A recent phenomenon in late '90s America. Involves a rural/suburban white male teenager going to school with a serious number of semi-automatic weapons and doing the obvious. Ironically, there's been school shootings for years, but since it was minorities shooting other minorities in the inner city, it was ignored by the mass media. Of course, you're still far more likely to be beaten to death by your own parents than shot at school, but America is not known for its rationality.

School shootings are usually caused by a large number of disparate factors:
  • Violence in the media. While this is a problem, it's not of the type everyone seems to think it is. Video game violence is only a problem for those already predisposed toward violence. In other words, it will make the psychotic even more so.
  • Under-medication. In the case of Columbine, no one was making sure they were actually taking their psychoactive medication, so when they decided that the drugs took away their anger, they stop taking them.
  • Easy access to guns. Again, this is not a root cause, but rather something that compounds a pre-existing problem. That said, if your child is already taking psychoacative medication, than he/she probably doesn't need access to firearms. In fact, unless they're pretty close to being completely rational, maybe they don't need a gun anyway.
  • Bad parenting. This can actually be a root cause- bad parenting can cause an otherwise rational child to go bad, and compound the problem very quickly. Watch your kids, nuture your kid, and always remember that what you do early has a bigger impact than what you do late.
  • Exclusionary social practices in the schools. This will make certain people angry, but due its appearance later in your childhood, is generally not a primary motivating factor. While it is probably detrimental to society as a whole, any rational person can survive this.
  • Genetics. The big one. A fairly signifigant portion of your psyche is set by your genetic code. Poor genetics can be overcome by good parenting, and sometimes drugs, but poor genetics and poor parenting will really mess someone up.
Become Famous Overnight!

...just add bullets.

It seems to me that the latest rash of school shootings (not really a rash, but those occuring in the past three years) springs from a phenomenon that police all over the United States are all to familiar with, that of Copycat Crime.

Kip Kinkel, Columbine, these became household words overnight due to the saturation of these events by the American Media. The message that the Columbine shooters were trying to get out were published in every paper from Maine to California. What better way to get the message that "you're not happy" to the nation at large than emulating the successes of others.

People like to point fingers a lot, the media shouts against everything from Film Violence, to Video Games and the high availibility of firearms. Yet we don't hear about the overnight celebrity that the media grants these troubled individuals. Why would a depressed teen quietly overdose on barbituates (an act that might get run in local papers, only if they're successful), when they can garner national attention by going on a shooting spree, and strike back at those they percieve made them so miserable.

This is one case where it could be that the treatment causes the disease.
This is simple. When everybody hates you and your friends. When they misunderstand everything about you. When everybody picks on you, because they can, and you're different. When the only attention you get is from people suffering the same persecution as yourself. When you and your friends talk about the cruelty and unfairness being dealt to you, over and over, multiplying every offense. Medication? Genetics? Video games? You all missed it. Being continually picked on and laughed at, humiliated, and made to be ashamed of everything about yourself. When you have no pride, no self worth, and nothing left to hang on to. When the rage at the endless assaults, the loneliness of not having anyone care about you, and the apparent hopelessness that nothing is ever getting any better grow to be more than you can stand. What have you got to lose?

That's what's happening. Nobody's stepping in to help these kids, instead they're getting branded as "dangerous children" and treated like criminals. Yeah, that will help reduce the isolation.

LordOmar has the best possible explanation for the recent increases in school shootings -- it's a self-perpetuating cycle fueled by the media...but how did the cycle start to begin with? Blaming the problem on guns is ridiculous, it's a superficial attack on a very deep and insidious problem. Yes, to have guns lying around within reach of a child is stupid, but most of these shootings have involved teenagers, who obviously did not act rationally...at some point they had to know that what they were doing was wrong and disastrous to their future.

When someone decides to shoot up their school, they effectively end their own lives in a vengeful display of aggression and retaliation. They have already decided that revenge is more valuable than their lives, so the problem is: why do people find so much glory in killing eachother? The Columbine killers got exactly what they wanted. They became immensely famous, and they deliberately planned on dying and becoming martyrs. Their entire goal was to wreak bloody havoc on their classmates, and then to be plastered all over the media as an example of what happens when you push the wrong kids around.

I would go as far as to say that almost every kid who experiences true bullying has violent fantasies. A huge percentage of these kids (probably 99.99999% or so, who knows) are truly rational and know that there is no point in acting on these fantasies. One of the best consolations one can find is "they're idiots, someday I will be successful and they will be worthless to society." Living well is the best revenge, but some people, for whatever reason, choose to use deadly force instead. But some people lose the ability to judge their own thoughts; to say "That's a crazy, fucked up thought, and there's no way I'm acting on it." Obsessive-compulsive people (such as myself) often live with the most insane and violent thoughts possible, but they constantly judge them as such, and ignore them. I've heard of mothers obsessing about stabbing their babies to death, mothers who are otherwise perfectly suited to raising a child -- mothers who DO successfully raise their children without acting on the relentless "bad thoughts" that consume them.

When I was in Middle School I was subjected to bullying; I never got into any fights or had any true physical threats of violence, but I was harassed on a pretty regular basis. I often fantasized about killing my enemies, but also fantasized about being twenty years older and successful and happy, all of this being a mere memory. This latest California shooter was probably harassed moreso than I; his bookbag had been dumped in a toilet on one occasion, and he was constantly antagonized for his "fish out of water" appearance.

Just about every adolescent is a little bit crazy, if crazy means "irrational." In criminal cases we define "insane" as "unable to know the difference between right and wrong," but I think more cases of insanity involve people who DO know the difference, but choose to act in defiance or indifference to morality. Teenagers are constantly being told that they are immature and irresponsible, yet they are burdened with new responsibilities and stresses on a regular basis. They often feel persecuted and misunderstood, and have a tendency to feel alienated. Some are much smarter or more reasonable than others, but strangely enough these shootings often involve rather intelligent kids, sometimes suffering from what society has deemed "mental disorders." These kids aren't stupid. It's not that they don't know that killing is wrong. They want to do wrong because of all the wrong that has been done to them.

Some people are truly crazy, but most of the insane function within society for the majority of their lives. Eric Harris lived for nearly two decades before self-destruction. Insanity is a combination of inner perception and outer reality; one can be driven deeper and deeper into a self-perpetuating state of paranoia and hatred, where every little thing that happens reinforces one's dislike of the world and the humans that inhabit it. Crazy people often function until something pushes them over the edge. No one really deserves to die for pushing someone around in high school, but to that student who is constantly the recipient of everybody's aggressions, the entire planet is guilty. This is why these school shooters never seem to kill the people that really piss them off. Instead, they take to hating the human race as a whole, and fire off with reckless abandon, often killing people who have nothing at all to do with their persecution.

True misanthropy is bred by bad experiences and preconceptions. The more a person is antagonized by individual people, the more they begin to dislike humanity as a whole. That's what drives these people to commit violence. I'm sure I have shared many of their thoughts and fantasies, and I even wrote a story or two about school vengeance "in my day." But I never acted on this urges; some people choose otherwise. Why does it take so long for this to happen? School is every American's first intense social experience away from the protective world of childhood. Children can be cruel and mean and often unreasonable -- and when they focus all of their negative energy onto one person, they can instigate a level of hatred that they could never individually imagine.

So what's the moral of the story? Don't harass people, don't push people around, don't drive like an asshole. Remember Road Rage? It's the same situation; every time you drive you are exposing yourself to hundreds of people. Any one of them could be completely insane, so how do you protect yourself? By not driving like a complete ass, that's how.

Every time a school shooting occurs, hundreds of kids collectively fantasize a little more about pulling one off themselves. Every time it happens, it gives somebody else the courage to try it also. How do we stop the cycle? We could start by teaching kids not to persecute eachother for their differences. And parents can make more of an effort to address their children's possible insanity. If your kid has a tendency to brood and seems to lack motivation, talk to them, but don't accuse them or spy on them behind their backs. Sometimes people just need to be aware of the fact that their existence means something to someone else. Being distant with your children is the worst possible thing you can do. And don't assume that the answer is in a pill. Prozac might make things better, but there is a growing body of evidence pointing to the fact that some people have a completely whacked-out reaction and become highly suicidal. This is rare, but it happens. Anti-depressant drugs may alleviate the symptoms of the problem, but it's not going to correct the true cause -- a lack of self worth. People who kill other people feel inherently worthless. I doubt any murderer over the age of 10 hasn't been clearly aware of the fact that they are effectively dead to society once they've committed the act.

honestly, though, i do sympathize to some degree...

when i was in high school, i used to make cheap napalm in my best friend's garage. we'd try all the different ways we had read about: styrofoam, vaseline, dishsoap...all of course with gasoline and other flammable things... and then one day she bribed a guy (with a carton of cigarettes, no less!) to stab me to death. i pushed him down a flight of stairs and ran.

starting in preschool at the age of 3, i was taunted and physically beaten by other students on a daily basis. my only salvation was that i always knew they were idiots. when i was in kindergarten, i learned to ask other things if they could spell the insults they hurled at me, but that tended to provoke stone-throwing. i never ratted them out. i felt bad for them. they'd never amount to anything.

this went on for sixteen years. in middle school, the boys in my classes took their entertainments by beating me with their textbooks. by highschool, i couldn't go into the cafeteria without having food thrown at me. sophomore year, a girl finally almost succeeded in the much coveted goal of killing me. she caught me sitting down and kicked me in the throat with her steeltoed boots for about ten minutes straight. i was bleeding from the eyes and ears by the time she was done. the school administration sided with her and asked me not to come back to their school, despite the fact that i was an honour student.

i quit. i often went back up to the school to see the teacher who administered my exams, and i always carried a large knife that i was very familiar with the use of. i planned to slit my guidance counsellor's throat. she'd tried to have me removed from school because she was afraid of me several times before she succeeded. i dreamed of bombing the school. i made pipe bombs in my bedroom. i got very familiar with common explosives and detonation methods. i went to the local pawn shops and looked at guns. i took a liking to H&K .38s, but i couldn't buy one.

i homeschooled for a year and a half, and came back my senior semester with no patience for other people's crap, and a vicious sense of humour. the first week back, i threw a small, knife-toting gangstee down the hall because he called me a bitch when i asked him to let me at my locker. i got a lot less shit after that. apparently while i was gone, a lot of rumours circulated about me, including that i was dead. freshmen had heard of me. i quickly established that i was to be respected and feared. i refused to confirm or deny rumours. in fact, i often just smiled unpleasantly at people and returned to my book. i took my final revenge the last time i spoke to my counsellor. she heard that i had taken japanese while i was away, and asked me to teach her a phrase. i taught her one (that i no longer recall how to say in japanese. suggestions, starry?) that meant "you bitch, i will hit you until you die!" and told her it was a greeting. i figured i'd hear about it when some exchange student's dad killed her...

but the point of all this is that i was almost one of those school shooters. to this day, i often think there would've been a certain satisfaction in invoking that sort of mass terror, in making them scream, but then i remember that they were like dogs...unless you stop them in the act they'll never know why they're being punished

After hearing about a school shooting, I get incredibly sad. Not so much because of the people who died and were wounded, or even the aftermath that their families and community has to deal with. It's because of the moral depravity of society and the young age it begins to appear. What drives people to do something like this? It's something that I will never understand.

A couple of days ago, a school shooting occured in Santee, which is part of San Diego, California. When I heard about it, I was shocked because this is a half an hour away from where I live. It hit a little close to home, so to speak. No one ever thinks that it can happen to their school, or their friends, or oneself. But it can. It happens every day, to a smaller degree, that the media ignores. As soon as a white, middle class boy gets it into his sick little mind to murder his peers, it gets straight to national news. But if a minority gets ticked at another minority and decides to drive by and shoot them, they're lucky if they become a statistic.

I get depressed sometimes, and I wouldn't mind if some people died at my school. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to kill them myself. I'm not going to ruin my reputation and future because of a couple high school losers that are inconsequential to my overall existence. I say, if you really want to kill people, become a serial killer and pick and murder who you want. Bringing a gun into school and shooting those who you've probably never even talked to is the stupidest idea. What if you were destined to marry that person, or become their best friend, or they saved your brother's life? How would you feel about killing them then? These little high school gun shooting psychotic pricks really need to think these things out before they decide to ruin their and other's lives.

If you'll excuse my generalised social mathematics:


Bullying + Unstable Personality + Teenage Hormones = Suicide

Bullying + Unstable Personality + Teenage Hormones + Guns = Suicide or School Shootings


You're fifteen. The bullying has reached the point where you feel you just can't go on. Perhaps in later life, this would seem minor in perspective, but when you're fifteen, it's the worst thing you've ever felt. Is this adult life? If so, why on earth should you want to live it?

You decide you want to end it all. You can:
a) easily aquire a gun, kill bullies, kill yourself; avenge your own death.

b) Kill yourself quietly; make it quite clear that they've won.
I'm not condoning bullying; I was bullied a lot at school, although not to the point of considering suicide (which happens very rarely in the UK, but occasionally). But take away the guns, and at worst you have one death. One which, to divorce myself from emotion, may actually make the bullies consider what they've done, rather than just say "He was crazy!" and move through life with a clear conscience.

Yes, the bullying is the root of the problem. Yes, the media frenzy is giving the idea of shootings to kids who'd otherwise not have thought of it. But yes, taking the guns away would at least be an excercise in damage limitation.

Seeing as fondue's contribution has again slipped into the void, I'll add some of the points he made. Here in the UK, we have never had a student-perpetrated school shooting. This is not because we say prayers every morning, care for our children more, or restrict violent video games; we don't. It's not because we drink tea. It's because guns are illegal, very hard to obtain illegally, and utterly unavaliable to angst-ridden teenage students.

School shootings are an interesting thing. They are very rare, but get huge ammounts of attention. For instance, when there is a school bus accident (another rare thing) where students get killed. Rarely is there a call to action in every school in the nation.

The risk of violence in schools, which has been declining steadily over the last 20 years, is overestimated in the public's mind. A recent Gallup poll found that 30% of the people polled felt that it was "very likely" that a school shooting would happen in their school. A student is five times more likely to be killed going to or from school than in it. In fact, school children are the least likely to die actually in school.

Think about that next time it is proposed to have additional security measures such as metal detectors in your or your child's school. This money could go to instruction.


Patches of ice are forming on the log dam the beavers had built last year. Daddy killed the beavers and I am wearing their skin this winter.

I used to like sitting here by the little river we'd called ours since the idea of California got lost somewhere in daddy's head. For four solid years, it was all he could talk about and now we live here since the wheel on the wagon broke. Not even half way. I still ain't seen the ocean or the desert. I ain't sure which I imagine the most. Every dream I have now has either sand or waves in it. I guess I just don't want to have to face another winter here in Missouri. The last bad one killed my mom and I ain't so sure this one won't kill us all. We can tell by the size of the coats on the woolly bears that it's going to be as bad as it gets. Daddy just ain't cut out for survival and I ain't big enough to help all that much.

If it does me in, that's fine and good. But I can't quit thinking about Elisabeth. She's two years younger than me and she don't even remember ever having a mother. I guess I'm as close to a mom as she'll ever have.

I'm eight years old and I'm my little sister's closest thing to a mommy. Daddy needed a boy to help him. I know that's what he thinks of when he comes home at night and sees us there, cuddled up by the dwindling fire. When he's gone out hunting I tell stories to Elisabeth about her mommy and California. I make mommy prettier than she really was, with long brown hair and doe-shaped eyes. I don't tell Liz about the last few weeks when she was screaming and how the house smelled.

I try to have school for her but it's hard 'cause I ain't never been to no school and I don't really know how to read the big words in the seven books we have in the house. Especially the Bible. Those names are really hard to say out loud and I ain't got no idea what that whole thing is about. But I like to tell Liz the first part about how God made the light out of nothing at all and how he made everything that is in just a few days. Then we'll go out in the snow for a while and make things out of snow and act like we're God turning nothing into something.

It's hard to say how daddy's gonna turn this mess into anything right here, though. And that's what keeps me awake at night. Daddy's snoring over on his bed and Elisabeth is hugging her blanket and sucking her thumb and I'm lying here in the dark, dark Missouri winter's night thinking I'm the only one that knows we're all gonna die right here in this spot and no one will ever know we were here.

I imagine how we must look to God from up there in the sky. Little specks in a snowstorm with the ability to know we're here and what's going to happen to us, while the critters outside roam around without a single thought in their heads except the need they have right now to eat or drink or whatever else it is that critters do all day and night. It don't seem right that I shouldn't be able to just turn this mess in my head off and be a critter and quit worrying all the time. Even when daddy manages to trap one of them and I see the look on their face while they're dying, they don't seem all that upset about it. They don't look like they ever thought about this happening to them before and ain't thinking too much about what's happening right now.

I'm startin' to think that it'd be better for Liz if she went ahead and got this over with before she knows what I know.

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