Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday unveiled a new Justice Department initiative intended to prevent mass shootings.
Barr said in a memo to federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials that while authorities have been able to adopt some counter-terrorism measures to prevent mass shootings, the apparent abruptness of such attacks from people who exhibit “ambiguous indications of intent” force officials to develop new means of stopping such attacks.
The effort, which will hone authorities’ ability to “identify, assess and engage potential mass shooters before they strike,” details newly developed tactics that will be used by a Joint Terrorist Task Force, including the use of clinical psychologists, threat assessment professionals, intervention teams and community groups.
Barr said the tools were developed after subjects of recent threat investigations exhibited symptoms of mental illness or substance abuse issues. He added that those cases often result in detention and court ordered mental health treatment, substance abuse counseling, and electronic monitoring, among other conditions.
“While we are cognizant that irrational acts of violence by lone actors are very challenging to prevent in every instance, quiet professionals in the Department have a strong record of swift action in meeting these threats,” Barr wrote.
“I have no greater priority than the safety and well-being of our communities, and particularly our children, who are the most vulnerable among us to the threat of mass violence,” he added. “I am confident that you will continue to meet the challenge of protecting the public with your proven tenacity, creativity and commitment to justice.”
The attorney general also announced a training conference in Washington in December to welcome new ideas to combat mass shootings and “present proven models for engaging extremely challenging individuals.”
The memo’s release comes after a spate of deadly mass shootings in the U.S. this year, including one that killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and another just a day later in Dayton, Ohio, in which nine people were killed.