OSU Expert Talks About School Shooting Risk Factors


UPDATED: Sunday December 23, 2012 7:34 PM

In the wake of the Connecticut school shootings, one expert at The Ohio State University said on Sunday that predicting who would become a mass shooter is virtually impossible.

Associate Professor Deanna Wilkinson, Ph.D., said that while such shooting sprees appeared to have become more common, that was not the case. Wilkinson said schools are still the safest place for children to be despite some perceptions.

"Because they're so innocent and so young. And I think that brings out in all of us that just very protective (reaction.) We don't want this to be real. We don't want to be in a country where this is possible," Wilkinson said.

Adam Lanza was the 20-year-old Newtown, Conn. gunman who killed his mother in her sleepon Dec. 14, then murdered 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza has been described as an awkward, peculiar kid who wore the same clothes to school every day and rarely spoke when he was younger.

Wilkinson explained how someone like Lanza can become prone to acting out against others.

"They become isolated, away from the resources that would help them to see that there are opportunities for something different. And the common denominator that also makes all of this work is that it is learned behavior," she said.

Wilkinson said most people who make violent threats never act upon them.

Criminologists have pointed to a combination of risk factors in troubled children leading to an increase in the chances for violence, including easy access to weapons, as in Lanza's case.

"When you look at the circumstances of the lives of the people who were the shooters in most of these cases, they had internal stuff going on," said Wilkinson.

Violent threats should be taken seriously according to experts. And parents should attempt to arrange a mental health evaluation, and follow up with any recommended treatment.

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