Several weeks have passed since the murders at Santana High School in San Diego. Perhaps now we can begin to place the blame on parental inattention, lax gun laws, school bureaucracy and other social ills. And perhaps if each of us accepts a bit of the blame, we can keep the same thing from happening again.
Many in our country blame the news media as part of the problem. The media gives school shootings unusual prominence, and this not only carries the risk of encouraging copycats, but also leaves the impression that fame can be gained through armed violence. What if the news media decided to give school shootings a bit less attention? Nigel Wade, former editor of the Chicago Sun Times, imposed a no-page-one policy following the Columbine shootings. He received hundreds of appreciative e-mails and won the Chicago Headlines Club’s Ethics in Journalism Award.
After the Columbine massacre, the entertainment industry also came under scrutiny for its influence on young minds. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris played violent video games and watched violent movies. Critics pointed out similarities between Columbine involving black trench coats and automatic weapons to films such as The Basketball Diaries, The Matrix and The Crow. These films all featured heroes in black trench coats with sub-machine guns spraying bullets at random.
The same critics claimed video games such as Doom and Quake promoted senseless violence and allowed the player to hone shooting skills to the level of a SWAT Team gunman. But it is doubtful that the all the blame should rest with the entertainment industry.
A 13-year-old from Indiana asked a great question: “Didn’t most adults play Cowboys and Indians as kids? How different is playing Cowboys and Indians, where the object is to actually try (pretend) to kill another human child, from the video games kids play today?” There are very few laws governing children’s access to guns. The Brady Law made it illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase handguns from licensed dealers, although a loophole still permits 18 to 21 year-olds to purchase handguns from private or unlicensed individuals. The Columbine shooters used four guns purchased at a gun show, three of which were bought by an 18 year-old friend.
Child Access Prevention Laws have been passed in 17 states. These states hold gun owners criminally liable if children access their weapons to hurt themselves or someone else.Handgun control organizations claim the gun industry and the NRA fight every reasonable effort to protect children from guns by legislation. The NRA, on the other hand, says handgun control organizations are trying to take America’s Second Amendment heritage away from our children, trashing the most basic guarantees to ‘save the children.’
Criticism has been aimed at the nations schools as well. Many schools have instituted heavy-handed security crackdowns, installing metal detectors and security cameras, increasing police presence in schools and conducting surprise searches of bags and lockers. Some schools even require clear backpacks and ID tags for students.
But Santana High School had plenty of security measures in place; Andy Williams still killed two and injured 13.
Studies suggest that intense security measures may actually lead to increased violence and anxiety and fear among students. Experts argue that the money spent on surveillance cameras and metal detectors could be better spent on identifying and counseling students who show signs of potential violence.
Could parents be to blame for kids opening fire on their classmates? Many say yes. Today divorce is common and kids are being raised in single-parent homes. In families with two parents, both mom and dad work and have little time to spend with their kids. Consequently, children spend countless hours unattended. All this may be a sign of the times, but can parents miss the indications that their child may be in trouble? Granted, adolescence is synonymous with secrets, avoidance and a general dislike of parents. However, could parents be so oblivious to their children’s activities that they fail to notice that they include elaborate plans to slaughter classmates and constructing pipe bombs?
Finally, what about the kids themselves? What possesses an eight year-old to carry a gun to school, a 12 year-old to create a hit list or a 15 year-old to shoot a semi-automatic weapon at his peers and teachers?
The Secret Service conducted a study and found attackers were on a “path of violence.” The FBI compiled a list of risk factors including poor coping skills, alienation, low school interest and discipline problems, to name a few. Depression appears to be a common theme as well.More than two-thirds of school shooters felt persecuted or bullied by someone. The motive for the shootings was often revenge. Santee shooter Andy Williams was allegedly bullied and harassed by classmates.
Newsweek quotes classmates of Klebold and Harris as saying they walked the halls of Columbine “with their heads down, because if they looked up they’d get thrown into lockers and called ‘fag.'”
Luke Woodham, who killed his mother and several classmates in Pearl Mississippi said, “I’m not insane. I’m angry. I killed because people like me are mistreated everyday.”
So, who do you think is to blame?