NASW California Chapter Statement on San Bernardino Shootings

The National Association of Social Workers expresses sorrow and concern regarding the horrific mass shooting in California at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.

Our deepest sympathy goes out to those who lost their lives and the injured and their families,  friends and colleagues.  We also express our concern and care to the greater San Bernardino and southern California community.

As more news becomes available, it appears that the murderous rampage was concentrated on County Public Health employees. As far as has been reported to us by the two nearby social work schools that have interns or former students working at the regional center (social services for the developmentally disabled) no one they know was physically injured.

Thanks to everyone for their expression of concern.  Like everyone, we will learn more as more information becomes available.

We all suffer trauma when mass shooting incidents happen and we all need to find ways for us as well as for everyone to work through this trauma.

There is no justification or rationale for these murderous acts and no one can excuse the killers.  But as social workers, we are obligated to try to understand the psychology, conditions and behaviors that might bring people to such a state that they would commit mass murder.  We do this so as to offer ideas about prevention and early intervention.

The County of San Bernardino is California’s largest by geography with a population of more than two million.  County government (including mental health and social services) has more than 17,000 employees.

We are  confident that our colleagues in county mental health, social and disaster services, as well as the statewide agency for the developmentally disabled (regional centers) are developing plans for or already offering services for those directly traumatized by the event including services for those injured, their families, the families of the victims and co-workers.  Hopefully, there will be consideration for services and trauma education for the community as a whole.

We can also help by providing guidance for those affected by secondary trauma and for parents and children.

Here is a National Institute of Mental Health website on what adults can do and how to work with children.

This event will stir the public discourse on gun control, terrorism, and how to help the public feel safe.  There will be conversations by law enforcement and homeland security.  Some of our politicians who are in office and or seeking election will bring up immigration, refugees and military strike options even though at this time we don’t know what the connections are, if an.

There is no justification or rationale for these murderous acts and no one can excuse the killers.  But as social workers, we are obligated to try to understand the psychology, conditions and behaviors that might bring people to such a state that they would commit mass murder.  We do this so as to offer ideas about prevention and early intervention.

Here are some basic ideas that we could promote:

  • Urge discussions on this tragedy as a way to help people work through their trauma.  When the killers are killed, we will  never fully know wthe motive.  But we must try. As social workers who have both micro and macro perspectives, we should urge inclusion of community psychology, political, social and economic justice issues in the discussion.  Urge ideas and actions that are peaceful and collaborative.  There will be plenty of other people talking about using violence to address violence.
  •  Words and opinions in the public and social discourse matter.  Some people are so upset, they are ready to blame, finger point and urge destructive solutions without any analysis of what happened and why.  We need to urge more care with words and opinions so as not to worsen the situation where whole communities, fellow Americans, immigrants and refugees are blamed without any regard to the trauma they are suffering.
  •  We must do more to show that the United States, as the world’s greatest military and economic power, care about the well being of all people around the world to offset the hate and violence that a few have against us.

Let’s think about this and how we can help as individuals and professionals address a global culture that accepts violence as a solution to problems.

To contact the National Association of Social Workers California Chapter email


  1. I think we also should be aware and sensitive to everyone’s freedom of religion at school and at work. The gunman was working every day with someone who was evangelizing and proselytizing Christianity every day (this is according to his wife who claimed he preached the good news everywhere he went). I think religion should be kept out of the work place. Also, he shot everyone at a Christmas party- with tree & decorations present. We need to be mindful of all beliefs and of those who are atheists.

    • Annie, am I correct in understanding your statement, that in order to “be aware of and sensitive to eveyone’s freedom of religion” we need to keep “religion out of the workplace”? HUH? We live in world where on U.S. and foreign soil, admitting to being a Christian results in instant execution. As a Christian, why should my beliefs be squelched and we are doing so little to battle the evil instigated from extremist followers of other religions? The statement urges us to care for “the well being of people around the world”.

      How about NASW and mental health professionals conducting quanitative and qualitative research into the root causes of such violent behavior? How about the root causes and prevention of mental illnesses that may contribute to such horrific acts? In addition to the caring response, we can seek to mitigate future disasters of this type.

    • Annie’s statement implies that someone has to shut up about their own spiritual values-less they instigate an extremist. If an employer wants to minimize religions, political and sexual talk in their workplace that is their privilege. However, no one should be afraid to voice their beliefs/opinions. (PS-Why should atheists be offended by religious talk? _they deny the existence of any god anyway.)

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful and compassionate response to the San Bernardino tragedy. It helps me to process through all the “stuff” that the media and many politicians are pumping into the airwaves that only create more fear and confusion.

    My condolences to the victims, families, and colleagues in San Bernardino. I concur that the families of the shooters are also victims who need our support and prayers. Finally, as social workers, I encourage us to do what we can to eliminate the root causes of violence, especially way-too-easy access to guns.

  3. As I begin to prepare to complete some work towards my DSW this early Saturday morning, I caught glimpse of the the California NASW statement concerning the very senseless shootings in San Bernardino County. Wanting to get a head start on my work, I pushed forward with every intent to take a moment to read the statement and reply. For many many reasons it was important to me. First, in my humanness, I am touched with grief for the families. While I can not possibly know first hand what they are experiencing, there is deep regret inside for their sadness. Second, I am a social worker and I understand that in many ways this was an attack on public health workers who give everyday to the healing of this world’s ills along side many others. I assume that some may have been social workers and nurses, physical therapist and others. Third, having lived in San Bernardino County in the late 80’s and giving birth to my twins there, there is a piece of my soul that is ever entrenched in that community. Having worked there at Victor Chaparral Treatment Center as a supervisor, it is in many ways and will always be home. It was a time when I was young in my profession and had not yet learned of the many ills in society. So I pin these words for a final reason. In many ways they are my own form of therapy to help to resolve my own sadness; I must find ways to make this conversation relevant and not be part of the discounting of lives lost for no reason and not do my duty as a professional to continue to shed light on the fact that many issues are being overlooked in this society because of where and who has them. I know that any social worker with good assessment skills can take the information from the two murders and find an ecology of dysfunction, isolation, pain, childhood trauma and create a road map that led them to this horrific end, taking with them many lives and the healing of countless others who depended upon their skills.

    • It is my understanding that the victims of the San Bernardino shooting were all San Bernardino Environmental Health Inspectors and not employees of the Inland Regional Center, correct? So, the victims didn’t work directly with the Regional Center staff. Regional Centers provide services to developmentally disabled. The San Bernardino unit that was at the Inland Regional Center were public health inspectors who graded restaurants and other eateries, you know, like when you see the A or C rating. Therefore, they have no on-going working relationship with regional centers in providing services to disabled. Completely separate entities.

  4. I too think it is a well written statement. I would add however that the family of the shooters should also be considered victims and in need of our support and understanding. They are innocent also and will carry the burden of blame if we do not support them in the media and our discussions.

  5. arveta grady-fletcher

    Thank you for addressing this. We must make active measures to understand and dissolute violence and hate, period!

  6. I am a Canadian Social Worker. My profound sympathy to those affected be they family, friends or greater community. Social work’s primary focus is on relationships. I pray that meaningful and positive relationships will support our brothers and sisters in healing. We are all part of this world we try to influence for the better. Please know that you are not alone, that we hold you close and walk with you. You are not forgotten.

  7. What an uphill battle we continue to have, yet we climb- to support the individuals who need us the most. That’s what Social Workers do!

  8. Beautifully written statement!!!!

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