A research team at the University of California, Davis has been studying the data on mass shootings in the United States and looking for ways to prevent them in the future.
Dr. Garen Wintemute, the director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis Health, says deadly shootings can be stopped if the signs are caught in time.
“There’s an opportunity to intervene before the shooting occurs and stop it if people will do something with that information when they get it,” he said.
Wintemute is an emergency medicine physician who has been researching firearm violence at UC Davis for 39 years.
“When I’m doing research, I keep in mind who I’m doing it for and why because the object of doing research is not research, it’s saving lives,” he said.
So far, he’s found that 80% of people who commit acts of violence show signs of their intentions in advance, whether it’s through social media, friends or family.
Last year, there was a huge uptick in gun sales when the pandemic first broke out, which Dr. Wintemute says can result in an increase in violence.
“We are about now in 2021 to live through the consequences of that surge in purchasing, whatever they turn out to be,” he said.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have already been 156 mass shootings this year as of April 20.
“I’m not seeing anything that distinguishes these from those that came before the pandemic,” he noted.
Contrary to popular belief, Dr. Wintemute also found that most shooters involved in mass shootings do not struggle with mental health issues.
“Mental illness accounts for no more than 4 or 5% of interpersonal firearm violence and only accounts for a small percentage of mass shootings. Mental illness is a much more important issue when we talk about suicide or self-harm, “ Wintemute explained.
He says one way to prevent a mass shooting in California is through a gun violence restraining order.
“You can go to law enforcement and they can go to a judge and get a restraining order and recover the firearms from that person so that the shooting never occurs,” Dr. Wintemute explained.
More than anything, he says it’s extremely important that if a person witnesses someone expressing violent tendencies, they should immediately report the suspicious behavior.
“If people are planning it and talking about it as most of them do, then there is an opportunity for the people around them to alert the authorities and prevent the mass shooting from happening,” he said.
Dr. Wintemute says he’ll continue to study mass shootings and hopefully save lives through his research.