It can happen here
Last updated 8/31/2022 at Noon
The shooting that left three dead (including the shooter) at The Forum Safeway in Bend Sunday evening is a stark reminder that no community is insulated from the plague of mass-shooting violence that has accelerated alarmingly across the nation.
We all recognize on some level that an active shooter can enact his violent fantasies in any community — including our own — but our protective psychological mechanisms kick in, causing us to recoil from such a stark reality. We act as though we’re somehow protected by virtue of our smallness, our community ties, our bucolic environment. We can’t afford to do that anymore. Sisters is as vulnerable as any other place. It can happen here.
Truly accepting that reality demands of us some level of preparation. Developing situational awareness and a “tactical” mindset may seem to some to be an unpleasant way to live, but living in a more alert condition actually can bring us more in tune with our surroundings.
Much like living with the threat of wildfire, it’s a good idea to have a plan. When you go into a crowded situation — whether it’s an event or a grocery store — know where the exits are, and know how you’re going to get out of Dodge if something untoward occurs. Know how you will communicate with and rendezvous with your loved ones in an emergency.
Some folks carry a handgun for personal defense — but simply having one is not enough. Those who carry a handgun must train to a level where they will be capable of acting in a responsible and decisive manner when it actually hits the fan.
Perhaps most importantly, we all need to do our part to push back against the darkness, to support upstream intervention that could head off such incidents before they materialize.
That is the work of Sisters-based forensic social worker Lezlie Neusteter, founder of the nonprofit Prevent Mass Shootings Now (www.preventmassshootingsnow.org).
Neusteter’s approach is based on a deep dive into the vast body of research that has been accumulated over decades from work done by the FBI and the Secret Service, and the organization Sandy Hook Promise, founded in the wake of a 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
In a column in The Nugget last May, Neusteter noted that “at the center of every mass murder is a person in total despair. Mass shooters are not sociopaths... they are broken, angry people.
The vast majority of mass shooters are extremely depressed, lonely, in crisis and seeking attention. The catalyst is unaddressed pain and social rejection, not psychopathy.”
She asserted that “Mass shooters are almost always suicidal before they are homicidal. They don’t expect to live, and they always give off signs. There are always red flags, such as self-harm (cutting), passive threats of violence online called ‘leakage,’ suicidal thinking, substance abuse, a drastic change in appearance, excessive time on social media, increased agitation or more withdrawn, a fascination with past mass shootings, extremist ideologies and seething hatred, or a newfound obsession with weapons.”
We all need to know — and heed — warning signs when we see them (for a full list of common warning signs visit www.preventmassshootingsnow.org. And when we see something, we need to say something.
Unfortunately, the infrastructure for a prompt, coordinated and effective response isn’t necessarily there. Local law enforcement is very well trained, but law enforcement response is only one component that needs to be in place.
Neusteter has the right idea: “We need an army of specially trained mental health professionals to identify these broken people early, before they are too far gone.
To accomplish this, I believe we need a Crisis Corps: a national, centralized, standardized program created for the sole purpose of preventing mass shootings.
Every community member should have one phone number – a Crisis Corps Hotline – that they can call when they suspect someone is in crisis or on a pathway to violence.
There should be a Crisis Corps Center accessible to every school district and every law enforcement agency to report school threats or threats in the workplace — to bring all the little pieces of concerning information to one table — one table where crisis intervention specialists connect the dots and get that person help immediately.”