Attorney General William P. Barr on Wednesday announced a new initiative to prevent mass shootings through early intervention and mental health treatment of potentially violent individuals.
“I want our federal agents and prosecutors to have all of the information and resources necessary to accomplish their mission, even if that means at times turning to new partners and experimenting with new approaches,” Mr. Barr wrote in a two-page memo to federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials.
Details of the initiative were scant, but Mr. Barr said the effort will be implemented by a Joint Terrorist Task Force, comprised of clinical psychologists, threat assessment professionals, intervention teams and community groups.
The task force will rely on tools developed from investigations into recent terror threats. In those cases, subjects exhibited mental illness or substance abuse problems that resulted in detention and court-ordered mental health treatment, substance abuse and counseling, Mr. Barr wrote.
“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,” he wrote.
Mr. Barr said a training conference at the FBI headquarters in December will focus on “proven models for engaging extremely challenging individuals” and applying lessons learned in previous cases.
In one case, Mr. Barr said, the FBI worked with parents and mental health professionals for a “young person” who was the subject of a violent threat investigation. He said the individual was required to undergo mental health treatment and close monitoring.
“We need to apply the same type of forward-learning and thoughtful strategies more broadly to help triage threats and prevent violence wherever we detect reliable indicators of criminal activity or potential danger to the public,” Mr. Barr wrote.
The initiative comes after a spate of mass shootings. This year, 22 people were killed in an attack in El Paso, Texas, and nine people died the next day in a Dayton, Ohio, mass shooting. According to the Gun Violence Archive, 341 people have been killed in mass shootings this year.
Law enforcement has struggled to tackle the issue and has been the target of criticism for not doing enough to prevent violence.
Lawmakers also have struggled to address the issue, but comprehensive legislation remains elusive amid partisan bickering.
Mr. Barr said the Justice Department has “no greater priority” than the safety and well-being of communities vulnerable to the threat of mass violence.
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