From AR-15 to DSM-5

In 2018, following the mass shooting at Majority Stoneman Douglas High School, University Prep experienced a mass exodus. The walk-out emptied classrooms as hundreds of students met with students from across the city in coordination with thousands of similar demonstrations around the country. The message: end gun violence. The demonstrations became national news, and talk of change spread like wildfire around our community, but amongst all the outrage, there was little in the way of a call to action. Some wanted to implement age limits on firearm sales, while others wanted to ban the sale of assault rifles entirely. But the efficacy of these methods are highly questionable. So, what can be done to effectively combat gun violence and channel the energy of a generation of students who’ve had enough? The answer is simple and elegant.

Since the 1980s, the FBI has used forensic psychology to establish profiles of certain types of offenders. By using what is already known about school shooters, police can assess risk through a gun applicant’s psychological evaluation. This is not an original idea; the FBI has collected information on 18 school shootings over the last 25  years to create an in-depth profile intended to help educators and officials identify potential school shooters. 

Making psychological evaluations a mandatory part of gun license applications addresses all types of gun violence. Violent criminals, even those who don’t commit acts of terrorism, still show specific traits that act as red flags. According to the FBI, a man who commits armed robbery is likely to have a history of domestic abuse and to show signs of violence and aggression in the same ways as a mass shooter. 

It’s true that psychological evaluations have not been implemented in regards to gun violence prevention in the U.S.  before and have never used as a part of a background check for gun purchases or licenses. Yet we have evidence from across the country to demonstrate the efficacy of psychological profiling to prevent gun violence. 

It’s naive to assume there’s no basis for implementing such profiling as part of official procedure. By identifying threats before they ever have access to a gun, the U.S. can effectively lay waste to gun violence without across-the-board bans that would affect law-abiding citizens.