Brain health behind violence and shootings

What makes a murderer?
Avielle, 6-year-old victim of Sandy Hook. (Source: Jeremy G Richman, PhD)
Avielle, 6-year-old victim of Sandy Hook. (Source: Jeremy G Richman, PhD)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Countless mass shootings across the U.S. have become a part of the nation's culture. But why are they happening so often?

A scientist from the University of Arizona is making it his mission to find out.

Jeremy Richman is both a neuroscientist and a father who lost his daughter in a mass shooting. Back in 2012, his 6-year-old daughter, Avielle, was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT. He created the Avielle Foundation in hopes of understanding why some people are more violent than others. Richman is focusing a lot of his work on the brain health of kids.

"It's easier to build strong children than repair broken adults," he said.

Richman's research shows a handful of biological and environmental factors drive violent behavior. Identifying them may stop the next deadly mass shooting. He points out a few of the risk factors which include: childhood obesity, abuse, living in a hostile environment, lack of physical exercise, even the smallest concussions can lead toward violence toward one's self or toward others.

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Jeannette Mare founder of Ben's Bells was contacted by several community members from Newtown. They hung more than a thousand bells in the city, helping the town heal.

Mare and Richmond connected and quickly learned they shared the same mission.

"…We need to be very, very preventive," Mare said. "We can't ignore the potential of prevention that comes from really focusing on the skills, on brain health early, on reducing the stigma around brain health and understanding what we can control. When we create a community where people prioritize the skill set we will all then benefit."

Richman and Mare say communities that know how to problem solve, speak their minds and connect without violence might just be the key to stopping the next mass shooting. 
A fundraiser for the Avielle Foundation is scheduled for April 23 at Gregory School, 3231 N. Craycroft Road. The event is from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., a $5 donation gets you in the door. There will be food, music and magicians at the benefit.

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