The Problem Of High School Shooting

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For a school shooting to be defined as such, it must be an act or attempt at first-degree murder involving two or more victims on a school’s campus. The horrible and tragic event is something we sadly experience in our life. It really is a shame that something like this happens and young lives are lost because one felt the need to end their lives via a school shooting. School shooters can and have been carried out by many different races, ages, and genders all across the world. A school shooter is not just one categorization, it is made up of all sorts of individuals who feel it is necessary to shoot and kill their peers. It’s a sensitive topic to talk about and a tragedy to even report. Young and innocent lives are taken by those fueled by hate, those who have been bullied by their pears and those on a mission to make this world we live in a living hell. A lot of research and studying have gone into this topic, trying to figure out what goes through the shooters head, why did the shooter take out those that he did,

There are different locations and places that a school shooting can occur at. Secondary school, college and adult shooters. School shooters all have different mindsets; traumatized shooters typically were abused as children, psychotic shooters tend to suffer from a mental disorder, and psychopathic shooters feel justified with their actions and feel like they are doing society a favor by doing the actions that they did. (space .M, 2016)

Olweus defines bullying as being victimized when one or more students expose him or her over time to negative actions. Trying to identify adolescent males at risk peer bullying will require time, more attention to detail, and being educated more on signs shown when an adolescent male is being bullied. Studies conducted within the article written by Reuter-Rice reported that those who were victims of bullying shows a lack of social and emotional adjustment to society and oftentimes have difficulty making friends and experience a greater loneliness than most others would. One reason why some students are victims of bullying is due to their sexuality. Back in 2002 the National Mental Health Association conducted a survey 760 adolescents from the ages of 12 to 17 and 78% of those teens who believed gay were teased and bullied at school because of that. Not a lot of research has gone into the study of the family of the bully and the victim of bullying in terms of understanding the potential causes of male violence (school shootings). The male adolescents who were victims of peer bullying had a close, positive relationship with their mother. There are four commonalities that might contribute to bullying behavior in boys; attitude towards the boy by whoever is the caretaker, open-mindedness towards aggressive behavior, emotional outbursts and the young boy seeing a bad relationship between both of his parents. Based upon multiple surveys that have been taken, students do not feel like school is really a safe environment to be in. (reuter-rice, K 2008)

School shootings rarely ever get ‘studied’ due to how rare and powerful the events are. Since that is the case, prior studies of school shootings are all based on and around the perpetrators motivation, their relationship to the victim(s), and the total number of victims that they have killed.

Violence, bullying and alienation that happen while at school have gotten widespread attention of reasons why the perpetrator feels like it is necessary to start opening fire on school grounds. Violent media, examples such as raging in movies and first person shooter video games have been ‘linked’ to possible reasons as to why a school shooting would occur. But, since 1980 the amount of violent media has gone up and the amount of school shootings has actually decreased since then. Although the amount of school shootings has gone down with the amount of violent media going up since the 1980’s, there has been a sharp increase in multiple victim homicides on school grounds (Agnich, L. E. (2015)).

Once a school shooting has occurred, the aftermath of one tends to raise a lot of concerns as to the motivation and the causes as to why this happened. Once the media has heard that a school shooting has occurred they are quick to cover the news, which although can be a good thing to get the news out there, it can sometimes lead to false assumptions as well as falsely stereotyping who a ‘school shooting perpetrator’ is or could be. Fritzon and Brun have conducted studies on factors that potentially lead up to school shootings such as the family environment at home, behavior aspects that caused them to ‘lash out’ and finally, the school environment that surrounds the perpetrator.

Leary (Leary et al. (2003)) believes that School shootings can be provoked by a real or imagined rejection or a relationship coming to an end. The three forms of rejection include teasing, ostracism (exclusion from society or group) and romantic rejection. A tragedy such as a rejection can spark an increase in aggression in those who feel like they are in a hostile environment.

Mental disorders have commonly been associated with offenders of school shootings. Mental disorders that have been associated with school shooting offenders are depression, personality disorder, lack of empathy, and suicidal. A school shooter dealing with depression is labeled as one who is hypersensitive to criticism, they are likely to anticipate rejection and they always seem suspicious to those around them. 28 school shooting perpetrators were conducted in a study and according to that study conducted by Gerard et al. (2015), 71 percent of the of the school shooters convicted of the act have been diagnosed with depression.

A study conducted by pellegrini (pellegrini et. al. 1999) has linked bullying victimization as well as violence in general to the perpetrator and the offender is often subjected to teasing, bullying and victimization at some point prior to the incident. School shooting offenders are often considered as ‘loners’. They have the feeling of sadness and loneliness along with that they feel like they do not fit in or belong anywhere (Ioannou, M., Hammond, L., & Simpson, O. (2015)).

Often times the child who pulls the trigger that ends the lives of his fellow teachers and/or classmates live a dark life and endures painful events long before the shootings occur. In 1992, a school shooting that occurred involved a 17-year-old high school student took the life of one of his teachers and a custodian who worked at that school. The 17 year old had a dark home life with his father having random episodes of physical violence and his mother was deemed as a mentally ill woman.

That same year another high school student, Eric Houston; killed his teacher and three of his classmates. Eric had endured painful home life from his abusive father. Eric’s father had become so violent with him that Eric suffered from organic brain damage. In 1997 Evan Ramsey shot and killed his principle and a fellow student. Evan had a father in prison as well as a neglectful, alcoholic mother. As a child Evan bounced around from foster home to foster home. Evan also got harassed by his fellow classmates; who loved to see him angry and rage. The three teenagers all suffered from a commonality of abusiveness and bullying which led them to make the decisions that they did which led to innocent lives being ended shorter than expected (Warnick, B. R., Johnson, B. A., & Rocha, S. (2010)).

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Peer pressure can play a significant role in becoming a school shooter. Klebold and Harris were the two Columbine shooters who both had a negative impact upon one another. Together, those two threatened classmates, wore shirts to school that said ‘serial killer’, and together they spent over a year planning the deadly shooting at Columbine. Klebold and Harris were considered rejects by those who went to school with them, a Classmate of theirs described the Columbine as a ‘clean and good place minus those rejects (Klebold and Harris) most students did not want them here’ (Thompson S., & Kyle K., 2005).

Since 1998 school shootings in the United States have really gotten national media attention in regards to the increase of violence within our youth. With the increase of youth related violence that leads to school shootings; parents, teachers, and students all have a slight fear of showing up to school one day and a shooting breakout on their campus. The FBI started up what is called a threat assessment. With all the information gathered on male adolescents there are too many individual variations to truly get a distinct profile of who and what a school shooter is and can be. 71% of those who were convicted of a school shooting admitted to being bullied, threatened or injured prior to them lashing out and shooting up the school. (Reuter-Rice, K.2008)

Students are becoming more and more scared to be on campus with the amount of national media attention that school shootings get and how the next school shooting could happen on their campus. A quote from the Washington post 'more than 187,000 students attending at least 193 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus during school hours,' those numbers alone are scary to think about, especially since this article was published in 2018 and many more shootings have happened since then. (Metuchen Vol. 58, Iss. 4, 2018)

Although crime rates in the United States are declining, it seems to most Americans that school shootings are becoming more of an occurrence than they actually are, on average only about 10 school shootings occur per year, which is higher than it ever should be to begin with. One factor that makes Americans believe that school shootings happen more than they do is the amount of time the media covers the event. School shootings, on average, last about 10 minutes, but media coverage on the shooting can go on for days, weeks, even months after the shooting. Researchers studied the effects of media coverage of school shootings on college campuses and it shows that the more media attention one pays attention to regarding a shooting, the more fearful they become and the more likely they will think that an event like that will happen again. (Jaymi Elsass, H., Schildkraut, J., & Stafford, M. C.2016).

The United States has a much higher school-shooting rate than any of the other countries. Between 1966 and 2008, 44 school shootings occurred in the United States whereas during those same years only 7 school shootings occurred in Canada and 7 school shootings happened all across Europe. Between the years 2013 and 2015 20,25, and 31 out of the 50 states had a school shooting occur, which sadly had increased every year within those three years. During that same three-year period the amount of school shootings increased, just like the amount of states a school shooting occurred in increased as well. From 2013 to 2015 there were a total of 154 incidents of a school shooting; 35 in 2013, 55 in 2014 and 64 in 2013. Male perpetrators did the majority of the school shootings that occurred during 2013 and 2015. (Kalesan, B et. Al. 2017)

Since the 1970’s shooting ranges have been put on notice as a place with a high risk of lead exposure. You can be exposed to lead at shooting ranges from when you fire a gun and airborne pieces from gun are released to the air and you inhale them. Exposure to lead primarily targets the nervous system and has been linked to disorders such as behavioral changes. A study conducted of 118 people (87 shooters and 31 archers) was conducted and it shows that the shooters had a significantly higher blood lead level (79.8%) compared to the archers (22.6%). This study also shows that blood lead levels were significantly higher in those who went to the shooting range compared to those who use archery ranges (Naicker, N et. Al. 2018).

On April 26th, 2002, armed with a pistol and a shotgun; Robert Steinhauser, a 19 year old student from Erfurt, Germany went back to the high school he was just recently kicked out of and killed twelve of the teachers who worked at the high school, two students, a school secretary and a policeman before he decided to take his own life. Violent video games such as “quake” and “Soldier of Fortune” as well as a collection of violent films were discovered in Steinhauser’s room following investigations in relation to the school shooting. Prior to the occurrence of the school shooting; Steinhauser’s academic performance started to get worse and worse along with becoming a member of a local shooting club, he even started to assemble his own personal weapons arsenal. Steinhauser’s devotion and interest in the first person shooting video games have been linked to the reasons Steinhauser’s troubles at school had started to increase.

Just about three years after Steinhauser’s school shooting in Germany; another teenager, this time armed with guns, knives, and homemade explosives killed one student, himself wounded 37 others at his former high school in Emsdetten, Germany. The student; 18 year old Sebastian B, was described by the media as a loner and ultimately did what he did to destroy as many lives as he could and take as many of those lives with him, the description composed by the media were compiled by writings that they found in Sebastian’s journals and internet postings. Sebastian described himself as having a happy life until he started school, as well as he felt like the only thing that he learned while in school was that he was a loser. Just like Steinahuser, Sebastian was linked to similar first shooter video games following investigations of his actions at his old high school.

Following the tragic school shootings sprees that occurred in Germany, the German government started to turn their focus towards violent first person shooter video games and their connection to the shootings caused by Steinahuser and Sebastian. Kretschmer both reportedly but an extensive amount of time playing the first person shooter video games and that suggests that these games had played a role in the actions that these men did. The perpetrators trouble life at home and the school induce violence plus the violent video games played is a recipe for disaster when it comes to a potential school shooter similar to Steinhauser and Sebastian. But, although Steinhauser and Sebastian both played the violent video games, they both could have been provoked for different reasons to make them want to shoot up their schools.

The German government has started to decrease the promotion violent video and computer games. An example of ways the German government has cracked down on promotion of violent video and computer games is that they have started to restrict the sales of violent games to minors and the goal is to completely ban the sale of violent games. German legislators created the protection of young persons act, which allows them to place restrictions on the selling of video games that can be deemed as harmful.

Despite how graphic and how realistic the first person shooter video games seem, psychologists and social scientists are split in regards to whether video games are responsible for violent actions that occur in real life. German government officials, political party members and some interest groups all noticed a similarity between the German school shooters and their love for first person shooter video games and claim that by them playing the first person violent video games caused an increase in aggressiveness when not playing violent video games. (Diamond, N. 2013). The case of Germany attempting to restrict access to online killing games is a step in the right direction.

Further research that needs to take place in regards to school shootings is ways to prevent any more of these from happening. There has been way too many school shootings that have not only happened in the United States, but all across the world.

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