National Governors Association Confronts Targeted Violence with New Prevention Strategy

The National Governors Association recently issued the Preventing Targeted Violence brief in order to outline an updated, collaborative approach to countering attacks that may or may not have an ideological underpinning.

The Department of Homeland Security defines targeted violence as attacks that “often lack a clearly discernible political or ideological motive,” with “such severity and magnitude that suggest a clear intent to inflict a high degree of mass injury, destruction, or death commensurate with known terrorist tactics.” Targeted violence “may be a result of perceived grievances and includes attacks within schools, workplaces, large public gatherings, and other settings.”

The NGA said it adopted the “targeted violence” terminology over “violent extremism” in an effort to “promote greater awareness among stakeholders about the various, evolving motivations behind such violence and help dispel the misconceptions that only al-Qaeda- or ISIS-inspired individuals are motivated to such acts of violence.”

To create a more comprehensive plan, the NGA studied how the country responded to homegrown attacks over the past two decades, finding that much of the responsibility fell on state law enforcement. In their goal of moving toward preventing these acts instead of just reacting to attacks, the NGA found that a multidisciplinary approach that involves numerous levels of prevention would best serve the public in preventing future acts of targeted violence.

The NGA brief delves into the importance of state governors and their unique role in executing this plan. The backbone of the NGA’s plan relies on leveraging “the governor’s role as convener, executive, and administrator at key points in implementing targeted violence prevention, including strategy setting, program design, and securing community support.” By using governors to garner the most support from their states, the NGA plans to integrate public health into the roadmap by implementing multiple levels of prevention.

Moving away from the idea that violent attacks must be motivated by ideology, these new levels of prevention focus on the individual and public-health intervention to stop violence before an attack is carried out. The levels of prevention become increasingly personalized, with “Primary Prevention” concentrating on risk mitigation and resiliency strategies aimed at supporting the physical and mental health of an individual and “Tertiary Prevention” concentrating on rehabilitation and preventing recidivism while “not focused on ‘curing’ someone of an ideology.” This plan not only allows for the state to get a closer look at the individuals who are committing these acts and the environments they come from, but it fosters communication within state, local, and community-based organizations, a necessary component that was missing in previous plans.

By guiding policies and programs to build a more resilient and tighter-knit community, the NGA hopes not only to prevent more of acts of targeted violence from occurring, but also hopes that the communities affected can bounce back with greater ease.

Read the full NGA brief

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