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School Shootings

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School shootings (rampages), the perpetrators, the victims, and the motives Hannah Glasier July 27th, 2018 Deaths due to schools are tragic events that affect not only those individuals directly involved, but also many others in the schools and neighborhoods where they occur. Why is this worthy of study? These cases have a large amount of media attention due to the nature of the settings and the assailants.

They have differed in many ways from the patterns of school violence most prevalent during the past two decades. They have taken place in smaller cities and towns and have not involved rival gangs, or other previously recognized risk factors found in high-density urban settings. The assailants have been boys from primarily middle class or affluent families, many of whom have no previous criminal records. The attacks do not appear to be motivated by pursuit of secondary gain, and appear to be acts of angry young men seeking to kill and injure multiple victims (Christian, 1998, March 26). Another topic that will be investigated will be the victims and their lives post-shooting. What happens to the survivors? Do the injured victims lead normal lives post shooting?

What are the statistics on mass shootings? In January 2013, Grant Duwe, an American Criminologist, provided data to Washington Post with updated and slightly revised estimates of mass public shootings. On average annually, (Duwe’s) the data showed that there were 1.3 mass public shootings per year in the 1970s, 3.2 per year in the 1980s, and 4.2 per year in the 1990s. According to USA Today, offenders committed roughly 242 mass murders, resulting in the deaths of four or more victims, from 2006 to 2013, or an average of 30.3 incidents per year, and 4.98 victims per incident. Mass shootings accounted for 21.5 incidents per year with 5.1 victims per incident. Another 1.25 mass murder incidents per year involved at least some firearms and resulted in 4.8 victims per incident. Grant Duwe defined mass public shooting as “any incident in which four or more victims are killed publicly in a workplace, school, restaurant, or other public place with guns and within 24 hours.” Many of the media accounts of these crimes describe “good kids” who have suddenly become murderers without showing prior histories of antisocial behavior. The events have been described as an “epidemic,” which has promoted a climate of fear among children and adolescents, their parents, educators, and policy makers.

School staff are being cautioned to remain alert to “warning signs of violence” Violence and death disproportionately affect children and youth in the United States. Many different explanations have been offered for youth violence (Harpold & Band, 1998). Bad parenting, violent popular culture, mental illness, unhealthy school climates, and availability of firearms have all been targets of blame (National Consortium on Violence Research, 1998). Factors common among individuals who commit mass murder include extreme feelings of anger and revenge, the lack of an accomplice (when the perpetrator is an adult), feelings of social alienation, and planning well in advance of the offense. Many mass murderers do not plan to survive their own attacks and intend to commit suicide or to be killed by police after committing their assaults. However, in a detailed case study of five mass murderers who did survive, a number of common traits and historical factors were found. The subjects had all been bullied or isolated during childhood and subsequently became loners who felt despair over their social alienation. Gun laws are quite controversial.

Many are united in their condemnation of these mass shootings, but they disagree about whether stricter or looser gun control laws are the answer. In the United States, those on the right side of the political aisle suggest that the issue is one of mental illness rather than gun control. the solution is to enforce already existent laws that are designed to keep rearms away from individuals with certain types or degrees of mental illness. Conversely, those who are more liberal or progressive in their political learnings are quick to condemn attempts to reframe the issue of mass shootings as a mental health problem. The problem, as they see it, is simply the sheer number of guns owned by Americans, particularly military-style weapons like AR-15 semiautomatic rifles. Insisting that gun violence and mass shootings are strictly a mental health problem thus unfairly stigmatizes the many people living with mental illness.

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