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Preparedness Comes to Forefront After Nationwide School Shootings

by Jon Guillen

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A Sample of Involuntary Commitment Laws in Pennsylvania. Chart courtesy of tacreports.org

The world lost nine individuals to a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on Oct. 1. The tragedy marks the forty-fifth school shooting this year, which averages one shooting every six days. Despite these statistics, we’re not prepared to deal with unstable individuals.

Greensburg Police Department Sergeant Chuck Irvin suggests awareness. In a recent interview, the officer offered advice on approaching unstable persons.

For school faculty, Sergeant Irvin urged consistent training for these situations on a yearly, if not quarterly, basis.

“It’s one thing to tell them what the protocol is and have them read a pamphlet,” he said. “It’s another thing to put them through scenario-based training.”

He emphasized that people are always going to hurt people, but preparing ourselves to deal with these situations can save lives.

Antisocial behavior and low self-esteem are considered red flags that could indicate homicidal, or even suicidal behavior, but these could also describe just plain awkward individuals.

The Oregon shooter’s last known writings reflected bitterly, “at a world that he believed was working against him,” as a New York Times article referred to them. It is speculated that the shooter had some type of personality disorder.

In one of his final blog posts, the Oregon shooter wrote, “I have noticed that so many people like [the Virginia Tech shooter] are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone . . . Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.”

For students, making a hard choice could prevent tragedy, Irvin said.

“As a lay-person, if you have a friend who is exhibiting those symptoms, you can go up to the hospital and file for a petition to have someone committed.”

Irvin cautioned not to use this option for frivolous claims; evidence of probable cause would be required. Reporting online communications, such as Facebook posts, would require printouts of threats with serious intent.  

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