In desperate need of school-shooter profiling

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Yet another group of parents, relatives and friends will bury victims of a mass shooting – this one occurring at Robb Elementary School in Uvaide, Texas. Salvador Ramos, the 18-year old shooter, was ultimately killed by police after shooting his grandmother at home, shooting at two people outside a funeral home en route to the school and then locking himself in a classroom where he randomly killed 19 children and two adults.

In its aftermath we hear anti-gun activists crying out for the only solution they naively believe viable in putting an end to such senseless killings. While they again blame the gun lobby and Second Amendment, they would do well to heed the wisdom expressed years ago by a top Israeli aviation security expert who identified a problem that remains applicable to school shootings plaguing America today.

As the U.S. embarked upon improving aviation security in the wake of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, this Israel expert noticed a flaw in the system we were using. He noted, while we primarily focus on finding the weapon a terrorist might use, Israel focuses on finding the terrorist.

This expert put together a screening process involving passenger documentation and questioning that became very effective at focusing on the terrorist or terrorist-related activity. It was so effective that in a 1986 incident, it even prevented a terrorist attack involving an witless passenger being used as a “mule.” The terrorist used a new type of explosive – known as plastique – which was able to pass undetected through two X-ray machines without being detected. During the Israeli screening process, as a passenger was questioned, a red flag went up for security personnel, resulting in a further search of the passenger’s carry-on luggage. This search finally located the unique explosive device that had been placed in her bag.

As anti-gun activists still naively believe the end-all to preventing mass school shootings is to ban guns, they ignore two obvious factors – both of which speak to the wisdom of this Israeli aviation security expert.

First, just like most Americans will abide by laws reasonably seeking to control our behavior so as not to outrageously endanger innocents, there will always be those who choose not to abide by those same laws.

Second, even if such laws achieved their purpose in keeping guns out of the hands of those with violent intentions, we have already seen how violent-minded people will resort to other tools of the terrorist trade to conduct their attacks. Bombs have been used as well as knives and even vehicles. There is no shortage of tools available to those hellbent on killing innocent victims. This is what makes it important for us to take the same approach in school security the Israelis take in aviation security: focusing on student behavior and other indicators of a potential threat to others.

What anti-gun activists have long ignored is the reality a tool, alone, is no threat absent a user’s intent. It is the evil mindset of the person wielding the tool that endangers others. Walk through any home and a long list of tools can be identified capable of killing or wounding; but they pose no threat to innocent victims as no one wields them in a way to do harm.

Thus, we need to forget about focusing on finding terrorist tools, such as guns, and spend more time focusing on finding students walking the line between rationality and irrationality who are determined to pick up and use such a tool with evil intent.

Andrew Pollack, whose teenage daughter was a victim of the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting, underscored this. He recently told Fox News that focusing on gun control is not a viable solution. He believes nothing has been learned from school shootings as the focus is too political and remains centered on gun laws. Pollack went on to say that warning signs were there that people should have picked up on. “I guarantee you,” he explained, “this kid (Ramos) didn’t just wake up one day and say I want to kill my grandma.”

Ever since the 1970s, the FBI began using a tool it developed to identify possible suspects in various types of violent crimes. Known as “profiling,” it focused on major personality and behavioral characteristics of individuals committing certain types of crimes. Half a century later, profiling’s accuracy is mind-blowing. Yet, to date, there seems to have been little concerted effort to develop a teaching program for school faculties to feed them the behavioral characteristic to be on the lookout for.

We hear that it is difficult to develop such a profile for school shooters. But there are common threads or even less common threads which, by their very nature, should raise a red flag. FBI Agent Brad Garrett tells us there is a clear profile “with some variations” that always leaves “a trail of what they’re about to do.”

Universal characteristics among school shooters, no matter what their socioeconomic status, include “depression, anger and rage toward other” as well as careful planning. They also have “a loss of purpose” as “they just don’t know what they’re on the earth for.”

Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter, displayed these signs and others. He had been expelled from school; he loved talking about guns, wars and terrorists; he posted photos of weapons on social media; neighbors described him as “aggressive” and “psycho” and prone to attack pets.

Former FBI Agent Steve Gomez explained such “signs can start at a fairly early age” and “tend to show that they’re outcasts in society.” They appear to be loners as they “have difficulty establishing and maintaining friends and social relationships. And oftentimes you find that as a result of that they are either being bullied or are a bullier.” Gomez adds that violence against animals is a definite red flag for a potential school shooter.

The reality that school shootings will not be inhibited by gun control laws is finally starting to set in for some. Some schools are redesigning campuses to minimize casualties in the event of a mass shooting. For example, Fruitport, Michigan, will spend $48 million to redesign its high school campus to include curved hallways – shortening a shooter’s line of sight – hidden wing walls to provide more hiding places, an alarm and lockdown system to isolate a threat at the touch of a button, etc.

How many more school shootings will there have to be before our politicians focus on what really needs to be done to stop all such killers regardless of their weapon of choice?

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