HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The United States has seen 39 mass shooting events just 25 days into 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
The violence has taken place across the national map, including two mass killings in California in the past three days, and, here in Madison County at a birthday party that saw 11 people shot — two of them killed — on Jan. 8.
News 19 spoke Tuesday with Jay Town, the former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, about this surge in violence.
Town, vice president and general counsel at Gray Analytics in Huntsville, says there are ways to help slow this growth in gun violence, where citizens who see suspicious or troubling behavior report it to law enforcement. He said law enforcement also needs new tools, such as artificial intelligence (AI) technology that can comb the internet and make predictions about threats.
“Law enforcement needs to be given tools, artificial intelligence tools, predictive analytic tools that allow law enforcement to actually gain intelligence without having to print the Internet,” Town said. “In order to do that it’s going to take something that involves machine learning, it’s going to take smart software and it’s going to take training law enforcement how to use it.”
But Town says truly confronting the problem begins with us.
Some of the signs Town mentioned are in a list here:
- Constant remarks of violence, either digitally or verbally
- Actual acts of violence, like punching walls
- Recent purchases of firearms
- Obsession with other mass shooters and shootings
“We know 25% of active shooters have had some sort of mental health diagnosis at some period of time, 90% display four or five observable troubling behaviors related to mental health or increased violence or increased alcohol use or drug use,” Town told News 19.
Town says about 1 in 3 shooters have had prior convictions for some type of crime and 39% have spent less than one month in possession of a new firearm, “They are sort of fantasizing about that weapon,” Town said. He said 92% of all active shooters purchased their firearms legally.
“And 56% leave these digital clues that they are going to engage in some sort of violent behavior involving that firearm. These are just things we can look for, to be on the lookout for,” Town said.
For someone who sees suspicious behavior and wants law enforcement to take their call seriously, Town advises being concise.
“It’s important that you’re as specific as possible, you don’t call with a rant,” he said. “But you call with specific activities, specific behaviors that you have observed.”
Town said AI predictive software that can sort and compile threats, records and recent behavior could make a difference but that is not the current reality.
“Absent that technology, we still have the ability as a community, as neighbors, as people, as law enforcement, to share information,” he said. “Something doesn’t look right, something doesn’t seem right, share that with the appropriate authorities. So that they can run it down,”
There have been nearly 40 incidents already this year where four or more people — excluding the shooter — have been shot or killed, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
“I believe that this country is more violent than it was two decades ago, more than it was when I was a child,” he said. “And at the same time, when we try to look for root causes of the violence, we oftentimes don’t look internally. I think it starts at home, it starts with education … the social media that individuals are engaged in, and sort of, not always radicalization, but sort of the acceptance of violence. We can’t accept any amount of violence.”
The Gun Violence Archive reports 70 people have been killed in mass shootings so far this year in the United States.