How Do We Prevent School Mass Shootings?

A teenager in jeans and canvas shoes standing on asphalt road with # ENOUGH word cloud. Concept of protesting gun violence and mass school shootings in the United States.

Many Americans watched carefully as The Texas House Committee reviewed the Uvalde School Shooting. We are aware that there were several systemic and questionable decisions that had major impact. There were problems with the school’s precautions and so many questions regarding law enforcement’s role. The loss of 19 students and 2 teachers was tragic and the grief experienced by this whole community was overwhelming.

It is certain that schools have responsibilities to protect our students. Law enforcement needs to be clear in these shootings as to how to communicate and then strive to stop anyone who will threaten our children. I am hopeful that renewed precautions will help all of us who operate schools to be more vigilant about our practices and policies.

As in many of our school shootings by students, there were quite a number of warning signs in the life of the 18-year-old shooter, Salvadore Ramos. He was considered “at-risk” by third grade.  He had only completely 9th grade by age 17. He was involuntarily withdrawn from school by his school district for poor academic performance and lack of attendance. 

He was fascinated by school shootings. It was clear on his social media that he was angry and wanted revenge. He even gained the nickname on social media as “the school shooter.” He played video games and was known as the same by those he played with. His ex-girlfriend said he was depressed, lonely and teased by friends who also called him “school shooter!” 

He even told his girlfriend that he wouldn’t live past age 18 because he would either commit suicide or just die early. As in many of the mass shooters there are so many signs, red flags and issues that make it clear that this individual was in a personal crisis that was growing powerful.

It was to this very revengeful, angry and depressed individual that war weapons and large amounts of ammunition were sold so that he had the power to get the revenge he was hoping for. His depressed state compounded these destructive tendencies he had already begun to display.

Preventing mass shootings means that we take these issues seriously. They are often red flags, warning signs and cries for help that we can’t ignore. It could be that someone did sense and report him but obviously there was little or no intervention in his life. All that happened could well have been prevented with the right intervention at the right time by the right people.  Even those who were seeing his video names and social media could have helped to stop this horrific tragedy.

It is why we need common sense laws regarding the sale of weapons. Moreso, we need to have ways to be alert, aware and intervening in preventing those who are in this type of situation to find help. We cannot simply dismiss failing students into the community, particularly if they are struggling with anger, depression and threatening violence. 

It is why places like Lakeside should be functioning all over the country. We should have special environments where there are counselors and teachers who understand the needs of these students. We need professionals who can build relationships and provide safe and compassionate environments where these issues can be confronted, processed, and resolved so that the destructive cycle of violence can be halted.

It is imperative that we become more proactive, intentional, and curative so that there are no mass shootings. This is by far the best way to prevent them. We who work with students who are identified as at-risk know that they can be helped, they can heal and that these kinds of tragedies can be prevented! More of these types of interventions need to be available in this country to protect our students and those they may harm!

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO

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