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Democracy

More than seven thousand people shared their best ideas to stop mass shootings. Here are the best.

Everyone agrees mass shootings need to end. But what can really be done?

mass shootings, mass shooting prevention, red flags

A makeshift memorial after the 2019 El Paso mass shooting.

As of January 24, 2023, at least 69 people have been killed in 39 mass shootings across the United States . The deadliest shooting happened on January 21 in Monterey Park, California, when a 72-year-old man shot 20 people, killing 11. On January 23, a 66-year-old man killed 7 people and injured another in a shooting in Half Moon Bay, California.

It’s hard to see these stories in the news every few weeks—or days—and not get desensitized, especially when lawmakers have made it clear that they will not do anything substantive to curb the availability of assault weapons in the U.S.

After the assault weapons ban, which had been in effect for 10 years, lapsed in 2004, the number of mass shootings tripled.



To find a glimmer of hope in such a dire situation, Reddit user Themissrebecca103 asked the online forum, “What could be done to prevent mass shootings?” and received nearly 16,000 responses. Many of the solutions looked past the intractable gun debate to the root causes that drive people to act out violently.

mass shootings, mass shooting stats, mass shooting history

Total Deaths in US Mass Shootings 1982-2021.

via Wikimedia Commons

Here are seven of the most thought-provoking potential solutions to the mass shooting problem.

1. Change attitudes around guns.

"There's no quick answer, in part because 'mass shootings' combine many different underlying issues.

If we are talking about high-profile mass shootings, our problem in the USA relates to several overlapping issues:

It is relatively easy to acquire firearms. The legal mechanisms to deny a high risk person firearms are very limited. Every country produces a small percentage of deeply problematic people; ours is unique in arming them.

American culture around firearms is deeply problematic. Other heavily armed wealthy nations, like the commonly compared Switzerland, make the use of firearms a responsibility of being a good citizen. American culture all too often celebrates firearms as an extra-legal tool for imposing your will.

The modern world is a lonely world. People spend much more time alone now. This gets far beyond the scope of this reply, but many of our traditional social organizations have failed to adapt to the modern world. Young people are increasingly left without a community or direction. This amplifies the above issues.

Combined, these speak to mass shootings as a consequence of low social cohesion on a legal, cultural, and institutional level. Addressing that is multi-generational work." — CxEnsign

2. Take mental health seriously.

"Make therapy more easily accessible for people who are middle or lower class. And actually take mental health and bullying seriously, instead of falsely advocating for it and brushing it off when people need serious mental help." — AshtheArtist

monterey park, mass shooting california, star ballroom dance

The makeshift memorial outside Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park on January 23rd 2023.

via Wikimedia Commons

3. Do something about red flags.

"People need to have real honest conversations with their loved ones and friends when the red flags go flying. Many of these shootings are not random and the warning signs were present. Help that woman escape her abuser, tell your brother to grow the fuck up and stop being abusive, take your son’s firearms when you know they are an abusive alcoholic, etc… Most of these people don’t live in isolation and people turn a blind eye because they feel it’s not their problem or place to insert themselves. Be brave and speak up. It could save someone’s life." — SometimesILieToo

4. Change the media.

Shut down the news stations and pundits which are drumming up mentally ill people into thinking they're in a fight-for-your-life scenario which justifies mass murder to them?" — ConnieHormoneMonster

5. Foster the development of happy, healthy people.

"Usually in these mass acts of violence, there are signs that people see beforehand. Posts made online, behavior at work or school or at home, basically a known history of struggle. By the time the incidents occur, there's always a person that knew them before, that saw it coming a mile away.

There aren't really resources or protocols for people like this, and removing the weapons from their hands feels like a band aid solution to a much bigger problem.

Happy, healthy people don't go on mass killing sprees, and our current environment isn't exactly producing healthy, happy people. I mean, just look at how many of us are on prescription drugs because we can't cope with the way society is set up. We're on drugs for depression and anxiety and emotional regulation and hormonal regulation because everything is imbalanced. Almost all of us are poor, just a couple of missed paychecks away from being homeless. We're constantly seeking mental stimulation because if we have to think beyond the surface for a minute we start falling apart. We're battling malnutrition without even realizing it because most of us are battling obesity. In other countries the raw fruits and veggies taste better and are more filling, people will travel and lose weight despite eating many of the same kinds of foods, the only difference is the lack of chemicals and preservatives inside.

This society isn't producing happy, healthy people. And some of us can cope with it better than others.

Here, there are three options. You can work 40+ hours a week from the ages of 18 to the day you die and barely make ends meet, you can try an alternative path and end up homeless or close to it, or you can basically win a lottery that either lets you comfortably work less than 40 hours a week, allows you to retire early, or lets you pursue a lucrative passion that doesn't feel like work. Most of us choose the first option.

You can disarm them, but then you've still got creatives that will use their cars or craft an explosive.

Treatment is probably the second best option we have. Ideally, we would know someone that sets off alarm bells, and we could call a doctor for them. They'd spend a few months getting help, and come back better.

But that isn't how it's set up. There aren't resources for this. You can't force people to get therapy. You can't just call the cops on people that haven't committed a crime, because you think one day they might commit a crime.
And it sucks, because we all know the signs. Sometimes we try to call someone for help, and there just isn't a department for that.

The best option would be to create a better environment for everyone, encourage community and friendships and strengthen the bond between people to promote love and harmony, fix the food situation, fix the income situation, promote better and more diverse ways of living. Because if you don't feel depressed and angry and alone, you won't be at risk of falling into the mindset of someone who does these sorts of things.

America's gun violence is a symptom of a much larger problem, and the ones who want to fix that problem don't have the means to do so. The ones who have the means to fix it either don't know why it's happening, or don't care why it's happening.

Until we stop offering bandaid solutions that would be ineffective or minimally effective, we will continue to see this kind of behavior." — SourBlue1992

barack obama, sandy hook shooting, mass shooting

President Barack Obama delivers a statement in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House regarding the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Dec. 14, 2012.

via Wikimedia Commons

6. It starts at home.

"As a teacher, it starts with kids needing love and care at home, which leads to people having their basic Maslow needs met so they aren’t constantly struggling. And mental health needs to become a priority instead of something we mostly ignore in the US. Kids (and adults) seek power and a sense of control through a gun because it’s missing in the rest of their life." — Amherst 2023

7. Stop turning shooters into celebrities in the media.

I'm British. I don't know what's best for Americans as well as they do. But here's some thoughts:

I don't think you can copy-paste UK policy to the US. it's like changing someone's intrinsic identity. Take Iran for example. One of the lowest alcohol mortality rates. Imagine an Iranian saying to a British person 'why don't you just ban alcohol! It causes so much death. We banned it and our rate of mortality due to alcohol is one of the lowest in the world.'

You'd say something like "why should I give up something I enjoy and is part of my culture because a few bad apples take it too far?"

From talking to them, Americans view guns the same way. 'Why does someone else doing wrong with guns have any bearing on me who's just using it for fun/protection?'

I'd say a mix is gun regulations and mental health support and not making martyrs of shooters has the best chance." — allthetaimpdetime

Some responses have been edited for length.

True

Do you ever feel like you could be doing more when it comes to making a positive impact on your community? The messaging around giving back is louder than ever this time of year, and for good reason; It is the season of giving, after all.

If you’ve ever wondered who is responsible for bringing many of the giving-back initiatives to life, it’s probably not who you’d expect. The masterminds behind these types of campaigns are project managers.

Using their talents and skills, often proven by earning certifications from the Project Management Institute (PMI), project managers are driving real change and increasing the success rate on projects that truly improve our world.

To celebrate the work that project managers are doing behind the scenes to make a difference, we spoke with two people doing more than their part to make an impact.

In his current role as a Project Management Professional (PMP)-certified project manager and environmental engineer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Joshua Williard oversees the cleanup of some of America’s most contaminated and hazardous waste sites.

Courtesy of Joshua Williard

“Recently, I was part of a four-person diving team sent to collect contaminated sediment samples from the bottom of a river in Southeastern Virginia. We wanted to ensure a containment wall was successfully blocking the release of waste into an adjacent river,” Williard says.

Through his work, Josh drives restoration efforts to completion so contaminated land can again be used beneficially, and so future generations will not be at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.

“I’ve been inspired by the natural world from a young age and always loved being outside. As I gained an understanding about Earth's trajectory, I realized that I wanted to be part of trying to save it and keep it for future generations.

“I learned the importance of using different management styles to address various project challenges. I saw the value in building meaningful relationships with key community members. I came to see that effective project management can make a real difference in getting things done and having on-the-ground impact,” Williard says.

In addition, Monica Chan’s career in project management has enabled her to work at the forefront of conservation efforts with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US). She most recently has been managing a climate change project, working with a diverse team including scientists, policy experts, data analysts, biologists, communicators, and more. The goal is to leverage grants to protect and restore mangroves, forests, and ecosystems, and drive demand in seaweed farming – all to harness nature's power to address the climate crisis.

Courtesy of Monica Chan

“As the project management lead for WWF-US, I am collaborating across the organization to build a project management framework that adapts to our diverse projects. Given that WWF's overarching objectives center on conserving nature and addressing imminent threats to the diversity of life on Earth, the stakes are exceptionally high in how we approach projects,” says Chan.

“Throughout my journey, I've discovered a deep passion for project management's ability to unite people for shared goals, contributing meaningfully to environmental conservation,” she says.

With skills learned from on-the-job experience and resources from PMI, project managers are the central point of connection for social impact campaigns, driving them forward and solving problems along the way. They are integral to bringing these projects to life, and they find support from their peers in PMI’s community.

PMI has a global network of more than 300 chapters and serves as a community for project managers – at every stage of their career. Members can share knowledge, celebrate impact, and learn together through resources, events, and other programs such as PMI’s Hours for Impact program, which encourages PMI members to volunteer their time to projects directly supporting the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“By tapping into PMI's extensive network and resources, I've expanded my project management knowledge and skills, gaining insights from seasoned professionals in diverse industries, including environmental management. Exposure to different perspectives has kept me informed about industry trends, best practices, and allowed me to tailor my approach to the unique challenges of the non-profit sector,” Chan says.

“Obtaining my PMP certification has been a game-changer, propelling not only my career growth, but also reshaping my approach to daily projects, both personally and professionally,” Chan says. Research from PMI shows that a career in project management means being part of an industry on the rise, as the global economy will need 25 million new project professionals by 2030 and the median salary for project practitioners in the U.S. is $120K.

PMI’s mission is to help professionals build project management skills through online courses, networking, and other learning opportunities, help them prove their proficiency in project management through certifications, and champion the work that project professionals, like Joshua and Monica, do around the world.

For those interested in pursuing a career in project management to help make a difference, PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification could be the starting point to help get your foot in the door.

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