I was doing research this weekend into the recent shooting at UC Santa Barbara and came across this CBS News article that was written after the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora. The premise of the article is that we shouldn’t use the name of the shooter to describe the event but describe the incident instead. The reason is that using a shooter’s name allows them to leave their legacy, be remembered, and continue to instill fear in people even after their death or incarceration. Instead of remembering the shooters, it should be the victims who are at the forefront of the conversation. In the passage below, Julia Dahl, who wrote the article for CBS news, really drove this point home for me.
“I can tell you Virginia Tech, the shooter was Cho, Norway, the shooter was Anders Breivik, and I can tell you that here Denver, in Colorado, not long ago we had Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. I don’t want that to happen here. I want the victims to be remembered rather than this coward.”
The long-term effect of referring to these attackers by name gives them power as it reinforces the sense of fear they wanted to create. As Gavin de Becker, Tom Taylor and Jeff Marquart talk about in their book, Just 2 Seconds, human predators are seeking power and to damage something is to take it’s power away from them. Making the attacker the focus of the conversation lets them be the celebrity and our goal should be to take that away from them.
So I have some work to do to make sure these names aren’t on the site and need to make some changes to our Preventing The Active Shooter Course to eliminate their names from the conversation, but I ask that you do the same. Don’t use names – use the incident. Don’t glorify the criminal – remember the victims.
Not using an attacker’s name though doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from them. Subscribers to the online Training Center can take a look at a behavioral analysis of the video released by the shooter who opened fire at UC Santa Barbara in May. Identifying the changes in his behavior as he goes on his rant allows us to focus on his behavior, identify the changes that reveal the repeat topics we are looking for and practice integrating behavioral assessments into our conversations.