Abstracts and Speaker Biographies

9:00 – 9:05

Lisa S. Parker, PhD

Director, Center for Bioethics & Health Law
University of Pittsburgh

9:05 – 9:15

John “Jack” Rozel, MD, MSL

Associate Professor of Psychiatry
University of Pittsburgh

9:15 – 9:40

Edward P. Mulvey, PhD

Professor of Psychiatry
University of Pittsburgh

The Challenge of Developing a “Science” of Violence Prediction

Abstract: There is an enduring hope that we can identify individuals who will do harm to others before they do so in order to prevent them from doing so. A great amount of theoretical and empirical work has been directed toward developing sound methods for accomplishing this task, and there has been, and continues to be, considerable progress. The task of identifying individuals at heightened risk for hurting others, however, presents considerable inherent challenges. These include the interactional nature of violence to others, the vagueness of many of the indicators available for characterizing individuals, and change in a person’s character and the context of their lives. This presentation will explore some of the approaches that have been taken to identifying people who might harm others and the challenges that lie ahead for the development of scientific approaches to this important task.

9:50 – 10:25

Russell Palarea, PhD

President, Operational Psychology Services

Behavioral Based Threat Assessment: A Framework for Assessing and Preventing Targeted Violence Attacks

Abstract: Targeted violence has become embedded in American culture. With the increasing prevalence of shootings in the workplace, home, schools/campuses, houses of worship, and public places over the past decade, individuals have come to see mass murder as a means to resolve their conflicts and seek notoriety. Preventing these attacks has posed a major challenge to law enforcement. One solution involves using a behavioral based strategy to identify, assess, and prevent violent attacks. The behavioral based threat assessment model introduced by the US Secret Service (Fein, Vossekuil, & Holden, 1995) was developed for preventing assassination of the President and other public figures. However, it has since demonstrated utility in preventing all forms of targeted violence attacks. This model and its applications to preventing mass shootings will be discussed. Particular focus will be given to the role of media coverage in influencing further attacks.

10:45 – 11:20

Adam Lankford, PhD, MS

Associate Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice
The University of Alabama

Reducing Public Mass Shootings in the United States: An Assessment of Firearms Availability and Media Coverage of Perpetrators

Abstract: Despite having less than 5% of the world’s population, the United States has produced approximately 31% of the world’s public mass shooters. And in recent years, this threat seems to be getting worse: all five of the deadliest incidents in U.S. history have occurred since 2007. Although empirical research suggests that the best solution would be to reduce firearms availability, this does not seem politically feasible. Fortunately, major progress could also be made by reducing the amount of “free advertising” that mass shooters receive. If media organizations would stop publishing offenders’ names and photos, this would deny them the attention they often seek, remove their incentive to kill as many victims as possible, and reduce contagion and copycat effects. There is already precedent for this approach: in accordance with their code of ethics, the media typically do not broadcast fans who run on the field during professional sporting events, do not publish the names of sexual assault victims without their consent, and do not publish the names of underage mass shooters who attack in Canada, where such information is already kept confidential. By continuing to report all other relevant details about these crimes and perpetrators, the media could continue to fulfill their responsibility to the public while helping to reduce the prevalence of public mass shootings.

11:30 – 12:05

Beth McGinty, PhD, MS

Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management, and of Mental Health
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

News Media Coverage of Mental Illness and Violence: Influence on US Firearm Policy Debates

Abstract: This presentation will discuss research on news media coverage of mental illness and violence, with an emphasis on trends in news media coverage in the weeks and months following high-profile mass shootings. Dr. McGinty will describe differences between the epidemiologic research evidence on the relationship between mental illness and interpersonal violence and how that relationship is commonly depicted in the news media. In addition, she will discuss evidence regarding how news media coverage of mental illness and violence affects public attitudes toward people with mental illness; public perceptions of the causes of firearm violence; and support for policy solutions to firearm violence.

12:50 – 1:25

Mark Follman, BA, MFA

National Affairs Editor, Mother Jones

Bad Barrage: A Look at Problematic Media Coverage of Mass Shootings

Abstract: How well-informed is the public about mass shootings? And what’s at stake with media coverage of this phenomenon? Based on several years of investigative reporting and research, this talk will examine how sensational news coverage in the aftermath of high-profile attacks can distort public understanding of mass shootings — and possibly even help motivate the next attacker. Mr. Follman will discuss his work on the so-called copycat problem, including his in-depth reporting on the “Columbine Effect” and the role of the media, as well as the debate over how to define a “mass shooting” (and why that matters). He will also touch on ideas about reporting on these attacks ethically while fulfilling an undeniable journalistic duty to cover them.

1:35 – 2:10

Kelly McBride, BJ, MA

Vice President, The Poynter Institute

Reporting on Gun Violence: How Journalists Unintentionally Make Things Worse and How You Can Help

Abstract: When it comes to covering gun violence, journalists often fall into predictable patterns. They make familiar mistakes, because they talk to familiar sources and face familiar production pressures. That leads to a misinformed public unable to make changes in their own communities or effectively participate in public policy debates. When done poorly, news coverage of mass shootings can also create a contagion effect. Yet, when they shine, news media have the ability to show us a problem in way that creates a crystal clear image and inspires citizens to improve their surroundings. We'll look at some exceptional journalism and some common problems, and chart the path from one to the other.