The Tragedies of High School Shootings

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Updated: Jan 20, 2019
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It is heartbreaking and horrifying feeling when we watch young students on TV or in person running out of their schools, fearful for their lives to be taken away. School shootings are terrifying incidents that make us wonder what if we or our loved ones may face these types of situations. People have been calling for an action to address the increasing number of mass school shootings in the United States during the past decades.

In one study that was published in Springer’s Journal of Child and Family Studies, shows that in the past 18 years, more people have died or been harmed in mass school shootings than in the entire 20th century (Journal of Child and Family Studies pp262-2573). The increasing numbers of mass shootings during the past decades are concerning, and it brings up many debates about gun control, mental illness, and media violence and its effect on our society.

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To address the mass school shootings, it is important to have a clear understanding of the causations of the problem and avoid being driven by our emotions to resolve the issue. It is necessary to focus our attention on the two main factors in mass shootings, which are the individuals who commit it and guns. We need to be aware that neglecting mentally ill people and underestimating how they feel can cause issues like school violence; also, we need to address the violent media because it is the spark that desensitizes our society to violence.

A variety of factors can play a crucial role in school shootings, but one important factor that many people have been arguing about is gun control. To address the school shootings issue, some Americans argue that we have weak gun control policies and that we need to have stricter guns regulations, and as a result, it will become harder for those trying to commit mass shootings to have access to guns when deep background checks are performed.

An article by the USA Today titled “”Why the AR-15 keeps appearing at America’s deadliest mass shootings,”” shows that for people to protect themselves, military weapons are not necessary and should not be sold at gun shops; also, the most common weapon used in school shootings is an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon, which it seems that those who commit school shootings had easy access to this weapon (Cummings & Jansen). Considering our biggest stock of personal firearms and weapons in the world, some advocate for stricter gun regulations and laws that would minimize the incidences of shootings, which also helps to keep weapons away from individuals who might want to use them to hurt others (McCowan 1).

After the Parkland school tragedy which it took place on February 14, 2018, Senator Cory Booker stated that “”our nation must act on gun violence”” (McCowan 1). In contrast, the flipside of the argument denies critics against gun policies and supports the idea that the weapons are not responsible for mass school shootings, but the individuals who commit these shootings are the ones responsible for these brutal incidents.

An article by The New York Times, “”Another Shooting, Another Gun Debate Will the Outcome Be the Same?”” supports the idea that schools need to be supplied with guns to prevent massacres, since having teachers and school staff armed and ready to protect themselves, shooters will have to think twice before acting (Baker and Shear 1). This side of the argument also thinks that preventing people to obtain firearms is a violation of the second amendment—a constitutional right which allows people to bear an arm—and that will lead us to bigger issues (Baker and Shear 1).

Another factor where there are two different opinions about the reasons for school shootings is the mental-illness problems that those shooters suffer from. A study by Gilligan, James, M. D. & Lee, Bandy, M. D., shows that individuals with mental illness are more likely to be accused of violence, and when there is a combination of depression, paranoia, narcissism, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, etc., these individuals can predispose to violent behavior; especially, when individuals experienced or had experienced severe trauma or stress (Gilligan and Lee 1).

Moreover, this study shows that 60% of these mass school shootings are committed by individuals who displayed mental issues characteristics in the past (Gilligan and Lee 1). What’s more is that this side of the argument also argues that it is important to identify and treat those who have the characteristics that make them more likely to commit violent behavior, and it is the government’s responsibility to provide the support needed to prevent them from involving in violent behaviors (Gilligan and Lee 1).

On the other hand, others argue that the correlations of mass shootings and mental health issues are not concrete and that the mentally-ill individuals do not play a crucial role in mass school shootings. The American Journal of Public Health in an article by Metzl, Jonathan M., and Kenneth T. MacLeish. “”Mental illness, mass shootings, and the politics of American firearms”” claims that approximately one in five adults in the U.S.—approximately 43.8 million—experience mental illness, and it is not factual to view that all the mentally-ill individuals as future criminals because not all murders are committed by mentally-ill people (Metzl et al. 245).

This claim is supported by a statistical study that shows 22 percent of the crimes have mental-illness correlation; however, the other 78 percent of murders show no correlation with mental health issues (Metzl et al. 245). Furthermore, the link between the mass shootings with mental health issues is not concrete evidence to support the claim that mental illness is responsible for the school shootings and that the majority of mentally ill individuals are not violent people (Metzl et al. 245).

Some people focus on the obvious reasons of the causations of the school shootings; however, a small portion of the American people think deeper into the issue, where they believe that the violent media is responsible to build a violent and aggressive society—where we see high levels of violent events like the mass shootings.

Some researches support and think we need to take action against what the media is feeding us, and there are others who oppose this claim and think that the violent media does not affect us negatively at all and that the media causes violence, is just an exaggeration. David G. Myers Ph. D. & Jean M. Twenge Ph. D. guided a study that showed violent media motivates violence; when watching aggressive content, we will unleash people’s aggressive urges and teach them new ways to aggress.

As an outcome, we will have a society that is desensitized to violence, meaning that people exposed to violent media repeatedly, will not be bothered by violence anymore because the emotional response will extinguish (Myers & Twenge 319). Equally important, this side of the argument also think that violent game playing might have a more toxic effect than watching violent television because players identify with and play the role of a violent character (Myers & Twenge 321). In addition, players actively rehearse violence, instead of passively watching it, and players are rewarded for violent acts when repeating violent behaviors over and over (Myers & Twenge 321).

Contrastingly, others believe that the effect of violent media and violent video games does not have a negative impact on our society or linked in any way with violent behaviors. “”Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do,”” an article published by The New York Times, supports the catharsis hypothesis, which is the idea that violent media/games allow people to safely express their aggressive tendencies and release violence (Kutner & Olson, 2008). While social psychology researchers argue that the violent media breeds violence, some critics suggest that social psychology’s community is trying to market itself by blaming school shootings or violent events on violent media (Ferguson, Christopher).

It seems that each side of the argument have a firm position on where they stand about the high school shootings issue, but it also seems that some of both sides’ solutions to control this problem are not completely effective. Even though it is a violation for the second amendment to prevent people to bear an arm, it is a good idea that we acknowledge the statistics that certain weapons—like the AR-15—have been used in schools shootings, and we need stricter background checks to prevent these mass shootings; however, when we say “”we need stricter background checks,”” technically, we are saying that we need to assure that weapons are not provided to the wrong individuals with bad and violent records, which relatively leans to the idea that individuals are responsible for violent events, not the weapons.

It is convenient and easier for criminals to cause big damage when a weapon like the AR-15 is available in hand; nonetheless, if these criminals have no access to semi-automatic weapons, it is possible that they use different weapons like firearms, knives, home-made explosives, and home-made semi-automatic weapons; also, these criminals can obtain semi-automatic weapons illegally to commit these violent actions. For that, these individuals should be identified—by informing people to report any suspicious activities—and either helped—if they have mental issues—or locked down—if they have bad records.

Supplying schools’ teachers and staff with weapons seems to be a bad idea because even though the reason behind it is to self-defend when a violent incident occurs, it can reflect negatively on students, teachers, and school staff. For example, having teachers and school staff armed is a constant reminder for students that they live in an unsafe environment, which it could distract them from focusing on their classes, it is also possible that this plan can backfire if students try to distract teachers to figure out a way to get a gun away from a teacher; also, it will make it harder for first responders to distinguish between school staff from school shooters.

Although, many agree and disagree that mental health issues are responsible for mass shootings, understanding that mentally ill individuals are not the ultimate cause of mass shootings is important because one in five adults in the U.S., experience or suffer mental illness, and it is not factual to view all mentally-ill people as future criminals (Metzl et al. 245). Nevertheless, the ability to take someone else’s life intentionally requires mental instability within a person, and it is hard for people who enjoy mentally healthy status to commit a crime because of the pain and the guilt it causes.

Murders are immoral and brutal behaviors, and individuals who commit it do not enjoy a healthy psychological status; for example, 19 years old Nikolas Cruz has suffered from ADHD, PTSD, depression, and autism, where he shot and killed 17 students and staff members in Stoneman Douglas High school, Feb 14, 2018 (McCausland, Phil, 2018). Florida mental health agency examined Cruz with mental issues in 2016, but they didn’t hospitalize him, and he was only given medications—which Cruz eventually stopped taking (McCausland, Phil, 2018).

Ultimately, the situation brings us to the crucial point that we neglect mentally-ill people, and we underestimate how they feel and how they are treated; as a result, that will lead us to bigger issues like the school shootings. Blaming mentally ill individuals is not a solution for the school shootings; instead, people with mental illness needs to be identified and provided with the help needed to have them enjoy healthy psychological status. It could be argued that the media have a significant impact on our everyday life and on how to deal with others; however, violent media has an extremely negative influence on our life like watching violent content or playing violent video games.

Some think that playing aggressive video games will release bad emotions from angry people—the catharsis hypothesis: violent games allow people to safely express their aggressive tendencies and get their anger out—but practicing violence breeds rather than releases violence, which this hypothesis is likely to backfire, leading to more anger and aggression (Bushman & Whitaker, 2010). Adam Lanza, who shot 20 first-graders and 6 teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in 2012, spent many hours playing the warfare game Call of Duty (Wong, Alia 2018).

For that we need stricter policies that limit viewing and playing violent media; for example, eliminating violent content from children channels, and limiting the access to violent video games to a certain age where people are less likely to be influenced by violent content. To conclude, there are different views and opinions about the causations of the mass school shootings, but we must control and overcome these issues to avoid them from reaching us or our loved ones.

It is important to avoid bias in this matter and put aside our political views because school shootings are responsible to determine our kid’s and our feature. It is not only our responsibility but also the government’s to stand against bullying—against those who bully students with mental or physical issues—and support those who experience or had experienced severe trauma or suffer from mental illness, to eliminate the development of bigger problems.

When we stop bullying, we are helping both the bully and the person being bullied because both are developing a sense of hate and aggression toward themselves and others. When we neglect addressing bullying against other students, it is more likely to instill hate against others, which can drive to commit these hatful acts. The high school period is an extremely important time in students’ lives because it is the time when they build their characters, and it is essential to assure they have psychologically healthy lives.

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The Tragedies of High School Shootings. (2019, Jan 20). Retrieved from