The Continuing Fight Against Gun Violence: Can Smart Guns Keep Your Kid From Becoming the Next Adam Lanza?

Sandy Hingston One Against The Gun Pins

Photograph By Claudia Gavin

Shortly after I finished writing about gun control for the January issue of Philly Mag, the American Psychological Association issued a report on the causes of gun violence. The report, commissioned in response to the Sandy Hook and Aurora, Colorado, mass shootings, examined risk factors for gun violence and strategies for combating it. One of its authors was Susan B. Sorenson, a professor at Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice and director of Penn’s Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence. Just before the New Year, Sorenson spoke with me about the report and her work.

Q: How did you come to focus on family violence in your professional life?

A: I was originally trained as a clinical psychologist, but I found it frustrating seeing people after the fact — seeing the damage. I realized you could view family violence from a public-health perspective. If we could just move upstream a bit and address the social issues, maybe that would help. Because there’s a psychological component to such violence, but there are social issues as well.

Q: The APA report notes that when it comes to mass shootings, “there is no consistent psychological profile or set of warning signs that can be used reliably to identify such individuals in the general population.” Is the reason researchers haven’t been able to develop such a profile that such shootings are so rare?

A: “Rampage shootings,” as they’re called, are rare. There are some similarities among those who commit them, but then, there are a whole lot of people who have these signs. Trying to identify which individual is likely to commit a mass shooting in which setting, with what weapon — we’re not there yet. We’re just not there. Risk assessment is like medicine. We can tell you you’re at a high risk for heart disease if you’re not exercising, you eat a bad diet and you have a genetic predisposition. But we can’t say, “Okay, that means you’re going to have a heart attack.” Read more »

Does Anyone Still Think George Zimmerman Was a Mild-Mannered Softie?

George Zimmerman, acquitted in the high-profile killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, listens in court Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, in Sanford, Fla., during his hearing on charges including aggravated assault stemming from a fight with his girlfriend. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool)

George Zimmerman, acquitted in the high-profile killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, listens in court Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, in Sanford, Fla., during his hearing on charges including aggravated assault stemming from a fight with his girlfriend. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool)

This summer, as George Zimmerman stood on trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin, one witness after another testified to the genteel nature of “Georgie,” a man who was described as “physically soft” by Adam Pollock, the gym trainer who once instructed Zimmerman in boxing and grappling classes.

Witness after witness poured into the courtroom, testifying that Zimmerman was meek mannered, the type that would never hurt a fly. It was an easy picture to paint, since the allegations that he’d sexually abused his cousin for years were never admitted into court. Neither was the part about Zimmerman’s ex-fiancée filing a motion for a restraining order against him in 2005 because of domestic violence. According to the Miami Herald:

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Alleged Gunman Kills TSA Agent at LAX (Updated)

Update: An earlier report was incorrect (see below)–the alleged gunman is not dead, but in custody. He is 23-year-old Paul Ciancia, of Pennsville, New Jersey.

Update: The alleged gunman was a TSA employee, the LA Times reports. In addition to the TSA agent he reportedly killed, seven have been treated for injuries.

Suspect pulled rifle out of bag, opened fire in several locations. Police tracked suspect down, shot him in Terminal 3. He was taken into custody. “At this point be believe this was a lone shooter,” he said.

Original story:

A gunman reportedly opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport today, killing a TSA agent, according to the Los Angeles Times. That alleged gunman is now being reported as dead.

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PA Republicans Think Gun Owners Have More Rights than Cancer Sufferers

Last year during a visit to New England my wife slipped on ice and dislocated her shoulder, leaving her in excruciating pain. It wasn’t the first time it had happened.  Since suffering a bad skiing accident in the 1990s, Kate’s left shoulder has been increasingly unstable and prone to pop out at the slightest provocation.

It hadn’t happened in a while, but having been through this ritual at least four times in as many states, she thought she knew what to expect: A trip to the emergency room where a doctor would greet her with a stiff shot of morphine and then pop the errant ball joint back into its socket. Simple as that, she assured me.

If only.

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Guns, PTSD, Mental Illness and a Post-Navy Yard World

As the theories about what set Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis on his homicidal tear pile up, old policy clashes are re-emerging. Gun control advocates are quick to offer assorted “we-told-you-so” arguments, and for good reason. But as fevered as the uproar over guns is the conversation on mental health.

Once details emerged that Alexis had a long post-9/11 history of mental issues, the spigot of outrage flowed. How could a 34-year-old disturbed Navy veteran with a Molotov cocktail of “anger management” and firearms episodes get a security clearance to the facility overseeing Naval operations worldwide? Here in D.C., getting security clearance for a cushy federal gig is like finding gold. You can’t even get one if you have bad credit. So, how did Alexis slip through the cracks?

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Are We Heading for a Civil War Over… Pot and Guns?

In the 19th century, it was tariffs and slavery that eventually triggered a Civil War here as devastating as the one we’re debating over in Syria. In the 21st century it’s pot, guns and ObamaCare that tempt the return of old tensions once known as the Nullification Crisis.

As noticeable as dysfunction in Washington is the rampant regionalism which defines its partisan factionalism. Many of the ideological red lines drawn on Capitol Hill appear very much a result of geographic lines beyond it, something that shouldn’t go unnoticed or be casually ignored—yet it tends to get dismissed with “it can’t happen in the 21st century.” Still, contemporary American politics continues its descent into the regurgitation of old issues that history books would have us think were resolved—until gangs of Republicans engineer unfriendly reminders. That has the electorate comfortably isolating itself—at least politically for now—into corners of red and blue, and (more uncomfortably) into acres of North and South.

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