The Violence Project How to stop a mass shooting epidemic

Jillian Peterson

Book - 2021

Using research data, including first-person accounts from the perpetrators themselves, a special investigator and psychologist and a sociologist, who built The Violence Project, a comprehensive database of mass shooters, share their solutions for putting an end to these tragedies that have defined the modern era.

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Case studies
New York : Abrams Press 2021.
Physical Description
232 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 199-221) and index.
Main Author
Jillian Peterson (author)
Other Authors
James A. (James Andrew) Densley, 1982- (author)
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this insightful and cautiously optimistic account, psychologist Peterson and sociologist Densley present findings from their study of nearly 200 mass shootings in the U.S. between 1966 and 2020. Drawing on trial transcripts, media reports, and interviews with perpetrators, their friends and family, and survivors, Peterson and Densley identify risk factors, including childhood abuse and neglect, that increase the likelihood a young person might commit such a crime, and contend that trauma screening in schools could help reduce the frequency of mass shootings. Peterson and Densley also show that shooters often experience a personal crisis shortly before committing their crime, and provide lists of warning signs (increased agitation, abusive behavior) and de-escalation strategies. To prevent mass shootings motivated by hate-based ideology, the authors suggest deplatforming extremists online and "cognitively empower" people to think more critically. They also call on reporters to avoid "excessive, irrelevant details" in their coverage of perpetrators, and support "red flag" laws that allow for the removal of firearms from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. Throughout, the authors' nuanced portraits of mass shooters buttress the case that these tragedies "are not an inevitable fact of American life; they're preventable." This is a sensitive and knowledgeable treatment of one of America's most vexing social problems. (Sept.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Peterson (criminology and criminal justice, Hamline Univ.) and Densley (criminal justice, Metropolitan State Univ.) report on their research examining the root causes of mass shootings. Frustrated by policies that were created only after shootings occurred, Peterson and Densley decided to study every mass shooter (defined as anyone who "killed four or more people in a public space") since 1966. They gathered information to "see if profiles emerged that might point us to new ideas for prevention"; the result was a database of shooters, with basic demographics (age, education, gender, race, etc.) and more in-depth information (whether the perpetrator had been institutionalized for mental illness; whether they had told anyone about their plans in advance). The authors found that killers often follow a pattern: Many were abused as children, reached a crisis point in the weeks or months before the shooting, and blamed an individual or group for their rage and frustration. This is a thorough, groundbreaking work that attempts to understand mass shootings and ways to prevent them. VERDICT A gripping book that will captivate anyone seeking to understand why mass shootings occur and what might be done to recognize and intervene with potential shooters before they act.--Kristy White, Duquesne Univ., PA

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A report on a unique nonpartisan, nonprofit research center working to stem the tide of mass shootings in America. Peterson and Densley, both professors of criminology, intensively survey the effects of gun violence via the data-driven prevention group called the Violence Project. In 2018, the authors, who co-founded the project, began anonymously interviewing incarcerated individuals in an effort to illuminate their life histories. Early on, five felons agreed to participate in the uncompensated project, which then expanded outward in interviews with their former and current spouses, family, friends, co-workers, and survivors. Using these interactions, Peterson and Densley sought to garner a more well-rounded perspective of who the shooter is or was and how their personal history shaped them. The result is a bracing compilation of mass shooter profiles and first-person accounts from violent criminals, beginning with the Parkland shooter's emotional breakdown as he apologized to his brother. This sequence sets the tone for the remaining perpetrators, who are chillingly yet humanely profiled in a multifaceted study that is alternately horrifying, depressing, and even hopeful. The U.S., write the authors "is a lonely island when it comes to mass shootings," mainly due to the country's love affair with guns and unrelenting, often misguided, protection of the Second Amendment. (One shooter interviewed not only names the guns in his arsenal; he sleeps with them.) Chronicling the lives of a variety of perpetrators, from mentally distressed school shooters to rampaging extremists, the authors identify many shared attributes and experiences, including childhood trauma, anger, loneliness, societal stressors, and suicidal ideation. Many of these factors serve as propellants for terrible acts of violence, but, as the authors argue convincingly, they also can become integral parts in "unlocking solutions" for personal crisis and trauma intervention across individual, institutional, and societal levels. The authors conclude with holistic, interventional, and tangible strategies for reducing violence in contemporary society. A distressing, critical study in the understanding, processing, and prevention of mass-casualty gun violence. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.