The sentinel challenge today for both Security Professionals and Crime Prevention Professionals is to develop strategies and procedures to prevent the next mass shooting. Indeed “Active Shooter” and “Run-Hide-Fight” classes have become a cottage industry in the security-law enforcement-crime prevention professions. As we move ahead to address what appears at times to be an insurmountable problem, we need to include and focus on one reality that is absent in far too many trainings and classes. There is a very large elephant in the room that is seldom mentioned or acknowledged. This is the huge and tragic correlation between mass shootings and domestic-family violence. Consider the following-

  1. From 2009 to 2016 in more than half of the mass shootings the shooters killed intimate partners or other family members.
  2. Women in the United States are 16 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in other high income countries.
  3. Nearly one million women living in the United States today have been shot, or shot at by an intimate partner.
  4. Soraya Chemaly, director of the Women’s Center Speech Project said “There’s absolutely no doubt that the practice of violence within a home, in an intimate setting, with people that theoretically the aggressor loves, opens the floodgates to public violence.”

As educators and professionals we need to meet the realities of family and domestic violence head on.  This effort will require all of us to take an unwavering look at the dark and dangerous underbelly of our patriarchal culture. This is a culture that has minimized, marginalized and even normalized the horrific toll of domestic violence inflicted on women in the United States. The enduring reality we have to address is that domestic violence and mass shootings are co-joined twins that tear at the fabric of American life on a daily basis. So, what are some constructive and proactive strategies that we can adopt as we move ahead to counter this growing problem?

  • Include the reality of domestic violence and the link to mass shootings in every crime prevention-active shooter prevention effort.  This has to happen.
  • Advocate and promote legislation that strictly prohibits anyone convicted of a family violence-domestic violence crime from owning any kind of firearm for a period of at least 5 years. This should be done on Federal, State, and Local levels. There needs to be unified consensus that domestic violence perpetrators will lose all gun rights.
  • When teaching workplace violence prevention emphasize the reality and relationship of domestic violence and gun violence.  Include the strategies the company will take to both support a victim of domestic violence and address the perpetrator.
  • Advocate that all employers adopt a proactive and “Zero incidents” philosophy regarding workplace safety. There is a key concept or point here that cannot we emphasized enough. It is simply that there is a great deal an organization can do to safeguard and support staff. In far too many industries and businesses an attitude or philosophy of “There is only so much we can do” creeps into the organizations response plan. Do not allow this to happen.
  • Advocate and promote domestic violence and family violence prevention in the schools. This needs to be a core curriculum that is introduced in the elementary schools and emphasized throughout our children’s academic lives.

The United States has a serious gun violence problem. The medical costs now exceed now 200 billion dollars annually. As one former police chief commented after a busy weekend that involved multiple shootings, “We are awash in an ocean of guns.” Crime prevention strategists and professionals cannot perhaps “solve” what has become a national tragedy. However, we can take reasoned and measured steps to mitigate the problem. That first step is coming to terms and casting light on the deadly relationship between mass shootings and domestic violence.            

Jim Sawyer, CPP-CHPA is Director of Security for Seattle Childrens and President of the Washington State Crime Prevention Association