Police outside Robb Elementary School following the shooting on May 24,...

Police outside Robb Elementary School following the shooting on May 24, in Uvalde, Texas. Credit: AP/Dario Lopez-Mills

I stopped posting about mass shootings on social media a few years ago. It started to feel trite to say “thoughts and prayers” to show I cared. Wouldn’t my friends know I cared, whether I posted or not? More importantly, those posts didn’t accomplish anything. I wanted them to mean something, to make a difference. Not just on that day, but every day.

In September 1996, when I was a junior at Penn State, a gunman opened fire on campus. The shooter was quickly subdued by a student. One person was killed, another injured. I didn’t walk in that area at that time of day, but had friends who did. It was unnerving for all of us. We were able to move on. But you don’t forget.

Columbine happened not long after, when I was getting ready to join the NYPD.

Years later, as a sergeant, I would spend sleepless nights visualizing what I would do if I was responding to a radio run of an active shooter. Do I wait for emergency services? How many cops do I send in at a time? Where do I establish a mobilization point for responding officers?

If there’s one area of active and mass shootings where we have made improvements as a nation, it’s in police response. Law enforcement is faster and more decisive at taking action, and that is reducing deaths and injuries. 

Except, it seems, in Uvalde. I don't understand what happened there, or whether I ever will. It's a reminder of the importance of taking steps to protect each other.

Public policy is the job of politicians; yet, they have done nothing. Sure, they argue and will occasionally pass legislation. Then the next administration comes into power and overturns it.

While in the NYPD, I earned my master's degree in criminal justice at the University at Albany. I studied gun control with a leading researcher on the topic. I didn’t learn how to fix this problem, I learned how complex the problem is. That means there are many ways to combat it.

People who love guns and want a gun will find a way to get one. That's a small percentage of people, and not an excuse not to take legislative action. Background checks help screen out those who should not have a gun. 

Each of us can play a role. Stop making fun of and belittling people who have mental health issues. Instead, learn about signs of mental illness that might presage a step toward suicide or violence against others. You may stop a shooting before it’s even planned.

It’s also time to bring an end to bullying. It’s not hard to be nice to people, even ones you don’t like. You may be pleasantly surprised by what happens. If you can’t be nice, avoid them. Both options are free.

Re-evaluate childhood exposure to violence in video games and movies. While most people can distinguish simulations from reality, not everyone can.

Social media companies need to be more proactive. We can help by sharing alarming posts with platforms or reporting them to authorities.

Christine Maier

Christine Maier Credit: Courtesy Christine Maier

You can also raise a caring child, talk to schools, get to know people in your community. Don’t wait for politicians to pass laws they’re never going to pass. Skip the post about your thoughts and prayers. Take positive action today. You may change the life of a child, adult, or your community. Together, we can control this.

This guest essay reflects the views of former NYPD sergeant Christine Maier, the first female director of the NYC Emergency Management Watch Command.

This guest essay reflects the views of former NYPD sergeant Christine Maier, the first female director of the NYC Emergency Management Watch Command.