Mass Shootings:  An Action Plan – By Delinda McCann


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In my last article I insisted that we can change the direction our society is taking in allowing mass shootings.  I called for dialog and a definition of the problem along with some hints at how to engage all sectors of our communities in productive prevention.  What can you do?

First, realize that you can make a difference.  I made a difference in the world of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.   We all have our gifts, the things we are good at doing.  I’m okay on computers, so I developed the first web site on earth to teach about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  I didn’t have much information, but I shared what was available at the time.  My information reached around the globe as government officials and public health workers contacted me for more information.  Soon, I had them talking to each other about what they were doing.

People who are good at computers can organize the wider community to work together, sharing information, advocacy materials, and how-to lessons for approaching legislators and businesses.

Schools will play a huge role in prevention.  They already identify at-risk youth.  They need funding and community support to develop educational opportunities to keep at-risk youth engaged whether this be drama, band, wood or auto body shop or classes in Movies and Culture.  Our schools know which kids will not be able to participate in such projects, and they need to be pro-active in supporting parents to get the kid into counseling and keep him there.

My friend and colleague, Jocie DeVries, was a woman on a mission when advocating for individuals with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  She would go anywhere and talk to anybody.  She followed her instincts to meet the people who needed to know about the behavioral aspects of the disability.  Some people can talk to anybody.  Those people need to start talking to school officials, the mayor, the newspaper, their legislators, or maybe the woman in the office at the end of the hall.  When we start to talk to people, we don’t have to have all the answers for solving our problems.  We just need start the dialog and then listen and learn.

Everybody can write a short note to their legislators, newspaper, mayor, council representative or state representative asking for research on the topic of mass shootings and for public dialog on how to meet the needs of people at-risk for perpetuating violence.  The dialog needs to happen at the community level in order to access available community resources and find the weak places in the community structure.

Do some online research.  Who is doing research on gun violence?  You will find that congress has placed limits on what the Center for Disease Control can do or say.  Can you find federally funded research on gun violence?

Of course, as you start talking about preventing violence, you will run into many if not most people who will tell you the task is impossible.  The correct response is to ignore them and move on.  When working in advocacy, we used to say, “Step over the dead bodies and move on.”  That phrase probably isn’t the best when talking about gun violence, but the advice is still good.

Before writing this week’s articles, I wrote a frustrated post on Facebook.  (1) Basically, I mentioned five things that I could do to raise awareness of the issues around gun violence.  I got back several thoughtful, concrete suggestions about what we as individuals can do to change attitudes about gun violence.  Yes! This short piece was exactly the sort of dialog we need to be having.  Some people shared ideas of services have worked in the past to keep at-risk populations engaged in their community.  From this short experiment, I could see that others focused on the mental health aspects of the problem.  Is that were the bulk of our population thinks we need to go with prevention?  As I read through other dialogues on Facebook about the issue, I noticed that people defined four categories of perpetrators and had some idea of how to serve those categories to prevent those vulnerable people from acting out in violence.  Some people pointed out the cracks in our systems that allow the vulnerable to slip through our network of services.  Yes.  This is what we need to learn in dialog so that each community can move forward to fill in the cracks and build healthy communities.

In my online research, I found an action plan proposed by Bernie Sanders (2) focusing on things government can do to make us safer.  If his legislative plan or any other government plan is to be implemented, it will need public support to overcome the resistance of those who profit from gun violence.  Public dialog can generate that support and fine tune the legislative ideas to make them more effective.

You may well notice that the advocates, teachers and mental health workers focus on mental health and social issues, while the politician focuses on gun control.  This is why we need dialog.  Our public servants need to know what we the people want.  It looks to me as if the people in my small sample want to build healthy communities while the government wants the quick answer of gun control.   We had a similar problem when working with FAS advocacy.  Politicians thought we wanted respite care.  Parents wanted appropriate diagnosis and appropriate school services.  These miscommunications between citizens and public officials can be prevented with appropriate dialog.

I am impressed with what I learned from talking to others.  People do know what they want and how to achieve those goals.  What we need in order to get from here to there is communication that leads to action.  We’ve done this in the past.  We can do it again.  Now, the responsibility for preventing more domestic terrorism is in your lap. What will you do to build the type of healthy society we all want?


Delinda McCann is a social scientist with over forty years experience in working with at-risk populations.  She started with a program for migrant workers children, moved on to working with at-risk teens in a street program and finished working in the field of developmental disabilities and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  She has worked on committees for the State of Washington and been an advisor to several foreign governments. She currently writes novels that touch on social topics including politics and social justice.  Web site:

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8 thoughts on “Mass Shootings:  An Action Plan – By Delinda McCann

  1. Kenneth Weene

    Do we remember this song?
    Have gun will travel reads the card of a man
    A knight without armor in a savage land
    His fast gun for hire heeds the calling wind
    A soldier of fortune is a man called Paladin

    We have far too long glorified the gun and the man—not the woman—holding it. As long as we see justice as rooted in violence rather than in restoration of wellbeing, we will go on justifying the killing of others to right wrongs. It is time for us to recognize that the existence of wrongs cannot be tolerated in the good society. Let us also remember that those who are wronged without redress, that those who are denied the possibility of true justice, will eventually feel the need to take matters in their own hands. When that happens, those in power will use more force to maintain the status quo, and the imbalance of society will get ever worse. If we love justice, do mercy, and live with humility, perhaps we can grow beyond the cycle of inevitable violence.

    1. Delinda Lois Mccann

      The enchantment with the idea that a gun will solve our problems is one of the reasons we need dialog. Not all our problems can be solved with legislation. Some has to be solved through changing attitudes.

  2. Trish Jackson

    Delinda, I love your positive mindset. Your plan sounds like a good one, but as you noted, the law protects the people who do these crazy things.

    My friend’s boyfriend has a son who is a drug addict. He’s been in rehab countless times but it never lasts. He lives on his own and owns guns, and every now and then he goes on a rampage. The police ‘Baker Act’ him — admit him into a mental institution for observation, but only for 72 hours. My friend has tried to have him put on some kind of watch, and to stop him from owning the guns, but he has rights just like everyone else and there is nothing she or anyone else can do.

    However, as you said, someone has to start somewhere to address the problem.

    1. Delinda Lois Mccann

      Trish, your family’s story is one that needs to be told. Working in advocacy I learned that when one woman stands up and says I promise you that my child is going to do this, legislators listen. Advocates have the ability to make concepts real to those who need to know them.

  3. Joyce Elferdink

    When I lived in metro Detroit, I was a part of a group trying to establish Study Circles to deal with our major problem of violence. One of the most successful groups we facilitated was a dozen youth who had already been involved in the criminal justice system. What I remember most vividly was their response to being asked to discuss the issue. These were young people who’d seen first-hand the results of gun violence (some as perpetrators). No one had ever asked them for opinions and suggestions before–and they had much to say!
    What Delinda has written about the power of groups in communication definitely extends to our youth–both at-risk and those who will become our leaders. Here’s a link to a website where we found help to organize circles:
    We need to know what this segment of the public wants–and needs–from those of us who call ourselves adults. Organize discussions about issues and follow up with proposed actions!

  4. Micki Peluso

    Excellent advice on a long term problem that is escalating at a rapid pace. However, even as we attempt to socialize and civilize troubled or inherently violent youth and adults, we still need to protect those who are being killed today in grammar schools all the way to college. We can’t simply ‘preach to the choir’ as we bury our loved ones. Let’s find a way to protect the innocent while rehabilitating the violent.


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