Another mass shooting at an American school: U-M experts available
The University of Michigan has several faculty experts who can discuss the United States’ epidemic of mass shootings.
The latest mass shooting came Monday at a private elementary school in Nashville, where at least three children and three staff members died. The shooter is reportedly a 28-year-old female, an extreme rarity in mass shootings.
The National Center for School Safety and the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention are based at the University of Michigan.
Justin Heinze is co-director of the National Center for School Safety and associate professor of health behavior and health education. He also serves as faculty lead for the School of Public Health’s IDEAS initiative for preventing firearm injuries and is part of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention. He currently leads several National Institute of Justice-funded studies focused on school safety and violence prevention.
“In the past decade, we’ve seen a steady rise in the number of mass shootings in the U.S. with the highest number of events recorded in the past three years,” he said. “Unfortunately, our understanding of the predictors of mass shootings—the who, the why, when and/or where—and the most effective strategies we might use to prevent them hasn’t kept apace.
“There are promising approaches ranging from threat assessment and extreme risk protection or domestic violence restraining orders to detection strategies such as leakage and predictive analytics to more upstream, community-focused approaches such as community violence intervention programs and improving access to services. We need to see more widespread adoption of firearm violence prevention initiatives to tease out which are the most effective at preventing mass shootings and why.”
Marc Zimmerman, professor of public health and psychology, is a leading researcher and thought leader on firearm injury prevention with a focus on community empowerment. He is co-director of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention and co-director of the National Center for School Safety.
“Recent events demonstrate the complexity of firearm violence and show the urgent need to address this epidemic with multifaceted evidence-based solutions,” he said. “Although these mass shooting events are horrific, we should not forget about the victims of other forms of firearm-related injury such as suicide, intimate partner violence and community violence, which are occurring every day.
“Unfortunately, mass shooting events … are a reminder that we need to address the firearm violence epidemic just as we do to cure disease or reduce injury, apply scientific methods and conduct research to establish data driven evidence-based solutions.”
April Zeoli is an associate professor of health management policy and policy core director at the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention. Her research, which brings together the fields of public health, criminology and criminal justice, focuses on firearm policies that restrict high-risk individuals from purchase and possession of guns and the impact of firearm policies on childhood firearm injuries and deaths.
“These recent multiple victim and mass shootings underscore the need to use all the tools available to us to work to prevent them,” she said. “Often, shooters reveal their intentions and dangerousness to others before the events. In these cases, an extreme risk protection order, which some call red flag laws, may be an effective way to ensure that a dangerous person does not have access to guns.
“My research shows that extreme risk protection orders are being used in cases of multiple victim and mass shooting threats to safeguard the public. However, there are certainly missed opportunities for extreme risk protection orders to be used. We need to focus on identifying truly dangerous individuals and ensuring that they do not have access to firearms.”
Jason Goldstick is a research associate professor at the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention and in emergency medicine and public health. He has extensive expertise in statistical analyses, especially as it applies to substance use, injury/violence data and public health research.
“It’s no coincidence that firearm mortality rates are orders of magnitude higher in the U.S. than in other industrialized nations,” he said. “In fact, firearm injuries are the leading cause of death among children and teens in the U.S. as of 2020. Work is needed at every level—determining why this problem is specific to the U.S. and how to address it—to change that.”
Patrick Carter is co-director of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention and associate professor of emergency medicine and health behavior and health education. His expertise lies in firearm injury prevention across the spectrum of research, from understanding the epidemiology of the problem to prevention-focused solutions for at-risk individuals and communities.
“These incidents continue to demonstrate the urgent need that exists to address this complex public health issue using an array of multidisciplinary data-driven solutions that collectively can work to prevent and reduce the tragic number of firearm deaths and injuries that occur annually,” he said.
“We need to continue to increase the focus on firearm injury prevention by identifying key aspects underlying this public health problem and developing and implementing evidence-based solutions that focus on achieving our common goals of decreasing firearm death and injury.”
Rebecca Cunningham is the vice president for research at U-M and professor of emergency medicine and health behavior and health education. Her research focuses on firearm injury prevention and public health and is co-principal investigator for the Firearm Safety Among Children and Teens Consortium, which brings together researchers, practitioners, firearm owners and other partners from across the U.S. to generate new research involving firearm injury prevention among children and teens.
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Sandra Graham-Bermann, professor of psychology, can discuss the traumatic stress reactions in children exposed to violence.
“Witnessing people being murdered and maimed is horrific and truly traumatizing. Even hearing about such disturbing violence, such as through friends or through the news media, can be traumatic, especially for children,” she said. “This is upsetting to everyone.
“Still, some people are more clearly affected than others. Those closest to the violence, the relatives of those died and those who responded to this mass shooting are most vulnerable. It is important to watch for symptoms of traumatic stress that do not resolve or that interfere with daily living. These can be prolonged nightmares, an inability to process feelings related to the event, and being more alert or on guard, unable to relax as before.”