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DID WE MISS WARNING SIGNS THAT MAY HAVE PREVENTED THE PARKLAND, FLORIDA SHOOTING?

As a nation, we have been plagued as no other with an epidemic of gun violence that on an average day has taken 96 lives. Furthermore, for every gun violation death in the U.S., two more people are seriously injured. I am not here to debate the best solutions for reducing or eliminating this hazardous condition, especially as it affects our beloved children. Rather, I am here to suggest that had we as a country paid focused attention on early warning signs leading to a potential disaster, perhaps the disaster caused once again by gun violence, could have been avoided.

We all know by now the sometimes cliched expression, “if you see something, say something.” That’s fine (if we can agree on what we think we saw and who we should tell) but this slogan does not absolve us from paying attention to a myriad of other meaningful warning signs that, if noticed and followed, might have prevented many deaths or injuries from gun violence. So, what warning signs may we be missing?

First of all, 80% of school shooters told someone of their plans either directly or through the myriad social media platforms available to all of us. In fact, prior to the Parkland shootings, the shooter had literally advertised his plans through a variety of hateful, even illustrated postings including his own statement that he intended to bring guns to his former High School. One would hope that those who read his social media outbursts or heard from him directly, would warn local health officials and/or law enforcement agencies.

According to the anti-gun violence group, Sandy Hook Promise, some of the most important warnings signs of a pending gun violence disaster include:

1. Being over aggressive and/or lacking self-control.
2. Chronic social isolation or social rejection typically from bullying.
3. Threatening behavior such as bringing a gun to school or bragging to friends about an upcoming attack.
4. Mental illness and/or behavioral shifts, including a mental illness diagnosis or major changes in a person’s eating, sleeping or other daily activities.
5. Anti-social behavior such as severe destruction of property or hostility toward law enforcement.
6. A strong fascination or obsession with firearms (e.g., the Florida shooter actually had ten guns in addition to an AR-13, a weapon of war with capabilities of firing as many as 50 shots/minute (not exactly the kind of gun we need to hunt deer or protect our homes).

There is no guarantee that observing and reporting some or even all of these early warning signs would, with certainty, have prevented many of our nation’s horrific mass shootings in the last 20 years. But one thing we know for sure is that there will be many more mass shootings. While Congress and local governments either cynically or seriously debate potential solutions to this crisis, we the people have to take matters into our own hands by vigilantly looking out for the above and possibly other warning signs and immediately reporting them to health or law enforcement authorities. Our lives and those of our children demand our involvement in preventing such tragedies.

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