In America, shootings that result in more than three deaths, not including the shooter, are categorized as a “mass shooting”. As of October 27th, 2018, there have been almost 300 mass shootings in the country. 297 to be exact. That is roughly a shooting every day since January 1st, 2018. A school shooting is defined as an attack on an educational institution involving the use of a firearm. Despite school shootings have occurred all over the world, school-related attacks are known as a “uniquely American crisis”.
This problem is known as “so American”. Since 1999 in Colorado, close to 188,000 students have experienced a shooting on their institution’s grounds. School shootings have also occurred in almost 200 schools, both primary and secondary. These tragic events have both affected and shaped the U.S. the country it is today. From politics to pop culture, school shootings and how to figure out a way to eradicate them have been a hot topic since the early 2000s. Since many school shooters share many of the same characteristics they can be placed in a group to explore and study what drives this group of people to commit such deviant acts.
The group of deviants I decided to write about is mass murderers in educational institutions, more commonly known as “school shooters”.
On April 20th, 1999, America was changed forever. In Littleton, Colorado, two high school students, Eric Harris, and Dylan Klebold let fire onto their teachers and peers. In about 45 minutes they managed to kill twelve students and one teacher before turning the guns on themselves.
On February 14th, 2018, nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed and wounded 34 people at his former high school in Parkland, Florida. May 18th, 2018, Dimitrios Pagourtzis killed 8 of his classmates and 2 of his teachers at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas. It has been almost 20 years since the Columbine Massacre and there has been 13 mass school shootings and countless shooting incidents at schools across America. This group of deviants has continuously impacted America’s students all over the nation.
People who participate in this type of deviance are generally similar in many ways. For example, the individuals stated above each have had school experiences that are unfavorable. They were bullied, “misunderstood”, isolated, experience a large amount of rejection and are usually outcasts among their peers. One can also infer that most American school shooters are usually young Caucasian men. Shooter Dylan Khlebold actually said on his tapes, “You’ve been giving us shit for years. You’re fucking gonna pay for all the shit!” Bullying at Columbine Highschool was considered rampant, and it was even discovered that Harris and Khlebold had fecal matter thrown on them. Shooter Nikolas Cruz had been moved from school to school a total of 6 times in the span of just three years before returning to Stoneman Douglas High School to be expelled shortly after for disciplinary reasons. Cruz was also banned from wearing a backpack while he was enrolled in his final years of high school. Pagourtzis was continuously rejected by a girl he was interested in and was described by his classmates as a “weird loner who never seemed right”.
Society’s response to these shootings has always been mixed and controversial. People are always upset. Political figures such as the president, both past and present have expressed their condolences and feelings towards the tragedies along with huge support from figures in the various entertainment industries. Fundraisers are held for families and funerals and it feels like the country comes together for a moment to help these grieving people who have just experienced such a horrific event. As quick as the country comes together, it swiftly divides when these same tragedies spark up the very public disagreement of gun control. There are various marches and peaceful protests supporting stricter gun control laws while the gun owners and the member of the NRA are in strong favor to respect the second amendment. It is almost certain that after every school shooting what follows is a short spark of debate then it dies down almost as quickly as it starts up.
Most of the members of this group of deviance have trouble showing emotion or remorse, until its too late and they are in front of a jury trying to justify causing terror to their peers. Many school shooters are labeled as victims of mental illness which can explain their lack of remorse. Despite this, school shooter Thomas “T.J.” from Chardon, Ohio had a very interesting way of expressing his reactions of being sentenced to life 3 times. While in the courtroom Lane had revealed a white T-shirt with the word “KILLER” written in marker. Lane also said, ‘This hand that pulled the trigger that killed your sons now masturbates to the memory. F*** all of you,’ to the victim’s families. He then proceeded to give the middle finger to the families and to everyone else present in the courtroom. T.J. had killed three students and left one other permanently paralyzed on February 27, 2012, at Chardon High School. When Dimitrios Pagourtzis was in pursuit he would see a student he wanted to shoot and screamed, “Surprise!” before shooting them. Following his surrender Pagourtzis informed a police officer that he meant to kill the classmates he shot and wanted to have the other students he like spared so he “could have his story told.” It can be inferred that the members of this group of deviance are aware of the labels that are being placed on that. To some, it may even seem like these young men are proud to be labeled this way.
Society has tried to understand this group of deviants for many years. The social control theory can be used to explain why school shooters engage in this act of deviance. The Social Control Theory, introduced by Travis Hirschi has four main components. These are attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief. The absence of one or more of these social components can make a person more likely to commits acts of deviance and crime. When an individual plans their shooting, their plans usually end up in a suicide after their “job is done” or being shot and killed by the police during the event. Most do not anticipate a life after their shooting which makes it easy for them to go through with their actions. This describes their lack of the commitment component. School shooters have little to no attachment to anyone because of their lack of friends and feelings of being isolated much of their time at school. In most cases, these deviant members don’t usually participate in social activities with their peers because of their lack of attachment. Thus, a lack of involvement is factored in. Lack of involvement leads to more time for an individual to commit acts of crime. When it comes to belief, school shooters usually shy away from normally shared beliefs. While disregarding beliefs, they start to believe what they are doing is right and makes it easier to complete.
In summation, school shooters are an incredibly interesting group of deviants. To explore and understand why they do what they do is both chilling and intriguing. Curiosity aside, this is a big issue in the United States that puts America’s children in danger every single day. Until Americans are able to come together as a nation to try to solve this problem, it will continue. The 297 mass shootings will just keep rising more every day.