School shootings became prevalent in 1974, when a teenage honor student pulled a fire alarm then shot at firemen and janitors. This was the first of many violent massacres in schools. When observing violence in schools, one must take into consideration all of the violence that is not limited to just shootings. It is reported that “During the 2005–2006 academic year , 78% of public schools experienced one or more violent incidents”(Wike). As a result of the violence, students become fearful, and adopt defensive tactics. That fear lead to “the percentage of students who carry any weapon to school, including guns, [to increase] from 17.1% to 18.5% in 2005”. (School Shootings: Making sense of the senseless). The increase in weapons would most likely lead to increased crime, leading to increased fear, showing that we ultimately have an inescapable positive feedback loop . In this article I will explore how we got to the point where so many students felt the need to become defensive, the manifestation of the current problem today, and the solutions to the problem.
Read more here:
History of School Shootings
The term ‘school shooting’ was coined in 1966, after a sniper climbed to the top of the observation deck at the University of Texas and began shooting, killing eighteen people. Although we have had occurences of shootings dating back to 1966 and as early as the eighteenth century, “historically, only isolated incidents of multiple-victim school shootings occurred before the recent spate of attacks in the mid-1990s” (Langman, Midlarsky & Klain). In the 1990s, we saw over ten cases of shootings resulting in hundreds of deaths, all on school property. Researchers search for ways to identify children who are capable of terrorism, and they have found that “shooters tend to be characterized by three risk factors—an interest in firearms or bombs, a fascination with death or Satanism, or psychological problems involving depression, impulse control, or sadistic tendencies”(Leary, 2011). Every school shooter to date has shown these tendencies from a young age, and these “risk factors”, are an undeniable trend between these young boys. The question of how these characterizations are developed should be asked, and to answer, we look at the background of the children. Researchers have found that “the shootings were not a national problem but a series of local problems that occurred in “red states” or counties”. Here we must look into to republicanism, and its culture and values. The president of the National Rifle Association, Oliver North, is an avid republican, and supports their party. Many republicans staunchly support this association, and the second amendment. Being in these “red states”, has influenced the children living in them, and they begin to believe it is their right to use their guns at all times, even to commit genocide.
There was a boom in school shootings after the 1980s, and the heavy increase after they began receiving widespread coverage. The violence began to spike in that time period, and during this time, people stopped viewing schools solely as places for education, but as places filled with violence and fear. “The media began reporting unprecedented numbers of multiple victim attacks in rural and suburban schools that did not involve individual or gang disputes” (Goode). The problem was created when innocent children who were not in “disputes” with others, began dying in random sprees.
The Columbine shooting on April 20, 1999 opened the eyes of the world. Here, we had our first mass shooting in a primarily white, suburban town. The public became fascinated at this case, where they saw premeditated mass murder by children in a neighborhood that could have been theirs. The columbine shooting achieved its national attention due to the fact that “ it took place in a setting unlike previous high-profile shootings—a largely White, solidly middle-class suburb outside the South. This prompted President Bill Clinton to observe on the evening of the shooting, “Perhaps now America would wake up to the dimensions of this challenge if it could happen in a place like Littleton” (Lawrence, 2001, p. 100). This shooting scared american families into realising that something like this could happen to their families, in “place[s] like Littleton”. These families are the ones you see everyday, who earn a good salary and work hard for the children. Suddenly there is a fear that the children who are capable of murder live among themselves, and could be their neighbor, child’s friend, or even your own son or daughter. “The involvement of middle class shooters in middle class areas rather than inner city populations may explain the media saturation that makes the incidence of such events appear more prevalent than they are”(Goode & Ben-Yehuda, 2009; Luke, 2008). The people only started to have concern for these shootings when the possibility that they could be the victims.
Read more here
Present Day Problem
To provide security for students and teachers, some schools have implemented intervention strategies; teachers carrying concealed weapons to ward off shooters or cases where “a district trained students to throw books, pencils, and chairs at an armed intruder” (Wike, Making sense of the senseless). These safety tactics won’t help in the long run, small objects are ultimately useless in comparison to killer machines, and putting the responsibility on untrained students and teachers won’t work most of the time. To stay safe from these shootings, we must hire more security and trained professionals.
With stricter gun laws, “lives could be saved by requiring universal background checks at the federal level, mandating longer waiting periods between firearm purchase and acquisition, and implementing restrictions on certain types of high-capacity guns as well as limiting the amount of ammunition legally allowed to be purchased”(Gun Regulation and Legislation in America). The more restrictions, and less accessibility to civilians, a drastic drop in gun crimes will come.
America could make our schools safer with security, routine mental health checks on all students that attend a school, use extreme regulation of gun laws, make it very difficult to acquire a gun, and as a nation, fight harder against violence.
To address this problem, in the past we have had rallies and marches to protest the rights given to gun owners. We have seen multiple marches to protest the NRA. The march for our lives was a student organised rally in 2018 to protest the leniency of gun laws. There have been many attempts to prevent gun violence, but they have ultimately been unsuccessful. The adamant supporters of guns are in such high power positions that they have made sure it is impossible to get rid of those same guns that are killing children in their places of learning. However there have been effective things that have been passed, such as, “the Gun-Free Schools Act (GFSA), [that] was passed in 1994 as part of the Improving America’s Schools Act”(Borum). This act expelled children from schools for at least one year, if they were carrying a firearm on school grounds. A lot of schools have also enforced zero tolerance policies, and give harsh punishments to minor crimes, in an effort to prevent any major crimes. Security organisations have been implemented in public schools to ensure the safest school experience. Although many, many efforts have been made in history to try to prevent these massacres, they have proven to threaten our communities even until the present day.
In America, we have seen a wave of desensitization towards school shootings after the public has seen those unspeakable events of children being brutally murdered play out over and over again. American families are becoming offended by an episode in a malicious cartoon, South Park. In this episode entitled “Dead Kids”, a school shooting was portrayed, and none of the characters seemed to care about the issue. The children continue to fret over frivolous problems, math quizzes and movies, and the adults comment on the way that life just continues on. However the cartoon seems to address a harsh reality in a brutally honest way. The normalization of school shootings and any shooting has ceased to shock people today in the way they did ten or twenty years ago. People have seemed to adopt the “at least its not me” mentality over time. Although the show presents its material in an insensitive and ill-natured fashion, it is bringing to light the lack of dedication most civilians have to solving this problem. Everybody is quick to forget that a shooting happened until the next shooting happens, but they are doing nothing to help prevent them.
Another current problem with school shootings is what is being portrayed in the media and its views towards death and violence. There are video games that are allowing young children to see murder and killing on a regular basis. An author, Ingrid Hoofd, notes that “One may think here of events that seemingly have little to do with video games, like the never-explained flash crash of 2001, terrorist suicide attacks, or the ongoing increase in high school shootings in the United States. At the same time, however, video games may have contributed to such accidental events by raising the stakes of informational capitalism”(Video Games and the Engaged Citizen : On the Ambiguity of Digital Play, Hoofd). She claims that these games and their link to capitalism have made us view life as a challenge: who can win the most money, who can kill the most people, ultimately, who can prove themselves the most. If children are seeing that this is how you succeed in those video games, those views and attitudes may easily transfer into their real life, and they can adopt a damaging mindset.
In the past year, we have seen a surge of groups and people stepping forward to fight shootings and gun violence in our schools. An organization called Protect our Schools, has a powerful slogan, similar to the never again wave that swept over social media. Protect our Schools calls for “ No more children murdered in our schools. No more parents sending a child to school who never comes home. No more teachers, coaches, principals, librarians, or any school staff standing between students and a gunman. No more” (Protect our Schools from Gun Violence). They bring to light the fact that the people in high political positions of power are not taking action on stopping gun violence, so organizations must be created to fix the problem themselves. Protect our schools gives accountability to the public, and shows them how they can have a voice in the debate on gun regulations. They say if Americans pledge their support, host a voter drive, register to vote, and spread the word, they can help their organization in leaps and bounds. In the case, the smallest differences can make a large change, if there are large numbers of people ready to take a stand. The group also recognizes that 99 percent of educators support universal background checks and that those same educators endorse safety measures instead of arming teachers. The Protect our Schools safe organization has created a plan of their own to end gun violence for once and for all. They researched their most effective strategies and decided that addressing the mental health of students has proven to be a beneficial tactic. They then encourage teachers and law enforcement to stage an intervention when students show warning signs of violence towards others, or even towards themselves. They then look at safety aspects and widen their focus to include focusing on the safety of schools in America and ensuring that firearms do not fall into the wrong hands.
However, no matter how much the masses rally, and no matter how many passionate organizations are forming, we are not seeing those who are powerful taking action. “The failure of our leaders to address the root causes of school gun violence from all angles is having lasting consequences for millions of American children” (Protect our Schools from Gun Violence). The less politicians address the issue of gun violence, the more likely it is that their will be an increase in shootings. Although millions of people are making honest efforts to tighten and stricten gun laws, they have been consistently shut down by the government because they do not fall in line with the second amendment. In conclusion, the ever worsening problem of school shooters is being ignored although organizations and the public are screaming out for help.
Read more here
Call to Action
As individuals, we can dedicate our time to become activists for these gun laws to stricten. Although the American government has not been effectively responding to the public’s pleas to make our communities more safe, the more people that rally together and make themselves heard, the more we can exhaust the government, and they will finally listen to our voices.
We can teach the socially high functioning children to help the others who do not have high social intelligence, to reach out to them and offer them a place to be seen and feel important. We can create activities based around inclusivity, ones where you able to attend without needing a friend, you can come alone and feel wanted and appreciated. We need to value each person individually in our worlds, and recognize they can all do great things.
To bring about safety without implementing the drastic political measures that have failed time and time again, the population must dedicate themselves to the denormalization of guns and violence in general. Children of all ages have complete access to violent video games, movies, tv shows and even pornography. Lawmakers are doing nothing to ban the guns themselves, but if we can limit how much violence are youth are absorbing, there will be a smaller desire to act upon their violent urges. Not showing bloodshed in video games, not centering movies around a hero who saves the day by blowing up the villain, not highlighting a rape culture in our pornogrpahy that society has given us are all ways to cut down on the alarmingly accelerating rates of violence in our schools and among our youth. We can use social media and popular culture to convey an anti-gun message in an interesting way. We can create programs with characters that care about what happens to their classmates and educations and social media personalities who are activists.h
Read more here