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Illustration by Security Management

Mass Shooting Leaves 10 Dead in Boulder

On Monday, the second mass shooting in a week resulted in the death of 10 people, including officer Eric Talley of the Boulder, Colorado, Police Department. Talley was reported as the first officer who responded to the incident, a shooting at King Soopers grocery store a few miles from the University of Colorado campus.

The police reported a suspect is in custody. Authorities have released very few other details about the incident, leaving media to piece together a timeline from footage captured by people nearby, social media posts, interviews with people who had just experienced an extremely chaotic and traumatic event, and footage from around the scene. In aerial footage broadcast across multiple media outlets, a man with an apparent leg wound and in restraints is seen being escorted away from the store by officers. A live Youtube stream from the parking lot near the entrance of the store is believed to be from near the beginning of the incident and shows motionless people on the ground at and just inside the store’s entrance.

It is not known for certain if the restrained man in the footage is the suspect. No motives have been reported. Witness accounts and video make clear this was an active shooter incident, and one CNN report cites a police source that the incident involved an AR-15-style rifle.

Six days earlier in the Atlanta metro area, a man shot and killed eight people in three incidents at massage parlors. Six of the eight fatalities were of Asian descent, a population which has been the subject of increasing racially motivated threats and violence—though the motives behind the Atlanta attack are being debated.

While no motive is known, mental health experts are concerned about the combustible mix of conditions created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in firearms purchases reported in the United States. Researchers from the Columbia University School of Public Health and the School of Medicine at Temple University teamed up to study gun violence in Philadelphia while pandemic control measures were in place. The study found that “the measures put in place to contain the pandemic for health and safety reasons had a significant and sustained association with increased firearm violence in the city.”

A study from the University of California-Davis looking at attitudes and practices by California residents led concluded that “the coronavirus pandemic worsened many of the underlying conditions contributing to violence and its consequences, including poverty, unemployment, lack of resources, isolation, hopelessness, and loss. These risks are compounded by a recently documented surge in firearm purchasing in the U.S., a risk factor for firearm-related injury and death.”

In the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, researchers from Vanderbilt and the University of Michigan published “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Future of Psychiatric Research into American Gun Violence,” in which they proposed four areas of study to better understand and ultimately enact policies to decrease gun violence:

  • Abandon the notion “that acts of mass violence are driven primarily by diagnosable psychopathology.”
  • Scrutinize violence for any apparent correlation with diagnosable mental illness for evidence of racial bias.
  • Study the “role of firearm access in the occurrence and lethality of mass shootings” within the framework of the “social, cultural, legal, political, [and] psychological aspects of private gun ownership.”
  • Address policies and interventions that reduce the incidence of mass shootings using this expanded body of research.

“Emerging evidence that the coronavirus pandemic has produced a sharp increase both in civilian gun sales and in the social and psychological determinants of injurious behavior adds special urgency to this agenda,” the authors wrote in their abstract.

So far this year, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed two bills that would tighten gun sales regulations. One bill extends the background review period from three days to 10, and the other bill expands existing regulations to include checks for private sales, closing the so-called “Gun Show Loophole.” Given current Senate rules, passage of the bills in that chamber does not appear likely.

Gun violence and the possibility of mass shootings remains an important threat for private security professionals. ASIS has compiled resources on soft target and active shooter threat assessment, planning, and training.