What Can We Do As a Society to Prevent School Shootings?

//HANNAH JENKINS//

On Dec. 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle and two handguns. Lanza then proceeded to fatally shoot 20 children between the ages of seven and nine along with six staff members. Just 13 years earlier, on Apr. 20, 1999, 17-year-old Dylan Klebold and 18-year-old Eric Harris entered Columbine High School with two shotguns, an Intratec TEC-DC9, a Hi-Point 995 Carbine, 99 explosives, and four knives. Klebold and Harris then proceeded to shoot and kill 13 people before killing themselves.Seven months ago, on Feb. 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz entered Stoneman Douglas High School with a .223-caliber AR-15 rifle. Cruz then proceeded to shoot and kill 17 people.

School shootings have been on the rise for the past 19 years and the question still remains, “how do we prevent them”. It turns out, that question is a lot harder to answer than many initially thought it would be. In order to even attempt to answer this question, other questions need to be answered first such as ‘What is a school shooting?’, ‘What causes a school shooting?’ and ‘What can we do as a society to prevent school shootings?’. The following article will answer these types of questions.

What is a shooting?

The official official definition of a school shooting is defined as an attack on  an educational institution, such as a school or university, involving the use of a firearm. Incidents that result in four or more deaths are considered mass shootings.

Why do these shootings happen?

When a school shooting occurs, many people ask the question of ‘why?’. Contrary to popular belief, the ‘why?’ doesn’t start at the guns, but with the shooter. ‘Why did the shooter do what they did?’

Untreated mental illness is commonly believed to be the main factor in most school shootings. In a study performed by the World Health Organization in 2014, it was found that one in four people in the world will be affected by a mental or a neurological disorder at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from mental illness, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. These mental disorders range from depression to a bipolar disorder or even schizophrenia. Despite available treatment, the study also found that nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek professional help due to neglect, discrimination, and lack of understanding of mental health. One of the Columbine shooters, Dylan Klebold, was said to be suffering from

Paranoia, delusions, and disorganized thinking. However, Klebold’s suffering was seemingly unrecognized until after the shooting.

Evidence of untreated mental illness is very prominent in the majority school shooters. However, mental illness does not guarantee a person will commit a horrendous crime like a school shooting. Michael Monnet, a counselor for Mountain Vista,  explains that, “99 percent of people who are mentally ill don’t get violent and do not intend on hurting people. They are more likely to hurt themselves than to come to school and do something” Mentally ill people who become school shooters are often pushed to do so by other factors, such as bullying. Around 20 percent of students in grades 9-12 have been bullied, around nine percent of students in grade 6th-12th have been cyberbullied. Bullying can result in depression and anxiety and an increase in sadness and loneliness. A very small amount of students who have been bullied might retaliate through violent measures. In 12 out of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.  Dylan Klebold was said to be bullied on top of having a mental illness;bullying is believed to be what pushed him to become a school shooter.

The most controversial factors of why school shootings happen lie in the Second Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. The 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives the people of America the right to “bear arms”, however many feel that this Amendment is flawed. The Amendment was originally put in place to allow the citizens of America to fight back in case of a tyrannical federal government. Today, many Americans use the 2nd  Amendment to defend owning military-grade weapons. Despite the military-grade weapons being used to cause mass devastation, many people believe that politicians aren’t doing anything about it. Randy Glanville, a security guard for Mountain Vista, believes politicians need to do something. “[Politicians] are afraid of the N.R.A (National Rifle Association) so the will not ban assault weapons,” Glanville said. The Columbine and Sandy Hook shooters both used military-grade assault weapons in their attacks.

What can we do to prevent these shootings?

Many people have different ideas on how to prevent school shootings, the majority of these ideas include gun laws and gun restrictions. Many people believe that there should only be a limit on the type of gun a person should be able to own. “I believe everyone has the right to carry, however, you don’t need a military grade weapon that can fire a hundred rounds per minute, it’s just not necessary,” sophomore Lexi Sakach said.

The main factor in preventing school shooting does not lie in the guns, but rather looking out for our peers who seem to be struggling. The prevention of school shootings lies in the awareness of parents, students, and staff. If you know someone is getting bullied, make an effort to stop the bullying by reporting it to a staff member or adult. If you notice someone showing any behaviors that may be the effects of a mental disorder,  report it to a staff member or an adult. If you feel someone might be a threat to his or her own safety or others, report it to a staff member or adult. Even if your assumptions may be incorrect, it is better to be safe than sorry. Being aware also includes acting on shooting threats. Staff members are required to report any threats made towards the school, however, the staff can’t hear every threat by themselves. It is the responsibility of students to report any student who is making a threat to shoot up a school. “Several years ago two girls wanted to shoot up Vista,” Monnet said. “One of their friends heard about it and she reported it and [the shooting never occured].” If  student didn’t report the two girls, a school shooting would have occurred at Vista. This proves the effectiveness of the current threat system in place at schools and the power of being aware has in preventing school shootings. In conclusion, the answer in preventing school shootings lie in the awareness of mental health, bullying, and potential threats of a school shooting.

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