With the tragedy of frequent mass shootings in the United States, the role of mayors to help prepare for, respond to, and recover from these events has become evident. The Playbook and Protocol are important tools for mayors and municipal leaders to be as prepared as possible should their communities join the list of those affected by mass shooting.
It is very sad that municipal leaders need to think about – not if – but when a mass shooting occurs, how should my community prepare, respond, and recover? PHAI’s UnitedOnGuns Initiative has the resources to help mayors and city managers to be ready for these tragedies. These include a Mass Shooting Protocol and Mass Shooting Playbook.
The Protocol is a four-page overview of a mayor’s role during the first 24 hours after a mass shooting. The Playbook is a 200-page resource guide informed by the recommendations and experience of mayors who have responded to a mass shooting.
UnitedOnGuns’ Director, Sarah Peck, was interviewed about these resources on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered on May 21, 2022 regarding the mass shooting in Buffalo, NY and on May 26, 2022 in the wake of the mass murders in the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Admittedly, these resources produced by PHAI will not solve any of the structural problems that cause mass shootings, but they can help communities to be prepared and to mitigate some of the horror of these all too common events.
In an op-ed published today in the Orlando Sentinel, Sarah Peck, director of PHAI’s #UnitedOnGuns initiative along with Northeastern Professor James Alan Fox consider the impact of lingering trauma from the horrific Pulse Nightclub shooting, which occurred 5 years ago on June 12, 2016.
Peck and Fox note that the psychological toll on survivors, families, first responders, and others in the community is substantial and long-lasting. Recovery requires time and resources. Unfortunately, Florida Governor DeSantis has slashed funding for families and survivors of the attach who are in need of recovery services. These needs are not only relevant to the Pulse Shooting survivors and families, but to those of all mass shootings.
In many ways, the recovery response of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has been a model, but continued funding is needed to assist with recovery services that are still needed more than five years after such a traumatic and tragic event.
PHAI’s Sarah Peck, director of #UnitedOnGuns, along with James Alan Fox, the Lipman Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern University, published an opinion piece in the Mercury News of San Jose, where a tragic public mass shooting at a light rail yard resulted in 10 deaths, including a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the shooter. Peck and Fox note that public mass shootings almost inevitably involve suicidal ideation on the part of the shooter. They write that this fact, “provides hope that some of these horrific crimes can be prevented by focusing specifically on suicide prevention.”
In fact, focusing on suicide prevention may be the most effective way to reduce death caused by guns in the U.S. as nearly 2 out of 3 gun deaths are the result of suicides. In the various gun narratives, this is hardly a dominant theme. Nor it the fact, pointed out by the authors, that, “the risk a household member will commit suicide is increased threefold when there is a gun in the home.” Peck and Fox recommend 2 policies to help reduce gun-involved suicides.
1) Temporarily remove a firearm when a household member is in crisis, and
2) Safely secure handguns and long guns bought for sport or protection, especially if there is a minor in the home.
The first of these policies is known as a “red flag” law or “extreme risk protection order” (ERPO). Evidence to date suggests that ERPO laws may, indeed, help to reduce suicide. Guns as, by far, the most effective means of successfully carrying out a suicide attempt. Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that while, overall the 8.5% of suicide attempts result in death, 89.7% of suicide attempts involving guns are lethal. Safe storage of guns have been found to reduce gun-related injuries and death.
In an op-ed published today in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Sarah Peck, director of PHAI’s #UnitedOnGuns initiative along with Northeastern Professor James Alan Fox take a very practical approach to help mayors respond to mass shooting events, which have become all too common. While federal legislation mandating universal background checks and other measures remain trapped in political gridlock, local mayors continue to be called upon to respond to mass shootings in their communities. In addition to the physical and emotional tolls that such an event may cause, mayors soon learn that the financial costs of responding to such a tragedy can be immense.
Peck and Fox make specific recommendations:
We urge the president to support Mr. Weaver [Mayor of Boulder] and all the mayors who will follow him by: (1) establishing an emergency fund for cities to cover the full cost of responding to a mass public shooting with management and oversight from FEMA or another appropriate agency; (2) providing mental health services for police officers and other first responders; and (3) creating training for mayors and other city managers to prepare for, respond to, and assist their communities to recover from a mass shooting.
Sarah Peck, Director of PHAI’s #UnitedOnGuns initiative, recently authored an opinion piece published by the South Florida Sun Sentinel entitled: Profiting from protecting kids is wrong. Halt active shooter drills in schools. In it, Ms. Peck raises the concern, shared by many, that active shooter drills in schools can traumatize children. She notes that 42 states have passed laws mandating these school drills and that a $3 billion industry has emerged to support implementation of these laws.
Such drills produced by for-profit companies are often designed to be realistic and may feature the sounds of gunshots and even the use of fake blood. Ms. Peck shared one particularly disturbing example:
In one recent drill, teachers were lined up against a wall and shot — execution-style — with plastic bullets.
Such trauma-inducing practices are unacceptable in our schools, according to Ms. Peck. The key, she maintains, is prevention, and she cites a program called “know the signs” as an example of an approach that may help identify kids in crisis who might pose a risk.
The piece notes that “passing a federal red flag law could save lives if these incentives have the desired effect, especially in red states where gun deaths tend to be higher as a percentage of the population than in blue states.” Ms. Peck stated that one study found that for every 10 risk orders issued, at least one suicide was prevented.
Read the full piece here. It was published on November 17, 2019.