The tragic shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in South Carolina, during a prayer meeting, is yet another reminder of a distressing trend. More and more we are witnessing perpetrators acting alone to create carnage, cause harm and, in this and other horrible instances, loss of life.
The Attorney General of the United States appropriately commented, “Acts like this one have no place in our country and no place in a civil society.” President Obama added, “Now is the time for mourning and for healing.” We have heard similar comments from leaders in law enforcement as well as from parents, siblings, friends and family of victims who have been injured or lost their lives in these heinous crimes.
Predictably, the shooting at Emanuel AME is leading to a public debate about gun control. This is America and, accordingly, debate is appropriate and healthy. There are reasonable arguments to be made on both sides of the issue and they will no doubt continue to be vociferously made. What is not debatable, however, is that we have a problem.
What can be done to prevent history from repeating itself in what law enforcement officials refer to as “lone wolf” or “lone gunman” scenarios? Is there a way to prevent these acts of violence? What can communities do to protect the safety of their citizens against such attacks?
In short, there is not a simple answer, but there are tactics that can be employed to reduce risk and mitigate harm. Communities must come together to watch for signs that point to violence, radicalization, hate and disenfranchisement. Organizations can and should establish security protocols that contemplate these scenarios and individuals must be vigilant in working with law enforcement to raise early warning signs. One resource can be found here. Another here. Regardless, we must all raise the stakes on community awareness and resilience.