AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Uvalde shooting where 19 children and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday is now at the center of conversations about solutions.

In 2019, KXAN investigators analyzed more than 30 mass shootings over four decades in Texas.

During A History of Mass Violence, a panel of experts shared solutions during a roundtable at Rowling Hall at the McCombs School of Business on the UT campus.

From policy changes dealing with stronger gun laws to mental health resources, the panel of experts emphasized better internet surveillance, being aware and speaking up when there’s something suspicious or out of the ordinary.

“I think it’s critical… if you see something say something,” explained Fred Burton, Chief Security Officer with Stratfor which specializes in intelligence and security. “The ability to report unusual behavior or things that just don’t look right to give the proper authorities an opportunity to evaluate what might be coming on.”

Citizen responsibility 

The panel also talked about the role citizens can play in these scenarios.

“They are there before the responders get the call and can respond and do what we’re supposed to do. So that’s why it’s important for us as a response community to reach out to the community that we service – that we serve and protect – and train them on what they can do when seconds count and we are minutes away,” said John Curnutt with ALERRT.

ALERRT stands for the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training at Texas State University. 

Curnutt said their training is not only for law enforcement and first responders but also civilians. 

“As we see in these events that we’ve researched we are not there quick enough to stop killing or to stop people from dying as a result of their injuries. So, we have to empower people to do that for themselves when that’s necessary,” explained Curnutt.

The gun debate 

In the hours after the shooting in Uvalde, the debate quickly turned into gun laws but at the same time protecting the rights of those who own guns. 

It became a heated point during the panel discussion. 

“I think the state is operating on a level where we are not doing much to prevent our bad actors from acting out. We make it very simple – almost easy – for people with bad intent to access the weapons and to act out on their plan,” said Ed Scruggs with Texas Gun Sense. “We could do a lot more with laws that would protect and respect individual rights to own firearms, but we just build some security into the system.”

He said red flag laws could make a big difference across the state. At the time, Scruggs explained that 17 states and the District of Columbia had enacted what he called extreme risk protective orders.

“It would give family members, law enforcement, sometimes employers, educators a tool to use in these cases,” said Scruggs. “Red flag laws would allow family members, for example, go before a judge explain the situation, explain my son is suicidal, my spouse has been threatening me – has a big stash of weapons, etc… to express their fears and a judge would have to decide yes there is a credible threat and we need to intervene here, and maybe head off disaster.”

Dr. Robert Feinstein at UT’s Department of Psychiatry explained that he thinks it’s only part of the conversation. He’s been behind a violence simulation exercise which he said shows that when working through these scenarios people remember what to do and how to work together. 

“Most of the issues of gun violence relate to guns and whether you have them. And in countries that regulate guns much more strict ways – suicide rates drop dramatically; mass shootings drop dramatically. I think people are afraid of the dialogue about gun regulations,” said Dr. Feinstein. 

“It’s easy to go down the gun control route because that’s a popular thing to say. But what you effectively start doing then is you start restricting the rights of people that aren’t the problem, and actually they are protecting themselves from people that are the problem,” responded Curnutt.

He said education and training are critical. 

“I think on the way to better preparation for response you create more resilience and more recovery potential within a community. But that education that takes place throughout also gives people an idea of what to look for, what to listen for, what is and is not important,” said Curnutt. 

Mental health stigma

The panel acknowledged that after many of the mass shootings the conversation often turns to mental health which creates a stigma that isn’t fair. 

“We look at the studies and data that have been consistently showing us that actually mental illness can only be connected to less than 4% of any kind of violence in the United States. And when we look at mass shootings specifically some of the recent studies we’ve seen, one coming out of the National Counsel of Behavior Health, which showed that less than a third of mass shootings could be attributed to mental health issues. So that’s two-thirds of those mass shootings that there doesn’t appear to be a direct link there and yet that seems to be what we tend to lead with,” said Karen Ranus, Executive Director of NAMI, National Alliance On Mental Health in Central Texas.  

She explained that we need to understand where this violence is coming from first. 

“I think going to mental health is an easy let’s lean into that and so we do need to better educate the community on the truth of those matters using some of the data and statistics already there and available,” she said.