When addressing the ongoing incidents of active shooters in our schools, violence must stop at the door. Period. Prevention is key. It can take many forms: gun control, improving mental health services and the elimination of bullying in all shapes and forms. However, preventing someone from getting to the point where violence is their only course of action is the goal. That takes all of us, today.
To meet this goal, we must get real and understand what drives someone to the point where violence against specific individuals and/or an institution becomes the only course of action. It’s not always mental illness, domestic problems or drugs.
Just like I mentioned in my previous blog, Stopping the Lone Wolf, there are signs anyone intimately or peripherally can watch out for to stop a would-be attacker. But it is important to understand that active shooters do not fit any one profile. The reasons behind their rage are not always cut and dried, especially in our technologically driven society.
Real Time Society
Some may argue that the changes in our society are the source of the problem. Back in the day, attention (good and bad) was harder to get by peers and society at large, with time to decompress and process in between. With the emergence and dependence on social media channels, the time frame has essentially changed to zero.
This means events that impact our self-worth, happen in “real-time”, with no time to take a breath, and process and learn how to deal with positive and/or negative situations. In fact, there is a viewpoint that our “look at me, look at me” narcissistic society is fueling and creating victims and “monsters” respectively.
For example, take bullying. Anyone can be a target no matter where they live or what time of day, 24/7/365. What this means is that bullying can now happen anywhere at any time with no “relief” or escape from tormentors. On the flip side, the tormentors are given instant power over the happiness of someone else. Just think of that – the constant push/pull of negative interactions. That would be enough to fuel the fire of the most mentally stable person. Now take someone (on either side, mind you) with mental problems to begin with and you might as well throw gasoline on the fire.
What does this mean? We, as parents, peers and society in general, need to be diligent and watch for signs that someone is in trouble. Anyone at any time can be vulnerable to our real-time culture. A person with the potential to be an active shooter can literally be anyone.
History has shown us that there is no definitive personality type for an active shooter. In other words, not all school shooters are white psychopaths.
Looking back at past school shooters, they usually had trouble socially or emotionally, leaving them feeling powerless, ostracized and/or overlooked by society. Yes, some of them had extenuating mental or personal problems in their life, but not all of them. It’s also safe to say every teenager or adult, for that matter, has at one point in their life felt this way. The scary part is that our real-time society does not permit us to decompress/unplug or properly deal with negative situations anymore. As a result, a situation can fester and grow until it is out of control. That’s a fact we all need to acknowledge and compensate for to get a hold of this growing trend.
Here’s the point. All of us have the potential for violence if pushed too far. Some people have extenuating circumstances (e.g. domestic problems, substance abuse and/or mental illness) that push them to the edge quicker. It is up to all of us to help someone who is in trouble now. Not tomorrow or next week, now.
Learn More about Active Shooter Prevention
Timothy Dimoff can educate you and/or your organization about all aspects of the active shooter. Contact Tim to schedule The Various Profiles of an Active Shooter, Active Shooters: New Trends and New Solutions, and/or Active Shooter Prevention and Response presentations to learn more to save lives.