Reviews

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The national affairs editor of Mother Jones ponders whether the carnage will ever end.The most salient solution to the complex problem of mass shootings in America is stricter gun control laws, which would help diminish an overall national toll of nearly 40,000 shooting deaths and 115,000 injuries annually. Given the absolutist opposition to any regulation of firearms, however, such laws are unlikely to emerge. Follman, who created a mass-shootings database a decade ago, proposes that communities must take a closer look at their members to predict who might go off and why, studying behavioral warning signs (which range from bitter grievances to stalking and actively planning attacks, amassing ammunition, and other matters), and telling others about their concerns. What if there existed a community-based model for intervening constructively with troubled people well before they armed themselves and went on a rampage? Follman asks. Positive results have already emerged from efforts to institute such a model. After the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007, Virginia mandated that each school create a crisis-response team that would not only develop plans for defense, but would also attempt to forecast attacks. Libertarians may voice alarm about the potential Big Brotherism inherent in such approaches, by which a teacher notices something disturbing about a students comments or notebook marginalia, for example, and alerts a principal. Or an office worker gets freaked out by a colleagues odd or vaguely menacing behavior and tells a supervisor. Still, since its nearly impossible to predict who is going to commit mass violence without behavioral clues, Follman concludes in a book for both policymakers and attentive citizens, its almost all we have to go on. Other signature features, such as the desire for fame or to outdo last weeks shooter in the number of victims, and other triggers, such as rejection or bullying, announce themselves in concerning behavior that is too often dismissed, particularly by family members.A strong argument for a more proactive approach to the American pandemic of bullets. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Mother Jones journalist Follman debuts with an engrossing and surprisingly hopeful look at the field of behavioral threat assessment and how it is being used to prevent mass shootings. Drawing on interviews with mental health experts and criminologists seeking to identify the “warning behaviors” perpetrators exhibit before an attack, Follman spotlights clinical psychologist Robert Fein, who in 1976 began working with inmates at Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane near Boston. Following the assassination of John Lennon, the U.S. Secret Service turned to Fein and his mentor, psychiatrist Shervert Frazier, to produce the “definitive study on mentally ill assassins.” Detailing their findings and those of other threat assessment practitioners, Follman discusses how heavy media coverage of mass shootings and high-profile assassinations fosters “emulation behavior” among potential assailants, documents how the spread of “entrenched political and ideological views” online fuels violent extremism, and explains how “early intervention and a less outwardly harsh response” can stop disgruntled employees from killing their coworkers. He also delves into the legal and logistical complications of trying to identify and thwart would-be assailants and speaks with victims of mass shootings. Full of intriguing case studies and examples of the “promise and limitations” of threat assessment, this is an optimistic take on one of America’s most distressing problems. (Mar.)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The national affairs editor of Mother Jones ponders whether the carnage will ever end. The most salient solution to the complex problem of mass shootings in America is stricter gun control laws, which “would help diminish an overall national toll of nearly 40,000 shooting deaths and 115,000 injuries annually.” Given the absolutist opposition to any regulation of firearms, however, such laws are unlikely to emerge. Follman, who created a mass-shootings database a decade ago, proposes that communities must take a closer look at their members to predict who might go off and why, studying behavioral warning signs (which range from bitter grievances to stalking and actively planning attacks, amassing ammunition, and other matters), and telling others about their concerns. “What if there existed a community-based model for intervening constructively with troubled people well before they armed themselves and went on a rampage?” Follman asks. Positive results have already emerged from efforts to institute such a model. After the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007, Virginia mandated that each school create a crisis-response team that would not only develop plans for defense, but would also attempt to forecast attacks. Libertarians may voice alarm about the potential Big Brother–ism inherent in such approaches, by which “a teacher notices something disturbing about a student’s comments or notebook marginalia, for example, and alerts a principal. Or an office worker gets freaked out by a colleague’s odd or vaguely menacing behavior and tells a supervisor.” Still, since it’s nearly impossible to predict who is going to commit mass violence without behavioral clues, Follman concludes in a book for both policymakers and attentive citizens, it’s almost all we have to go on. Other signature features, such as the desire for fame or to outdo last week’s shooter in the number of victims, and other triggers, such as rejection or bullying, announce themselves in “concerning behavior” that is too often dismissed, particularly by family members. A strong argument for a more proactive approach to the American pandemic of bullets. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Back