A veteran Oregon clinical psychologist appearing in a gun control documentary airing next Thursday, reiterated to Examiner today in an exclusive telephone interview what he said in the video – touted by KOIN News Wednesday as second-place finisher in a national competition – that “Firearms don’t cause violence, violent people cause violence.”
Dr. Frank P. Colistro, who operates a private practice and has appeared as an expert witness at sentencing hearings, has some other observations that may leave gun control advocates scrambling for words. He shared a few of those thoughts in the video documentary, which will air on C-SPAN, and expanded on them to Examiner.
The video, produced by Daniel Gotkowitz, Henry Craddock and Mackie Mallison, all students at Beverly Cleary Middle School, won second place in their category in C-SPAN’s 2014 Student Cam documentary competition, according to the KOIN story. Their film is titled “Gun Control in America,” and it runs about seven-and-a-half minutes.
Dr. Colistro is the first guest, and he begins by stating, “Our society regulates firearms just fine, in much the same way that we regulate motor vehicles. So, even though there isn’t a constitutional amendment that says we have a right to have a car, and there is one that says we have a right to have a firearm, they’re treated really more as a privilege than a right and the majority of the people who own them use them responsibly…”
In a telephone interview, Colistro said that after high-profile incidents in which an individual harms lots of people, typically there are questions raised about what might be done to identify potentially dangerous people and take steps to help them before they escalate their anger into actions. Colistro has talked about criminals for years, as this 2011 story from KGW confirms.
“My answer to that,” he said, “is that this is not a mental health issue, it’s a security issue. If somebody is running at me with a knife, the question is not ‘Why is he doing that,’ the question is ‘How do I neutralize the threat’?”
He called the press coverage after the Newtown tragedy “just dreadful,” and that included the appearance by National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre at a press conference and on one of the Sunday morning talk shows. Dr. Colistro thinks LaPierre actually had the right answer to violent attacks and displayed a lot of backbone facing an essentially hostile crowd.
With 37 years of experience, Colistro contended, “The answer is just what Mr. LaPierre said. Recognize the fact that these people exist out there. You just have to neutralize them.”
Colistro attended Portland State University and then went to the University of British Columbia for his doctorate. At the time, he recalled, that school was “the birthing area” for violence, threat and risk assessment studies.
“I send my kids to school to learn, not to be killed,” he stated. “I want there to be security in schools.”
After Sandy Hook, LaPierre endured a barrage of criticism for arguing that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Yet now, 16 months after that horror, armed and unarmed security at schools, including on- or off-duty police or sheriff’s deputies, has become commonplace. Nobody credits LaPierre or the NRA for having had the right idea all along.
Colistro told Examiner that, “Responsible gun owners…don’t have fantasies about shooting people,” but the individuals who do commit mayhem are different. Experience taught him that “all of these guys exhibited warning signs and nobody said anything.”
“A lot of these people…are just bad people,” he said. “They’re angry, resentful people who decide they’re going to have their moment of power and control by harming innocents.”
Dr. Colistro’s appearance in the students’ video came about because a teacher at their middle school was there years ago when his own sons, now in their 20s, attended. That instructor, Tom Streckert, approached Colistro “about a year ago” with “a lot of the same questions that people with no knowledge of firearms ask.” Streckert is mentioned in the documentary credits.
What’s next? Colistro will continue with his work. He is a member of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, and they confer annually in an effort to figure out ways to identify people who pose serious threats, so that maybe they can be stopped before they mount an attack.
That is the kind of intervention that nobody ever reads about, he acknowledged. And maybe it’s a good thing that the only news about an attack is that there wasn't one.