|Schoolboy hiding a gun inside his bag / Photo by 123rf.com|
Within the past few months, the world had witnessed an alarming number of school shootings. As shocking as these instances are, there are still plenty of ways to understand this specific human behavior. According to Michael Sheeringa, professor and vice chair of research for psychiatry at Tulane University School of Medicine, “The supremely social nature of humans may be both the curse and the cure.” Moreover, he mentioned that viewing humans as social animals may help in understanding their behavior.
As mentioned by Sheeringa, mass shootings started occurring over the last two decades. Despite this, the United States of America continues to make guns available to their settlers. During the years 1987 to 1997, the average of mass shootings that occurred was around 1.5 each year. However, from 2008 to 2018, the average is now at 3.9 every year. These numbers now represent an epidemic, which is continuously growing without slowing down. Malcolm Gladwell, author of the "Tipping Point", once mentioned that human behaviors can easily spread throughout cities and countries just as contagious diseases do.
However, this cannot correlate to school shootings as they tend to increase despite stricter security measures implemented in schools. Sheeringa claimed that mental health issues, video game violence, and weapons may be possible factors to explain this human behavior. School shooters, depicted as socially awkward and outcasts, all have a record of difficulty in making friends or joining social groups. As the most social beings in the environment, humans cannot withstand being alone. Therefore, as stated by Sheeringa, shooters may have proceeded with the dreadful instance to make them feel as if they are joining a community or a brotherhood.
School shooters are also mostly defined as "quiet." Slate’s columnist, Daniel Engber, mentioned how individuals describe these shooting incidents as a shock and "cannot be predicted." He further stated, "Any shooter’s past behavior will end up seeming somewhat shy or nondescript in contrast to his sudden act of violence.” Yet despite being described as "loners" and quiet, a whopping 41 percent of school shooters have been proven to mingle and socialize with students. Engber claims that the media is fond of representing the shooter as an outcast by merely seeing them in passing.
In other cases of school shootings, the shooters have already displayed their aggression beforehand. In Italy, Texas, a school shooter was discovered to have a record of aggressive behavior. According to FOX4 News, the shooter had previously attacked two female students and was constantly asked to step out of the classroom because of his temper. His medical records, composed of 1,000 pages, were also addressed during the trial. His father testified in court, claiming that he had provided his son medical support since the age of seven.
Preventing this Brutal and Dangerous Human Behavior
Although both local and federal governments may implement measures to prevent any further cases of school shootings, there are still events or issues hidden within each individual’s family or home. Local governments have already started creating social media apps that can track any school shooter threats ahead of the incident, while the federal government continues to debate on gun laws and regulations.
Despite these actions, Sheeringa claims that it may stop a few shootings but certainly, not all. Tragic human behaviors such as child abuse and violence at home would always find a way to make a person release their aggression. For now, the best advice Sheeringa could give is, “a local school district may be to recognize that you are on your own. The good news is that may also be the best solution.”
Carolyn Reinach, professor at Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, believes: “Early identification and intervention is needed alongside active shooter drills.” Moreover, she emphasized the fact that once a student already entered the school with a gun, it may already be too late. Both armed officers and crisis protocols fail to execute their roles in school shootings, such as those that happened in California, Florida, and Texas.
According to Reinach, schools must first identify earliest indications of shooting threats. She suggests implementing "multidisciplinary threat assessment teams" for individuals that are at risk. This includes students with erratic behavior, suspensions, and an unusual admiration for violence and weapons. Not only that, Reinach also proposes a careful assessment of each situation with the right kind of treatment and engagement with families. Using a rehabilitative approach, schools may eventually invite at-risk students to learn in school with appropriate therapeutic progress. Peers and teachers must also be required to report any unlikely behavior from the students.
The aftermath of school shootings, such as communities promoting shortened emergency responses and continuous active shooting drills, are considered normal and may eventually regain greater control over the risks of mass shootings. Parents and communities can shift their focus to improving security measures and safety protocols instead of letting their terrifying thoughts overpower their children. The most accurate preventive measure of all, as emphasized by Reinach, is to observe behavior.
|Parents protesting outside a building / Photo by 123rf.com|