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  • Writer's pictureHoward McBroom

Project Redemption

Mass shootings are an urgent problem today. So far this year, there have been over 250 mass shootings in America. This is spreading a great deal of fear and horror throughout the country. People are afraid to go out to shopping centers, stores, movie theaters, parades and camping trips. We are not safe anywhere anymore. We have to stop mass murders before they tear apart the fabric of American society. We cannot continue living in a world where mass shootings occur almost every day. Many of these shooters are young people who could be helped if we knew what to do with them. I believe self-determination, person-centered planning, and supported decision making can help turn these people away from violence. Self-determination is an alternative to the medical model, whereby people with developmental disabilities are put away in day programs or institutions or confined to their homes. In contrast to that, self-determination gives the power to the people. It gives them the ability to take charge of their lives and live the way they want to live. Similarly, person-centered planning is a technique by which an individual is placed in the center of things. Instead of people doing things to them and making decisions for them, they are given the ability to control their own lives. While these two strategies have mainly been used to help developmentally disabled people, I think it can also be used to help potentially violent people stray away from committing mass murder. One thing that’s good is that we are getting better at identifying these people. We now have profiles of people who are likely to commit mass murder as well as threat assessment teams that can evaluate people when they make threats and can tell when they might commit acts of violence. We’re encouraging children in schools to report threats of violence, which is helpful, but the question arises: what do we do with these dangerous people once we identify them? How do we prevent them from going down the road of mass murder? It’s one thing to identify them, but if we don’t know how to help them, we’re kicking the can down the road.

How do we help these people? The basic problem is that potential shooters have almost no hope of being able to succeed in modern American society. They have no social skills, no ability to hold jobs, and no hope of getting a partner. They need to have their social skills built up and have some kind of plan where they can succeed. We need to begin addressing these issues and I believe self-determination and person-centered planning can go a long way towards accomplishing that. They first thing we need to do is assemble a team of professionals and people in their lives who can work with them to find the right plan that will steer them away from violence and help them do better in society. This is the first thing that’s done in self-determination for people with autism and intellectual disabilities; a team of people from all aspect of their lives - professionals, friends, family – is gathered. This may or may not include parents because some parents can be very difficult to work with. Some are in total denial and refuse to believe that anything is wrong with their child. They cannot be brought to understand that there might be major problems with their child and that they desperately need help. In those cases, we have to abandon the parents and work with other individuals in the person’s life. Once we assemble that team, the team needs to sit down with the individual and find out with their strengths are. Everybody has some kind of strength, it’s just a matter of finding out what it is. Once we find out what they’re good at, we need to work out a plan to start building on those strengths. We also need to tell them that they don’t need a gun to have power and that real power comes from being able to manage the world. These people should be required to hand over all guns and agree not to acquire any more. They have to agree to denounce all power through violence; that is the first step in living a good, happy life. Once we identify the person’s strengths and get guns away from them, then we can work to build a better life for them. We can get them into a training program and maybe even arrange for them to talk to people who’ve been successful in whatever field they want to go into. Then, they can work out a plan for them to go down the right path. Another thing we desperate need to do is have them work on their social skills. Almost all of these shooters have been young males. For a young man, being able to get along with a girl and have a relationship is terribly important. We need to work on building up their social skills so they can have the ability to have a relationship with a girl. We can have them attend dating classes, have practice dates under supervision, and roleplay how they would ask a girl out. Most of these people have absolutely no idea how to get a girlfriend. We could have teams of young men from high school or college come in and mentor these people and have them roleplay to build up skills, including conflict management. This is extremely important because a lot of these people grew up in violent, disorganized homes without the slightest chance of learning how to manage conflict or negotiate with people. A self-determination team could work out a program for them to acquire those skills and teach them how they can take control of their lives in a positive direction.

We need to have a coordinated national strategy against mass shootings; Biden must declare mass murder as a public emergency. We need to call a conference of people from all walks of life and gather them under one roof so we can start working on a strategy to stop this insanity. We also need to have people come in and explain what self-determination, person-centered planning, and supported decision making are. Many professionals don’t even know what these things are and may not know there are alternatives to psychiatric therapy when it comes to trying to solve these problems. We need to stop this at the root and have classes where people can learn social and emotional skills. If we don’t stop mass shootings, we can kiss our democracy goodbye. No one is going to fight for a democracy that can’t stop children from being killed. No one is going to fight for a democracy where you have to be afraid to walk out your door every day because you might get shot. I fear that some sort of authoritarian government will come to power and take over if we don’t stop this.

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