Steps to take to prevent mass shootings

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As a neuropsychologist for over 45 years, which included 25 years directing services in a school system, I have been involved with the terror of mass shootings for a long time.

Shortly after Columbine (20 years ago) I was given the task of developing a systemwide school safety plan — a daunting task and new to all of us.

To do this right I did extensive research and at the beginning much of the emphasis was placed on protecting schools, building monitoring and surveillance systems and communication protocols with local law enforcement.

I went to Washington, D.C., to be trained as a psychological first responder for those impacted by mass shootings or tragedies. This is hard, extremely difficult and emotionally draining work.

Our nation has not advanced much beyond making our schools and some public places marginally better fortresses against such terror. That is not only disappointing but irresponsible.

After Parkland, I became highly involved again, researching and framing letters and points others could use to try to influence seemingly impotent legislators.

Since I personally know the absolute terror and heartbreak of losing a child suddenly and unexpectedly, I know the feelings of complete and utter despair experienced by survivors who will suffer for a lifetime. So I may know a little — or at least a good bit about this subject.

We need to call such shootings, at least the ones involving ideological extremism as domestic terrorism – call it what it is.

There are three major reasons for domestic terrorism/mass shootings:

• Ideological extremism – such as white supremacy

• Workplace or domestic relationship problems

• Individual feelings of social rejection, bullying along with feelings of insignificance

The vast majority of mass shootings/domestic terrorism in the United States involves ideological extremism. FBI director Christopher Wray has confirmed this in open testimony.

What is important to note is that mental illness is NOT a major reason for such atrocities. It is such a disservice to those with mental health issues when “leaders” or news services cavalierly cite “mental illness” as a cause for the shootings.

Stop using that terminology. And also stop the rhetoric that fuels racism and hate and incites those exhibiting ideological extremism to act.

So what do we do? We have to move beyond the impotency that has led us to our current situation. It is not that hard, if the people we have elected to represent us do their jobs. To be specific, what we need includes the following:

• Enact common sense gun control measures that 90% of Americans want. This includes banning assault weapons, which if you needed to could be reclassified as weapons of mass destruction, and extended magazines. There is literally no reason for a non-police individual to have these weapons of war that are only designed for killing many people.

• Pass universal background checks, getting rid of all the loopholes that currently exist to bypass this necessary provision.

• Give federal and state law enforcement agencies more power in enforcing laws on domestic terrorism and make it a priority. Ideological extremism should be identified and named and such cases should open greater avenues for both investigation and punishment as the hate crimes and domestic terrorism they are.

• Enact “red flag” initiatives and laws that allow the identification of individuals who may be prone to one of the aforementioned three reasons for domestic terrorism. This will involve corroborating interaction between schools, mental health services, law enforcement, social networks and businesses.

This is a more difficult task but it is doable. Protocols need to be developed to identify those at risk for domestic terrorism. Interventions can range from therapeutic services, to taking away firearms from identified individuals at risk, to incarceration and to required involvement in community social services.

This can be done. Expanding the quality and availability of mental health services is also a necessity, especially for those in the third identified reason for domestic terrorism given above. What we do know is that this has to happen NOW. We simply cannot afford to wait any longer.

A few nights ago I was at a social gathering with a friend who often wears the red MAGA hat. The discussion turned to mass shootings and guns and I was surprised and delighted to hear him say that there is no reason anyone has to have an assault weapon – saying, “What in the world do they need that for?”

I grasped his hand and thanked him for voicing this. We can get there if common sense can prevail, no matter what party you affiliate with.

Lynda Boucugnani-Whitehead, Ph.D.

Pediatric Neuropsychologist

Website: drlynda.net

Fayette County, Ga.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Be calm TangoOscarMike. Dr. hyphenated-last-name is simply one of those paid writers that both parties use to scam readers of local publications that their view is “mainstream”. You have seen the ads that say earn hundreds of dollars working from home? Well this is it. Ignore her and POV.

    When she denies this (and she will) you can then pose the question that always bothers me when someone flashes their doctor without medicine title or boasts about their extensive education – with a dose of humble impoverished background thrown in. 22 years of formal education and this is how you think? You conclude exactly the same facts that a bartender from Queens and most of the losers running for President have? Wow lady, you were cheated and overcharged for your “education”.

    She has mastered copy and paste on her Facebook page. As good as any second grader. Keep up the good work.

    • This is the last time I will reply to this stupidity. Our country now is a plague of lies – which you apparently contribute to with zeal. No one pays me to write anything. I write from the heart, from my own knowledge and extensive experience. I am beginning to feel that you and the other guy feel very threatened by highly educated, knowledgeable and successful women. That is a sad state of being. I also feel sorry for the 2 of you that you somehow feel you don’t measure up as you malign a woman who wrote an intellectual article with actual ideas. Blaming a person for expressing ideas and stereotypically assuming I had some sort of privilege to accomplish what I have just reflects your misogynistic and incredibly simple views. And yes, everything I said in my reply was true. I did it all on my own – no money from anyone and I delight that I have been able to help so many people in my life. I want a world where everyone can do that – even you. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do that – it just takes dedication, perseverance and grit. Since I don’t have time to be involved with such trolling and stupidity I will not respond to any more attacks. You go right ahead and express yourself in your limited way. I will be out there doing good work. Cheers!

  2. After reading the rather excessive comments of this TangoOscarMike fellow, I feel the need to write a response to him. From the beginning to the end, I may not hit everything he said, but I will do my best. I guess I have more confidence in law enforcement than he does. My belief is that the majority of those in law enforcement are capable and should be admired for their service, contrary to what he is saying. He says “stop trying to disarm the right people and give the wrong people power”. This reflects a common fallacy – typical of more extremist views. No one is trying to take away the right of individuals to own guns. No democrats – no so-called liberals. We only want weapons designed for war – and killing mass numbers of people out of the hands of people whose views – often extremist – can lead to mass murders. It’s as simple as that.

    To continue – TangoOscarMike basically said I was a liar when I related the story of the guy in the Red MAGA hat who said he saw absolutely no reason for people to have these weapons. Just to let you know – I don’t lie. In fact I was with him again last night and told him what you had written – he laughed – and then said again – no one needs those kinds of weapons. So you are wrong again. I admit I am not an expert on guns – I don’t own a gun but my MAGA friend does. Maybe I don’t use the right terminology but I think most understand what I mean. Nit-picking does not become you. Next – to clarify – in case you were unable to decipher it – my statement that people should not blame people with mental illness for these shootings: I was not trying to have it both ways. There is a place for improving mental HEALTH services, especially for students who may feel isolated as I designated in my letter. These students are usually not mentally ill but do need help.

    You called me lots of derogatory words – one being “my simple mind”. My definition of a simple mind is one who has such a rigid, narrow viewpoint who is not open to other ideas and tends to think in stereotypes. You have exhibited that so well. Just so you can break that stereotype that I am rich and privileged – my father was a telephone lineman, my mother a homemaker and office worker. I was the first in my family to go to college. I paid for 10 years of college and graduate school myself by working and going to school the entire time. I don’t own a Mercedes; I always buy used cars. I have worked very hard my entire life to get where I am. I am very generous with charity. I do not go around feeling sorry for myself or blaming others. Any success I have had is by hard – and good work. Another one of your stereotypes broken.

    I’m getting a little tired of writing and have things to do – so will wrap this up. You state that Red Flag procedures won’t work. Well, they are already working but can be better. Just this week 3 separate potential mass shootings were stopped due to schools and law enforcement being on the alert, especially since the recent shootings. Universal background checks are a simple thing, and yes, there are loopholes now. Why should anyone object to universal checks? – Only if you have something to hide. One of the recent shooters was able to get his “weapon of mass destruction” after failing a background check and in getting it in a loophole way.

    And finally, I am a neuropsychologist. I am not a neurologist – who by your description, suddenly morphed into a psychologist overnight. Neuropsychology is a specialty in psychology that combines study of neurology and the brain with psychology – in my case with children, adolescents and young adults. I have been a psychologist my entire career. Again, you make assumptions that have no basis in fact. Please open your mind – and take a look at your own rigid, stereotypical thinking. I can tell you are an intelligent person, but your extreme thinking and anti-government stance are worrisome.

  3. Let’s see, who will I believe? A neuropsychologist with over 45 years of practical experience or someone who is fascinated by Fox News? If it takes one over 5 seconds to make that decision, I’ve got some real estate in the Florida Everglades I’d like to sell them. Tango – stay on the dance floor, because rational argument obviously eludes you.

    Truth is always stranger than fiction.

  4. “Give federal and state law enforcement agencies more power in enforcing laws on domestic terrorism and make it a priority. Ideological extremism should be identified and named and such cases should open greater avenues for both investigation and punishment as the hate crimes and domestic terrorism they are.”

    – you mean the same law enforcement that’s racist, being hated, targeted, threatened, hurt or killed? Those law enforcement? And you want to send them against people that are (in many cases) more well equipped than they are? Have you thought about that?

    We aren’t in “Minority Report” yet, we can’t predict crazy, not even the machines you use as a Neurologist can see it. But stop trying to disarm the right people and give the wrong ones power.

    When the right people aren’t ready, whose going to watch your back then?

  5. “A few nights ago I was at a social gathering with a friend who often wears the red MAGA hat. The discussion turned to mass shootings and guns and I was surprised and delighted to hear him say that there is no reason anyone has to have an assault weapon – saying, “What in the world do they need that for?”

    I grasped his hand and thanked him for voicing this. We can get there if common sense can prevail, no matter what party you affiliate with.”

    I’ll take “Things that never happened” for 1000$, Alex.

  6. “This can be done. Expanding the quality and availability of mental health services is also a necessity…”

    – But you said this wasn’t a thing earlier…you can’t flip flop just because it fits now!

    “…especially for those in the third identified reason for domestic terrorism given above. What we do know is that this has to happen NOW. We simply cannot afford to wait any longer.”

    – and you will continue to wait, because the officials you tried to elect failed miserably (even if they won’t admit to losing). You’re talking about circumventing the rights of millions of Americans, and since the government oversteps too much as it is, this will trigger a fight they can’t win. Oh sure, “the government has tanks/planes/artillery” rhetoric…but using the military that swore an oath to protect those civilians is an unlawful order. Whose going to drive those tanks, fly those planes, or shoot the artillery at civilians? They won’t…and the officers sure won’t either…because they don’t know how.

  7. “This is a more difficult task but it is doable.”

    – in your simple mind, sure

    “Protocols need to be developed to identify those at risk for domestic terrorism. Interventions can range from therapeutic services, to taking away firearms from identified individuals at risk, to incarceration and to required involvement in community social services.”

    So let’s increase the taxes to pay for this? Sure, fine for you, you just will hold off buying that Mercedes this year. Someone like me, in the real world outside the bubble that has to survive, has to adjust our budget to make this work and still feed our family, a while paying an insane amount for healthcare to maintain our lives. Come on down to reality and have to cut your own grass, clean your own bathrooms and kitchen…stop people trying to take what’s yours with a gun if necessary…

  8. “Enact “red flag” initiatives and laws that allow the identification of individuals who may be prone to one of the aforementioned three reasons for domestic terrorism. This will involve corroborating interaction between schools, mental health services, law enforcement, social networks and businesses.“

    Is literally unenforceable, would require a national registration. You can’t predict crazy, but your kind is too busy trying to disarm me, and not the goof trying to kill you. Meanwhile, you strip rights away from Bob because his neighbor Suzy, who is a hard left liberal called the cops because she watched him leave his house with his gun to go hunting for the weekend? The state would keep someone’s property behind so much litigation, they would go broke trying to fight it, until they couldn’t afford to anymore. This “Utopia” of yours is impossible, guns aren’t allowed in prisons…but they still manage to hurt or kill each other…

  9. “Pass universal background checks, getting rid of all the loopholes that currently exist to bypass this necessary provision.”

    – what loopholes? The gun show ones? This has been disproven so much, it’s no longer a viable talking point. Go to a gun show, you still fill out a form, you still show a government ID, you are still ran through the NICS check like at any other legal gun store in the USA. It’s not different. Peer to peer sales? It’s not required, and hasn’t really been an issue at all.

  10. “Enact common sense gun control measures that 90% of Americans want.”

    – The liberal “elite” is not 90% of our country. This line is so old and outdated, even CNN doesn’t claim this as true anymore.

    “This includes banning assault weapons, which if you needed to could be reclassified as weapons of mass destruction, and extended magazines.”

    – This is “Boogaloo” talk. Until you have to take care of yourself by any means necessary, you have no room to talk. For a neurologist, you forgot elementary English class…”assault” is a verb, my rifle is a defensive tool and identifies as such, if you disagree, you’re a bigot (see what I did there? I Stacy Abrams’d you). “Extended magazines” aren’t a thing…again if you don’t know firearms, stop talking like you do. Standard magazines come in many flavors, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 100, and up. My rifle is nothing more than a beefy .22. It doesn’t rain down the fires of hell like artillery does…seriously, you sound like all the other ignorant fools that acts like this isn’t some copy paste from another news article.

    “There is literally no reason for a non-police individual to have these weapons of war that are only designed for killing many people.”

    – Hunting, home defense, competition, and target shooting, there’s four reasons right there. And it’s none of your business what I own, it isn’t the Bill of Reasons, it’s the Bill of Rights. If you had done any research, these rifles account for an extremely tiny fraction of firearm related homicides annually, the firearm of choice is pistols…yeah! Here are a few things that kill more people annually than AR-15’s…*Ahem* drunk driving, baseball bats, hammers, MEDICAL MALPRACTICE, knives and other stabbing weapons…shall I go on? There’s a lot more…

  11. “So what do we do?”

    – stop acting like you can talk down to people that don’t live in million dollar homes in gated communities, raking in mid-6 figure salaries in a profession designed to drain people in the middle class by making health care unaffordable.

    “We have to move beyond the impotency that has led us to our current situation.”

    – by not listening to your “protected” kind.

    “It is not that hard, if the people we have elected to represent us do their jobs.”

    – it’s not their jobs to overreach, that’s why we have the BILL OF RIGHTS. You should probably take the time to read it. It LIMITS THE GOVERNMENT’S POWER, for just the type of rhetoric you point out in this very article.

  12. ”What is important to note is that mental illness is NOT a major reason for such atrocities. It is such a disservice to those with mental health issues when “leaders” or news services cavalierly cite “mental illness” as a cause for the shootings.

    Stop using that terminology. And also stop the rhetoric that fuels racism and hate and incites those exhibiting ideological extremism to act.“

    Again, Neurologist, you get the brain, but you lack the understanding of many other human traits, especially complex emotions, you can scan brains all day long, but sitting and talking to understand what makes a human’s brain do what it does is vastly different. You obviously didn’t read autopsy reports of those deceased shooters, prescribed or were actively taking anti-depressants. And I’ll stop using “that terminology”, but you need to stop using the term “Mass Shooting”, which there is no legal definition for, that’s why media uses it, because they can make up the meaning as they choose.

  13. Let’s have some fun:

    “I went to Washington, D.C., to be trained as a psychological first responder for those impacted by mass shootings or tragedies. This is hard, extremely difficult and emotionally draining work.”

    So all those years of a practicing neurologist, and poof, you’re a psychologist now? Must have been hard, cramming all those years of schooling for an entire different profession overnight.

    “The vast majority of mass shootings/domestic terrorism in the United States involves ideological extremism. FBI director Christopher Wray has confirmed this in open testimony.”

    But what about the shootings perpetrated by people of color? And I thought Christopher Wray was the FBI Director, and was a lawyer…what qualifies him to make that determination? Did he go to the magical psychology school, too?