Experts, survivors discuss preparing for and preventing mass shootings

Experts, survivors discuss preparing for and preventing mass shootings

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Two mass shootings in a week’s time: The Boulder, Colorado grocery store shooting that killed ten people followed a string of shootings targeting Atlanta-area massage parlors where eight people were killed.

The public killings happened as people have finally started to get back out into the world after a year in a pandemic bubble.

Experts and survivors contend there are ways to be proactive in public settings.

“The anxiety level is very high,” security expert Greg Gitschier said.

He said the two shootings within a few days are troubling, and mass shooting survivor Whitney Austin agrees.

“I’ll never forget feeling this exact way in 2019,” Austin remembered, “when we had El Paso followed by Dayton.”

The images from the two recent shootings are difficult for both Louisvillians.

“I haven’t done any active shooter training in over a year for obvious reasons,” Gitschier said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic. “For one thing, people can’t have you coming into their places of work or worship, but another thing is everyone has been kind of hunkered down.”

Gitschier believes as Americans start to gather again, people can protect themselves by being aware of their surroundings every time they go out and mentally plan their exits, whether they are in a grocery store or any public space.

“The basic concept is very simple,” Gitschier explained, “If you can run, run. If you can’t, get a great place to hide, and last case scenario, if you have to — fight.”

It has been reported that many of Monday’s survivors ran or hid for hours.

“A lot of people in the Boulder shooting got out a back exit door,” Dr. Melissa Whitson, a University of New Haven psychology professor, said.

She added that being proactive also means reporting threatening behavior.

“When people we know are struggling or making threats,” she said, “because a lot of shootings have been averted that way. So, if we’re able to warn people and give information to authorities, even if you think it might not be a big deal.”

Crisis aversion is top of mind for Whitney Austin, who was shot by a gunman multiple times in Cincinnati in 2018.

Austin said she believes mass violence and suicides can be slowed while keeping gun owner’s rights intact behind bipartisan Kentucky Crisis Aversion & Rights legislation. It would call for temporary separation from firearms while a person in crisis gets help.

“Everyone can have a crisis moment, gun owners as well,” Austin said, “and as we come out of this pandemic and people are struggling with mental wellness and the impact on the economy and everything else, those moments of crisis will continue to flourish.”

She emphasized that gun owners who intend harm to themselves or someone else in a crisis need to be separated from their firearm and given help.

Austin is hoping the measure will pick up steam in Kentucky’s next legislative session. More information can be found at whitneystrong.org.

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