The Science of a School Shooting

Staff and students evacuate Columbine High Sch...

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Warning: The following post is not funny in any way. If you are looking for something amusing, go elsewhere today. The funny(ish) posts will return tomorrow.

Who’s to blame?

This question was everywhere my fifth grade year. As I wrapped up my career as a child and moved nearer that dreaded “teen” category, news spread around our school.

In Colorado, two high school kids had walked into their school building. With weapons strapped to their sides, they proceeded to murder 13 people before turning their guns on themselves. The entire nation was enraptured by this story. Fear permeated every school district in America as principals and superintendents worried about a repeat incident.

Extra security surrounded every school. Districts enacted metal detectors at every entry point. All the while, parents, students, teachers, and government officials continued asking that open-ended, highly explosive question.

Who’s to blame?

Some people quickly turned the blame to the media. Violent movies and video games had desensitized these boys. Musicians like Marilyn Manson had done their part as well. Even the news that reported on the shooting became a target. These accusations led to angry parents, furious lawmakers, and entertainers desperately grasping at any chance they could to explain their art.

Other’s blamed the students at the school. Both boys had been bullied throughout their school career. This bullying, they said, had grown so intense that this was their attempt at freeing themselves from constant physical and emotional beat downs. The teachers had let things go for far too long, allowing a tragedy like this to, eventually, become the outcome.

More blame came to the boys themselves and their families. Everywhere you looked, a new person was at fault. In the end, everyone had been blamed, but no one had actually found the cause of such a catastrophe.

Since that day, a great deal has changed. Stricter gun control laws were put into place and a new police tactic was developed that would allow for immediate reactionary measures by local police in the event that there was an active shooter on the loose.

The one thing that has not changed, though, is these shootings themselves.

Since that deadly Columbine day, 148 people have been killed in shootings at their school, a building where the usual disaster involves lost homework or a forgotten test. These students and teachers never saw it coming until it was too late. All of these shootings shared that same question.

Today saw another disaster take place. In a Chardon,Ohio high school, 15-year-old T.J. Lane walked into his school cafeteria, opening fire. One student was killed, four were injured. Just days earlier, he had posted melancholic poetry to his Facebook page. This is not an unusual activity for teenagers, but it is not a sign that all is well.

With the damage once again done, the debate will again rage. Students have already begun to dispute whether Lane was or was not a bullied student. Some say the shootings were random, some say they were targeted. No one says they saw it coming.

So what causes a seemingly average teenager to resort to this? Is it the media they consume or is it the environment they are put in?

There is no easy explanation. No one will ever be able to point their finger at one thing that would lead a teen to this kind of senseless solution to a very temporary problem. No doubt, this community will try to search for the answer. Some politician will use this disaster to their advantage, trying to push their pet-project from bill into law. Schools will try to explain this to their students and try to explain how it they will never let it happen to them.

None of these people know the answer, though.

The answer is very simple: there is a lack. A lack of something, a lack of everything. With more caring from their families, things might be different. With more attention from their school, this might never happen again. More community with the students, more awareness of the student’s media intake, more of everything.

Maybe this will be the last of these disasters I ever have to hear about. I’m not holding my breath. Until there is a change at a deeper level, something that will pull people away from their natural inclinations to show concern for only themselves, things will not change.

There is no law that will prevent these students from the feelings of desperation that lead to this. There is no school regulation that will end loneliness or prevent distress. The only thing that can change this is genuine caring. Until then, we will just find ourselves asking that same, answerless question.

Who’s to blame?


17 thoughts on “The Science of a School Shooting

  1. And movies like Chronicle that just came out in theatres dont necessarily help… Just saying 😀
    I get scared because my oldest with be entering high school in August and its terrifying for me as a mother when you hear about such awful things occuring like this in school.
    Thanks for this post, its really fantastic!


  2. You know it was a really weird day. Kind of cold and sunny. I went to lunch with friends in Boulder and had a bad feeling in my gut. I mentioned it and said that I should probably drive home really slowly since I felt something bad was going to happen. I didn’t want to get a speeding ticket. When I got home, I saw the school surrounded by police and they were reporting that there had been a shooting. I kept thinking, “Why hasn’t the SWAT team gone in?” It was so frustrating to see the students run out. They were so unprotected. It was terrible. I still can’t believe the police didn’t go in right away….but there was plenty of blame to go around.


  3. Pingback: Shooting at suburban high school in Ohio « Samyueru Iriamuzu

  4. I think you are spot on with there being a lack, especially a lack of community. In this age of constant connectivity, we seem to be actually connected less. Often it turns up later in these cases that these people do such things to finally be noticed.

    It is terrible that it takes such tragedies to bring people more together for a short time, but it is even worse that afterward people almost seem to forget and isolate themselves and others again too soon.


    • I know what you mean. Right after the shooting yesterday (while the details were still emerging, mind you) CNN had bumped the story off to the side for a story about the Republican presidential candidates fighting.



  5. I think one of the reasons is that children are left too much to their own devices. Parents really need to spend more time with their children. And I guess that’s easier said (with workplace pressure and all), but something of that sort needs to be done.
    Children need guidance and they need to learn from a good source. If you don’t teach your own kids, who will?


  6. The strange thing is that humans are inherently a community animal. What has civilisation done to us that people feel so lonely that their only way to attract attention is a random act of destruction?

    Thank you for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Nathan.


  7. Thanks for starting a thoughtful discussion on this tragedy Nathan. I don’t know if anyone has the answer. I do know that when I was a kid in the 50’s and 60’s, 99% of kids came from stable, intact families with two parents, one of whom stayed home to raise the kids and was there when kids came home from school. Most parents were married and stayed that way. Kids played outside a lot, watched family shows and cartoons on TV, and did not have computers or video games. Most famililies participated in religious services. We never, ever had school shootings back then.

    I think the trigger that starts youth on the road to desperation that leads to their shooting their peers, starts long before kids ever get to school. We can’t legislate for families to be stable, make their children feel loved and secure, and teach them values. People have to choose to do these things themselves.


  8. So sad and true. Like you said, the blame really rests on the shoulders of our whole society. We have created this idea that “you” are the only person who matters. “You” deserve this or that. “You” are the problem.

    When you add that mentality to a teenager who (as all teens) has a lack of impulse control, it is a disaster waiting to happen.


  9. You couldn’t have said it better: “There is no law that will prevent these students from the feelings of desperation that lead to this. There is no school regulation that will end loneliness or prevent distress. The only thing that can change this is genuine caring. Until then, we will just find ourselves asking that same, answerless question.”
    In my case, I always felt like an outcast in high school and I found, and still find, that having over 25 children in one classroom with just 1 teacher does not work out. Some students need a lot more caring than that.


  10. The answer is simple, there is a lack… Yes, the is a lack of love and understanding for the individual who is hurting. For them, there is a lack. Saddness is a belief that I lack something I believe I NEED. Yes, there is a lack. And now, blessings to you, always. T


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