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Lack of mental health services is big contributor to gun violence, expert says

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Posted at 5:56 PM, Jun 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-06 18:14:11-04

TAMPA, Fla.  — It was a deadly weekend across the country with a dozen people dead and dozens more injured in mass shootings. This while many leaders are debating new gun regulations after a slew of mass shootings in the past month including 10 people killed at a Buffalo, NY supermarket, and 19 children and 2 teachers killed in the Uvalde, Texas school attack just two weeks ago.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, America has had 246 mass shootings so far this year where four or more people were shot.

Dr. David Thomas is a 20-year police veteran as well as a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University who specializes in mental health, particularly when it comes to shooters. He said street shootings related to drugs or gangs, domestic violence shootings, and calculated mass shooting events, are all different, but mentally there is a commonality.

"They don’t know how to take their emotions or feelings and put them into a rational response," said Thomas.

Research from The Violence Project organization shows that 80% of mass shooters were in a noticeable crisis prior to their shooting.

"We need to have mental health resources for the people who need it and when we’re talking about kids, we need to have parents who are willing to take their kids to get the services they need," said Thomas.

Thomas said his research has shown that social media and the internet often play a role in shootings.

"Not only is there a mental health component but they have the ability to use the internet to feed that obsession," said Thomas.

Thomas said the shortage of law enforcement is also playing a role in the ability of officers to enforce existing laws.

"To give you an example, in our academy up here in Gainesville, we would average 40 recruits and have 40 on the waiting list, now we’re lucky to get 13 people in," said Thomas.

Thomas believes there needs to be a collaborative effort by everyone for there to be a change when it comes to gun violence.

"America got invested when George Floyd was murdered and they got invested in a way like never before," said Thomas. "The only way it happens now, that there’s change, is if they’re invested and start demanding things at the local level and at the state level. It's going to take all of that in order for there to be some change," said Thomas.