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Editorial: A tool in fighting gun violence

Earlier this month, the nation observed the anniversary of the shootings in Newtown, Conn.

This tragedy, which left 20 elementary school children and six adults dead, has left a painful mark, though nothing close to a consensus on how to proceed to make sure such episodes involving gun violence do not happen has developed, despite tens of thousands of words spoken or written.

In the year or so since, the United States has seen some 200 children shot to death.

But while our politicians remain stuck in gridlock when it comes to common sense approaches to cutting down on the violence, there have been efforts by law enforcement to find ways to prevent such deadly incidents from happening.

That includes the FBI.

According to recent published reports, the FBI this past year was able to help keep a number of shootings or other violent acts from taking place through its Behavioral Analysis Unit and a division known as the Behavioral Threat Assessment Center. This wing of the FBI, using analysis of potential threats from information supplied by law enforcement, businesses, schools, etc., examines about three cases per week, and then makes recommendations on how to proceed.

Sometimes, depending upon that assessment, it may lead to an arrest, if the person is involved in some kind of illegal activity. But more often than not, the action taken is to get a person mental health care.

Since forming this group in 2010, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said recently, the FBI has been able to disrupt or prevent hundreds of potential deadly incidents from occurring. And roughly about 150 such results have been tallied in the past year.

Before this recent publicity, we don’t know how many Americans were aware of this particular FBI unit and we’d guess that the public wasn’t aware of all of the work done in preventing such violence from happening. And while there will be people who look at this with a skeptical eye with worries about “big brother is watching” or a deep-rooted mistrust of law enforcement or the government, we prefer to see what the FBI is doing here as a sensible attempt at intervention that leads to better outcomes.

What the FBI is doing isn’t the final answer in solving gun violence — such acts and the individuals who commit such violence do not follow an absolute pattern — it is an important tool that deserves public support.

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