School Shootings And Violence Why
It is a normal day at school. You are eating lunch in the cafeteria. Suddenly gun shots ring out down the hall. Two of your classmates burst through the doors, armed with guns, firing almost aimlessly. They are looking for all the kids who have made their lives miserable! What caused these students to take such sadistic actions? The number of school shootings has risen dramatically in the past twenty years. There has been at least one shooting every year since 1991. Even though violent video games, television, and bullying in schools influence children in negative ways, the children, themselves, have psychological problems, and there is nothing else to blame their violent acts on.
One in three students in America does not feel safe at school (Orr). What are the shooter’s reasons for attacking the schools? Some experts conclude that the recent trends of violence in video games and on TV are manipulating children. Nearly half of the video games a typical seventh grader plays are violent or involve killing. The shooters of the Columbine Tragedy, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, were avid players of the games Doom and Quake (Keegan). Both of which are controversial games that have been referred to as “ultraviolent video games” (Sternheimer). But normal, healthy children do not play these games just for the thrill of shooting someone. Jack, a devoted violent computer gamer in his twenties, was interviewed about the games and he replied, “Yeah, saying you like computer games for violence is like saying you like baseball for running. (Keegan)” Jack was also asked his opinions why the games included the act of killing people, “Violence is there to grab people, get into it, and have them say ‘that looks cool!’ But once you get into it, you don’t even notice the violence. You don’t go, ‘Oh, cool he blew up!’” (Keegan). Repeated exposure to violent images is desensitizing and causes students to become less sensitive to pain of others (Keegan). This may be true in some cases although it will not drive normal, healthy children to go on a mass killing spree. It is the volatile children that this has an extreme effect on. Politicians around the nation have become more concerned about the deadly trend in recent years. A group of senators including Joseph Lieberman and Hillary Clinton introduced a bill in March, 2005, that called for $90 million to fund studies on the effects of media on children. Lieberman commented, “America is a media-rich society, but despite the flood of information, we still lack perhaps the most important piece of information–what effects are media having on our children?” (Sternheimer). It is not only the politicians that target video games as the source. After recent shootings the media’s headlines are full of titles such as, “All those who deny any linkage between violence in entertainment and violence in real life, think again” (Caruso). In their opinion, the headline is very self explanatory at what is at fault. Kids can tell a difference between fantasy games and reality! Growing up playing videogames myself, never once did I confused reality with the games. “Over the past century, politicians have complained that cars, radio, movies, rock music, and even comic books caused youth immorality and crime, calling for control and sometimes censorship” (Sternheimer). Violent video games are just the new rock-n-roll!
Another possible influence or motivation is simply how they were raised and the environment that they were raised in. Although it sounds like a good argument and that at first it appears to be the right place to point the finger, there are examples where it does not add up. The roots of violence develop in the first two years of our lives, starting at conception (Ramsland). There is very little time to corrupt your child if they are raised in a normal home. Dylan Klebold, one of the shooters at Columbine High school, lived a normal childhood, his parents both attended Ohio State University and were very involved in their Jewish religion. Dylan played tee ball and soccer and was also in the Boy Scouts. The neighbors described them as being nice and a picture perfect family. His childhood resembled that of almost any young boy; it was not the way he was raised that led to the shootings.
Bullying in schools and trying to become famous are other popular topics blamed for the latest shootings. Some shooters often claim that they were picked on and made fun of in school. Although, not all were harassed, Dylan Klebold, standing at almost 6’3” was not teased at school said friends of his. Eric Harris said he did not want to be famous he just wanted to hurt people (Cullen). Eric’s statements in themselves sound crazy.
School violence is a result of the children, themselves, and their mental problems. Many of the popular shooters were diagnosed as psychopathic, a condition characterized by lack of empathy or a conscience and violating social morals with no guilt or remorse. Eric Harris is a perfect example of a psychopath. He was described by some adults and students as being “nice”, but Harris was cold, calculating, and homicidal (Cullen). Psychopaths suffer from a very different mental condition that doesn’t usually involve violence, or even psychosis. “Psychopaths are not disoriented or out of touch with reality, nor do they experience the delusions, hallucinations, or intense subjective distress that characterizes most other mental disorders” (Cullen). Psychopaths are very aware of what they are doing and why they are doing it.
There is no excuse and there will never be a reasonable excuse for the events that happened at schools like Virginia Tech and Columbine High School. Although when asking the questions in the aftermath such as, “What caused these things to happen?” or, “How can we prevent them from happening again?”, there are many answers. The only real answer that did fit the profile of every single shooter is that they all were truly mentally unstable. As far as preventing it, that is a whole different story.
Caruso, Denise. “TECHNOLOGY: Digital Commerce; All those who deny any linkage between violence in entertainment and violence in real life, think again.” New York Times 26 April 1999.
Cullen, Dave. “The Depressive and the Psychopath.” Slate 20 April 2004.
Dority, Barbara. The Columbine Tragedy: Countering the Hysteria. The Humanist, July.1999.
Gahr, Evan. Fellow Conservatives: Our Position is Hypocritical. The Washington Post, 4.22.2007.
Gillespie, Nick. Schools of Alienation. Reason Magizine, 7.19.1999.
Keegan, Paul. Culture Quake. Mother Jones, Nov. 1999.
Orr, Tamra. Violence in Our Schools. 2003.
Rabinowitz, Dorthy. Bullying Is Not a Valid Reason for School Schhotings. Wall Street Journal, 3.9.2001.
Ramsland, Katherine. SERIAL KILLERS/TRULY WEIRD & SHOCKING. 2007. 8 10 2007
Sternheimer, Karen. Do Video Games Kill? Vol. 6. Winter 2007.
Wise, Tim. School Shootings and White Denial. The Pride, March.27.2001.