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'This is preventable' | Here are some big, and small, steps we can take against mass shootings

Dr. James Densley says the first step is fighting the urge to give up.

MINNEAPOLIS — The latest mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas has left many Americans feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. 

Dr. James Densley is a social scientist, professor of criminal justice and co-author of the book: "The Violence Project: How to Stop A Mass Shooting Epidemic" — but as a father, he also felt overwhelmed and hopeless, at least for a night.

"I live in this dark world, every day, and this one really has hit hard. It's just unthinkable," Dr. Densley said. "My 12-year-old son, he was just looking to me for answers because he knows this is my line of work, and I just couldn't do it. I didn't have the words for him."

Densley says the emotions were born of overwhelming frustration, because he has spent years researching how thing could be different.

"We cannot be numb to this. We cannot let this consume us to a point where we don't do anything," Densley said. "This is preventable. It's not inevitable. This is a choice now that we've made in this country. These will continue to happen until we act."

And he's not just talking about an act of Congress. He says The Violence Project has outlined more than 30 different actions that can be taken to address mass shootings, but they include many steps that we can all take.

"There are things you can do at an individual level," Densely said. "It's something as simple as safe storage of a firearm, if you've got a gun in the home, locking that up and keeping it secure could save lives."

He says that need for both individual and collective action also shows up in The Violence Project mass shooter database, which found that more than 80 percent were in a noticeable crisis prior to their shooting.

"Even on the institutional level, in our schools, in our workplaces, we can be better attuned to the warning signs that somebody is struggling and needs help," Densley said. "Of course, there's also that bigger societal piece. How do we address the bigger issues around access to firearms and availability? That's where I think we always get stuck. We get stuck on, 'Well, if my congressperson can't do anything about this, then I'm powerless and I'm hopeless."

While the political fighting has become predictable, and frustrating, Densley says it's critical to think of addressing the bigger issues in several smaller steps because he says there are no perfect solutions.

"When someone says, 'we can't do anything on guns because it's all about mental health,' or 'You can't do anything about mental health because it's all about guns,' my response is, 'Can't it be both?'" Densley said. "What our data, and evidence suggests is it is both and that the solutions lie in both of those areas."

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