Current State of School Shootings

The phenomenon of school shooting is one of the greatest horrors of modern time with long-term history. Violence in the United States effects people’s lives and draws out significant resources. Armed violence in schools is extremely devastating, considerably more harmful than most Americans realize, and much more diffusive in the USA than in any other country in the world. Shooting at schools represent a threat to the future of the American nation. When students and parents review standards for choosing a college, they are not typically thinking about campus safety. Probably, most of them do not realize that shooting at colleges has blasted over the last five years increasing from just 12 accidents during the 2010-2011 academic year (Blair & Schweit, 2014) to nearly 30 during the 2015-2016 academic year (Cannon, 2016). The number of casualties from shooting also increased to the alarming level. It is extremely important for the community, school administration, police and government to be deeply concerned with this problem, understand the peculiarities and causes of school-armed attacks, and take all possible security measures to prevent the tragedies.

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Scholars from different disciplines studied crime and security at schools and on college and universities campuses. Past researches reveal that schools, especially college campuses, are noticeably helpless to active shooting attacks. Since school shootings are dynamic cases, there is no certain experience or best practice, which can serve as benchmark. In most incidents of extreme armed violence at schools and on college campuses, perpetrators do not have certain type or way to their selection of victims. Thus, the reaction of victims, witnesses, college administrators, and police officials relies greatly on the unique circumstances. Nevertheless, there are evidently specific indicators and guidance that can significantly enlarge survivability and reduce hazard. Understanding the diversity and causes of school shootings is an essential first step to defining what measures institutions, police and community can do to avert the tragedy, terminate and recover from cases of school violence and enhance the chances of victim survival.

Explanation of School Shooting in Scientific Literature

There are various theories of school shooting developed by different scholars. According to researchers, one of the main causes of the phenomenon is personal failures. Most people who committed school shootings had personal problems, such as bulling, home problems, the lack of spiritual or moral connection with loved ones, or large losses among others. They were not able to cope with these problems, while many tried to commit suicide or behaved in a way that was clearly like a cry for help.

For instance, psychological theory is the most common scholar explanation of school shootings. Many supporters of this theory have emphasized mental illnesses as drivers for the attackers’ actions. Case studies of school mass shooters showed very restless individuals, with the majority suffering from serious depression (Langman, 2009; Fast, 2010). People afflicted with mental illness rarely resort to violence: they are more often victims of the violence. However, sometimes they can create danger for others. Langman (2009) defines three categories of school shooters, including psychopathic, psychotic and traumatized shooters. Psychopathic ones are incapable of feeling emotional contact with others; they feel no guilt or regret, tending to enjoy hurting others. Psychotics suffer from a break with the real world. Some of them hear voices in their heads. They seem not to understand what they are doing. Traumatized shooters have experienced stressful factors, such as physical, sexual or emotional abuse that causes shooting. Fast (2010) also suggests a ceremonial type of school shooter. Such assault is an outcome of several factors, ranging from mental disease, perchance brain damage, to social insulation and suicidal behavior but in a ceremonial mode. Ceremonial violence could be an effort to obtain status and prestige.

In addition, social theories define such causal factors of the phenomenon as violent media, weapon availability, bulling, and “copycat” among others. According to Langman (2009), violent video games and movies is a serious potential cause of shooting at schools. Case studies of school mass shooters reveal that the violators often enjoyed aggressive movies and video games. The growing violence in the media evokes forcible fantasies of students that dulls the feelings and leads to a desire to imitate the virtual world. Moreover, imitation of real crimes plays an important role as a “copycat” factor, when perpetrators attempt to mimic massive school firing (Fox & Burstein, 2010). Some investigators consider factor of masculine identity as an explanation of school shootings. Kimmel (2008) asserts that school shooters demonstrate their dominant masculinity through force. Often, the attackers do not gain traditional male status, possibly doubting their sexuality status.

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Besides, the issue with shooting at American schools is related to the availability of charged weapons for children who should not have access to it, while regulation of armed weapon is debated in the USA. Almost all colleges and universities all over the country prohibit carrying weapon on campuses. Twenty states clearly forbid transferring concealed armament on campuses, while 23 allow educational institutions to decide on the issue. Only Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin allow carrying weapon on campuses (Sheila & Morales, 2015). Nevertheless, a public health approach to school assaults averting strategies to lessen firearm-related wounding and death represents a potentially efficient starting point.

Statistics of School Shootings

Since the tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, in which 18 victims died, police and community have taken more seriously investigating similar school tragedies. Every Town for Gun Safety Fund (ETGSF) (2017) has been tracking all armed violence in educational institutions. The group identifies a school shooting as any incident in which individual uses an armed weapon inside an educational building or on campus territory and not in self-defense (ETGSF, 2017). The agency recorded 92 shooting incidents, including 55 attacks on other persons resulting in injury or death, 6 attempts or completed suicides, with no intent to injure other person, 4 gun-fired cases unintentionally resulting in injury or death, and 27 gun-fired incidents but no one injured (ETGSF, 2017).

Moreover, Citizens Crime Commission reported that armed incidents in schools have become more deadly (Cannon, 2016). The number of people injured or killed tripled during the last five-year period. Ninety-one shooting incidents were recorded on or nearby college campuses during 2012-2016 that is more than twice bigger amount since the previous five years (Cannon, 2016). One hundred ninety-five victims suffered from these attacks, including seventy-two killed. Besides, every year the number of cases and victims has increased rapidly from 11 incidents with 29 victims (15 dead) in 2012 to 29 incidents with 68 victims (24 dead) in 2015 (Cannon, 2016; ETGSF, 2017). Only in 2016, a recession of shooting attacks happened, that is 10 incidents with 27 victims (9 dead) (Cannon, 2016). The biggest number of incidents occurred on or nearby the campuses in Tennessee (9), Georgia (8), California (8), North Carolina (8), Florida (7), Alabama (6) and Texas (6) (ETGSF, 2017). Most cases involved one or two victims, often solving a personal offence. Although mass shootings on college campuses remain rare, they happened at least once every year.

Cases of School Shootings

The bloodiest school events over the past five years are considered below.

On April 2, 2012, a 43-years old One L. Goh murdered seven people and injured three at Oikos University campus, a nursing college in Oakland, California. Mr. Goh was a former student. Previously, he had been excluded from the school for poor performance. He began shooting when there were about 35 students inside the building. Five people died at the college and two others ended up at the hospital. In the interview from the prison, Goh apologized for his murderous attack, which he said he did not remember. He was diagnosed mentally unable to stand trial and was adjudicated to treatment. Based on the facts, Goh could be classified as a psychotic shooter.

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On June 7, 2013, after murdering his father and brother, a 23-years old John Samir Zawahri attacked the stranger’s car, took the chauffeur in hostage, and forced her to drive him to Santa Monica College, California, where he had studied before. Armed with semi-automatic gun, he started shooting at cars on campus. Then, he started shooting at the library. Altogether, he shot five people and injured four. Police officers shot him in the library, and he later died from his wounds. For several days, police found illegal weapon and bomb-making materials at Zawahri’s house. The case study showed that the penetrator was searching the information about guns and bombs on the Internet. Moreover, during his study at the college, he threatened the teachers and other students. Family quarrel was only the trigger. Apparently, Zawahri is a psychopathic shooter. Social issues together with psychological problems led to the tragedy.

On May 23, 2014, at the age of 22 years, Elliot Rodger wounded fourteen people and murdered six nearby the campus of University of California, Santa Barbara, and committed a suicide inside his car. He left a long hateful essay entitled “My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger” from which it is clear that he planned his killing for a long time. The investigation revealed that he was a victim of bulling in adolescence. Rodger had a mental illness and social issues causing the shooting. He could be both psychopathic and traumatized shooter. Moreover, the ceremonial factor seems relevant here as well.

On October 1, 2015, a 26-years-old Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer wounded nine fellow students and shot eight teachers at Umpqua Community College, Oregon. The administration described Harper-Mercer as a hostile individual, with white supremacist and anti-religion tendencies, who had struggled with mental health problems for a long time. He asked at least two students about their religion before killing them. He owned 14 weapons, all purchased legally. Harper-Mercer committed a suicide after a shootout with police officers. He is a psychopathic shooter. The availability of the weapon facilitated the penetrator to implement his bloody plan.

On July 7-8, 2016, Micah Xavier Johnson invaded the territory of El Centro Community College in Dallas, Texas, after killing four police officers. Trying to get inside the school building, Johnson wounded two police officers working in the college. After penetrated inside the college through another entrance, Johnson shot the fifth officer patrolling outside the building. After evacuating the building, police officers killed Johnson by a robot-delivered bomb. Johnson is a psychopathic shooter as well. Social issues caused this attack.

Preventing and Addressing the Problem of School Shootings

Despite the individuals connected with shooting, or the circumstances causing it, gunfire at colleges sabotages the security feeling that all students supposed to have in their learning environments. Colleges share a general responsibility for the safety and protection of all students and employees. Many colleges have strengthened emergency policies, adding sirens, notification systems and trainings with local police officers. In conformity to a recent survey, one-in-four college police departments are not ready to handle a rampage shooting on campus (Tony, n.d.). Creating an atmosphere of personal responsibility and shared liability is the core of safe communities. The collaboration and implementation of whole-of-community concepts can reduce the number of school shootings on college campuses and mitigate its effects. Students, administration, staff and police should work together to avert incidents of extreme violence on college campuses and react more effectively when they occur. Police performs a leading role in the engaging to training civilians to keep them safe during the active shooter attack. Furthermore, police play a key role in safeguarding and preventing rampage violence, preparing for it and training citizens to assist officers when such attacks happen.

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Violence is frequently unpredictable, but researches have shown that in the most of shootings at schools the penetrator at some point has suggested an obvious verbal warning, including direct threats, taking about murders, and bringing weapon to school. In many cases, other students knew what the troubled student is planning. The assailant may also show signs of depression, little patience to disappointment, or a lack of stability in dealing with stressful situations. Moreover, the shooter may criticize previous shooters for not being able to inflict more victims. The potential shooter may have bizarre thoughts, paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders beginning at the end of adolescence and in the early twenties. Physical warnings of rampage behavior include the student’s earlier history of physical attack, bullying and being the victim of bullying, and gun possession. The school shooter may have a history of rage, irascibility, rebellion, substance abuse, social exclusion and withdrawn behavior as well. Mental health issues often occur in young people under the age of 18-21. Proper treatment and mental health awareness are significant components to the safety on college campus. Finally, a general practice at educational institutions across the country is to encourage students to report doubtful activity or incidents involving other students.

Ultimately, extreme violence in the United States must be tackled at the highest levels of government that affect the propaganda and implementation of a clear agenda. The President of the United States can assemble the essential resources to solve this fatal problem rallying the conviction and attention of the American people. Although the society may never entirely exclude violence at school and on college and university campuses, people can significantly reduce the risk of violence. Thus, the more effectively society solve the main causes and at develop effectual early-warning and prevention systems, there will be less need for policies directed to lessen the casualties from the extreme violence.

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