggrieved entitlement, and rampage school shootings Link

Understanding Mass School Shootings: Links between Personhood and Power in the Competitive School Environment Link

Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms: faster falls in firearm deaths, firearm suicides, and a decade without mass shootings Link

Firearm related deaths: the impact of regulatory reform Link

The Impact of Right-to-Carry Concealed Firearm Laws on Mass Public Shootings Link

The Impact of “Shall-Issue” Concealed Handgun Laws on Violent Crime Rates Evidence From Panel Data for Large Urban Cities Link

Premeditated Mass Shootings in Schools: Threat Assessment Link

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