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Investigating gun violence from many angles

ASU experts across a variety of fields talk about the many challenges we face when it comes to mass shootings, protecting the 2nd Amendment and public safety

July 05, 2018

Guns — few issues evoke as much passion and raw emotion from almost all corners of society. No matter what your opinion of them is, they are a defining part of what it means to be an American. Whether you view guns as a public-safety issue, a constitutionally protected right or both, their place in our society provokes strong reaction and heated debate.

Despite those polarizing debates, addressing gun violence is not black-and-white, but instead nuanced and multifaceted. And people with good-faith, honestly held opinions on both sides of the issue may end up feeling equally uncomfortable with possible solutions.

Here, Arizona State University experts from a variety of disciplines, including law, education and design, weigh in on the issues regarding gun violence and mass shootings.

Does the 2nd Amendment prevent meaningful legislation? 

Does the Second Amendment really stand in the way of meaningful gun regulation in the United States? The answer has not been forthcoming from the Supreme Court, which hasn’t heard a Second Amendment case in almost a decade. ASU Now turned to Paul Bender, a professor of law, constitutional law expert and dean emeritus of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, to find out what it would take to enact major gun reform.

Addressing our knowledge gaps about firearm injuries and deaths 

Sometimes, it's hard to admit that we don't have all the answers, especially when it comes to gun violence. Which is where research comes in. Jesenia Pizarro, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, is one of 20 researchers from a dozen universities and health-care organizations taking part in an interdisciplinary study on firearm injuries and deaths of children and teens. ASU Now spoke with Pizarro to learn more about what questions the study hopes to answer.

Adapting learning spaces for a culture of safety

For insight on the discussions taking place on the future of school design in light of school shootings, ASU Now turned to Philip Horton, assistant director and head of architecture at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, with a few questions.

Processing school shootings through young adult literature

ASU English Professor James Blasingame strongly believes that books are a “roadmap to life” for young adults that can be used to explore the causes and impact of teen violence and school shootings. That’s why he’s devoting time to developing a curriculum for young adult readers so that educators and students can have dialogue on issues such as gun control, bullying, mental health and school climate.

More counselors, programming improves behavioral health

Sarah Lindstrom Johnson, an assistant professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, has been researching school climate for years. A former high school teacher in Baltimore, she studies school environments and how they affect student learning. "It involves thinking about school shootings as part of a bigger puzzle of supporting students’ social-emotional needs," she said.

Rethinking school safety: The essential role of authentic relationships   

Schools are increasingly staking their hopes on high-tech security systems originally developed for the military, police and private industry. Many public schools now have resource officers, metal detectors and security cameras; practice lockdown drills and active-shooter training; and have expanded mental health screening and on-campus counseling. While all of those measures are necessary, they’re still not sufficient, said Carl Hermanns, a clinical associate professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

What we do and don't know about mass shootings

Any news organization could tell you that guns are almost always a timely topic. Hardly a year has gone by over the past decade when there wasn’t a mass shooting, and in 2018 alone, there have already been several major incidents. Sherry Towers, a statistician, modeler and research professor at ASU, began her academic career studying the spread of disease in populations. As incidents of mass shootings began to occur more frequently in the U.S., she wondered if contagion might have something to do with it.

Mental health and gun violence — is there any action we can take?

It has become routine. Reports come in on the news of another mass shooting. This time it’s at a school. A church. A newsroom. Amid the grief and the rhetoric about gun control and mental health, one question surfaces: How can we prevent this? Ronald O’Donnell, a clinical professor in ASU's College of Health Solutions, shared with ASU Now his thoughts on what public policy efforts, in the realm of mental health, could be pursued to encourage a decline in these events.

ASU behind the scenes: Preparing for crises

Tucked inside the University Services Building adjacent to ASU's Tempe campus is a small office with a big job: to prepare the university for major emergencies. Built from the ground up by a former assistant police chief and military veteran, the Office of Risk and Emergency Management in its short existence has transformed the university’s incident-response structure from an additional duty within the ASU Police Department to a full-time operation benchmarked by other institutions.

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