UNL threat assessment expert says reporting warning signs could help slow mass shootings
“I think if we have more people coming forward with concerns, that is a sign of progress."
LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – In the past month, American flags have been at half-staff due to numerous mass shootings across the country, a disturbing trend that has many Americans asking how we can put an end to the violence.
UNL psychology professor Dr. Mario Scalora is one of the top threat assessment professionals in the country. He says the key is to try and stop problems before they start.
“In the vast majority of these cases of mass shootings and targeted violence, there were warning signs, like actual threats of violence, suicidal statements, statements that they were going to escalate and show up and take revenge,” Scalora said. “So we have to take those warning signs seriously.”
These warning signs can take place in-person or online. Scalora says people who commit mass shootings do so because they have a grievance with something in life, but are willing to take that grievance much further than the rest of the population.
“In many of these cases, people are putting out warning signs,” he said. “Rarely is it that people aren’t recognizing them. The issue is people aren’t always comfortable reporting them.”
Scalora says there are several reasons why people don’t report warning signs. They may be fearful for their own safety or think they are overreacting. It’s also possible they do not trust authorities to handle the situation.
“If you see something you say something,” Scalora said. “We see it as our responsibility to look out for other people’s safety. That doesn’t mean any time you report something, you think somebody is going to be the next mass shooter. It means that you’re worried about them, and you want them to either, one, not get in more trouble, or two, get them help they need so they don’t escalate.”
Scalora says it is the community’s responsibility to identify and report issues that have a chance to escalate.
“I think if we have more people coming forward with concerns, that is a sign of progress,” he said. “It may look like, ‘Oh my God, we have more incidents,’ but if people are coming forward more, it means people are reaching out more and finding solutions.”
People can report suspected violent behavior to their local police department or hotlines including the Nebraska Family Helpline at 1-888-866-8660 or the Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000.