APA gun violence report identifies behavioral threat assessment as an effective prevention technique

The seminal report, "Gun Violence Prediction, Prevention, and Policy," identifies the need for both primary and secondary prevention programs to keep communities safe from gun violence.

APA’s new report, “Gun Violence: Prediction, Prevention, and Policy,” consolidates psychological research findings on precursors to shootings and highlights prevention strategies.

The report found that in making predictions about the risk for mass shootings, “there is no consistent psychological profile or set of warning signs that can be used reliably to identify such individuals in the general population.” For this reason, primary violence prevention is critical. In addition, at the individual level, a promising approach is the strategy of behavioral threat assessment which identifies and intervenes with a smaller group of individuals who have communicated threats or engaged in behavior that indicates planning or preparation to commit a violent act.

APA commissioned “Gun Violence: Prediction, Prevention, and Policy” early in 2013 in response to the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and at the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. The report will inform the work of the APA Policy Review Task Force on Gun Violence Prediction and Prevention that is currently examining APA’s 1994 Resolution on Firearm Safety and Youth. 

“This report is an important examination of an urgent problem in our society,” said APA President Donald N. Bersoff, PhD, JD. “While it points to policies and interventions that can help stem the spread of gun violence, much more research is needed. Psychology can make important contributions to evidence-based solutions that prevent gun violence.”

The expert panel consisted of:  Dewey Cornell, PhD; Arthur C. Evans, Jr., PhD; Nancy G. Guerra, EdD (coordinating editor); Robert Kinscherff, PhD, JD; Eric Mankowski, PhD; Marissa R. Randazzo, PhD; Ellen Scrivner, PhD, ABPP; Susan Sorenson, PhD; W. Douglas Tynan, PhD, ABPP; and Daniel W. Webster, ScD, MPH. 

APA’s Office of Public Affairs launched the report with a nationally distributed press release and audio news release on Dec. 12.

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