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Preparing Cities for a Mass Shooting

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The magnitude of gun violence in the United States is undeniable and, as with all social phenomena, the extent of the problems and political attitudes can vary dramatically from one local government to another. What is consistent, however, is that a significant act of gun violence can occur anywhere and anytime.

To help local governments prepare for the possibility of a mass shooting in their communities, ICMA, in collaboration with the Alliance for Innovation (AFI), has launched a new topic page in the Knowledge Network. The page provides an environment wherein local government professionals can have a balanced, civil, nonpolitical discussion on gun violence, its implications for local governments, lessons learned from experience, and proactive steps that local governments should consider.

The Gun Violence topic page and Gun Violence Discussion Group are open to ICMA members and nonmembers. While the main audience is city/county/town managers, public safety personnel, elected officials, and members of the public are encouraged to participate. Professionals in mental health, schools, recreation, and libraries are also invited to participate.

The following are some key resources found on the ICMA site that were compiled by ICMA researcher Gabe Brehm. In addition, Mother Jones and Slate, are doing extensive research on gun violence although both publications approach the subject from a specific point of view. The Pew Research Center is an excellent source for information on public attitudes about guns and gun violence.

The Brady Campaign was founded in response to the shooting of President Ronald Reagan and the injury and paralyzation of White House Press Secretary Jim Brady. The group is very concerned with gun control laws and provides a set of studies supporting their position, although the resources are not all vetted and many of the studies have been criticized for the types of analyses conducted.

Justfacts.com is an information site with a strong conservative/libertarian bent. All information on the site is quite accurate, and they regularly exclude information that would benefit their position in the name of honesty and accuracy. They have an extensive page dedicated to understanding the impact of guns and gun control laws on gun violence. They exclude information based on their Standards of Credibility, which present considerable opportunity for subjective bias. Further, they tend to favor raw data over statistical analysis of this data, which can lead readers to natural causation fallacies. The benefit of studies and statistics on this site is that relatively few have been debated for technical reasons.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has an extremely obvious bias and presents facts to support its case. Some of these studies are extremely valuable, others have been criticized or have had their results contested. One portion of the site is dedicated to simple facts about gun laws and can help city officials understand their powers and limitations in the areas of gun control.

National Research Council (NRC) is a private nonprofit, founded by congressional charter. It provides reviews of the literature as well as research recommendations on a variety of topics. The site claims and aims to be nonpartisan, but any writing is only as unbiased as the author(s). The research is available online and for free. One book focuses on the connections between firearms and violence, while the other focuses on lethal school violence such as the Columbine tragedy.

National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action is the informative branch of the lobbying group. The site focuses mostly on providing legal information and advice, with some articles referencing scientific statistics and analyses.

U.S. Government Agencies

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) has produced a collection of documents which outline laws at federal, state, and local levels. There are also basic law enforcement documents and advice.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) resources are aimed at responding to active shooters in the community. A collection of documents from the Secret Service also reside here, although they are better accessed through the Secret Service website.

The Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center aims to research the nature of threats and assist law enforcement entities in training, understanding, and preparing for these events. A set of studies evaluates methods for identifying potential school shooters through informed students along with a variety of other topics.