Thursday, June 2, 2022

Mass Shootings At Public Schools--A Continuing Problem


Immediately after the mass shooting, David and Lauren were picked up by their parents and taken home.
But quickly David announced he was going back to the school, saying, “I have to go. I need to tell the reporters what happened.” Against his parent’s wishes he returned to Parkland High School to help get out the tragic news. During the very attack itself he’d felt his feelings moving from fear into a determination for doing what he could to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. 
David and Lauren co-wrote a readable, emotionally touching, and inspiring book: #NEVERAGAIN: A NEW GENERATION DRAWS THE LINE in (2018). It is a beautiful little book, a useful book, and it includes two appendices:
  • A well thought out “Parkland Manifesto” of recommendations for what to be done to preventing future mass shootings.
  • A listing of the 50 school mass shootings from Columbine in 2003 forward, naming those who died, accompanied by quotations about each of victim to personalize their unique life. So, they would not be just a number.
In #NEVERAGAIN: A New Generation Draws The Line, David and Lauren describe getting politically engaged; calling out any politicians receiving money from the NRA; organizing and participating in demonstrations; meeting with Congressmen; and they sharing their actions to stimulate effective gun control. They wrote:
“After you spend a few hours hiding in a classroom while your friends and teachers are slaughtered, you can’t stop thinking about how insane this is and how to change it. Volunteer in political campaigns? Try to fix the mental health system? Fight the gun lobbyists? Push for comprehensive background check?
“We think you should. We hope you do. There is a whole world to change” (Hogg and Hogg, 2018).

1. The 19 year old shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was arrested at the scene and has pled guilty. What he has revealed already, and might reveal in the future, can add to the collection of case studies of school shooters. The larger the collection of case studies, the more solid are the scientific conclusions about what causes such tragic crimes. A large proportion of mass shooters cannot be fully debriefed because they commit suicide at the end of their rampage or are killed by law enforcement. It has long been known that almost all mass shootings at schools are by males. But school shootings are actually rare; and, statistically, being male is not considered a cause of school shootings.
It is commonly thought that a root cause of school shootings is due to mental health issues. This always comes up in mass shooter public media, articles, and books. However, the amount of a person’s mental health or ill health is a notoriously vague concept and is a fundamentally useless variable for predicting actual behavior and preventing tragedy.
I recommend setting aside the topics of mental issues or mental illness as causes of school shootings. Research shows they are not major. Here are several important myths and facts from Gun Violence and Mental Illness (Gold and Simon, Eds., 2016):
  • MYTH: “School gun violence is caused by people with severe mental illness “snapping.”
  • EVIDENCE-BASED FACT: “There is no known profile that allows the early identification of a mass killer.”
  • EVIDENCE-BASED FACT: “Only a small proportion of school shooters have a psychotic, mental illness. Mass shootings at school are not impulsive acts, but rather the product of careful planning.”
Setting aside the general issue of mental illness in mass shooters gets rid of a distraction to the main fact of terroristic, criminal behavior. All of our attention needs to be focused in many other important and difficult areas. Some of these are mentioned in the Parkland Manifesto.
2. Nikolas Cruz manifested a variety of emotional and behavioral problems. There is substantial documentation about his problems. Nikolas Cruz has been described as having a history of dangerous tendencies, which well could be true. But there were no agencies capable of ensuring his dangerous tendencies were treated and resolved. Most persons with “dangerous tendencies,” and especially those who are males, want to be free to be who they are; they are not likely to stay in mental health treatment on their own initiative. 
There exist authorized agencies such as the FBI, for example, that investigate persons thought to be dangerous for the purpose of preventing terroristic acts. Only the Federal Government can justify and implement the necessary intrusions for preventing terroristic murder—whether of politicians, racial groups, school children, or other targets. Is this intrusive into privacy rights? Of course. Can it interrupt a trajectory toward violence? Yes. There are consequences there are consequences which can be delivered only by courts. 
We citizens who do vote, are capable of motivating the three branches of government (President-Executive Branch, Congress-Legislative Branch, and Supreme Court-Judicial Branch). We need all three branches to be involved! It is they who must enact the law, policies, and procedures to begin reducing terroristic murder in the schools. 
Commercial airline flights are safer than driving. Responsible politicians and Federal judges took action. Imagine that! No one even argues about that any more. No one is polarized! Think about this: In 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland with the loss of 259 lives. Our Federal government responded to this wakeup call; the challenge got answered. Effective safety procedures got enacted. 
Australia once had a gun problem as serious as the U.S. But after a 1996 mass shooting in which a man killed 35 people and injured 23 more, the Australian politicians took action and passed a bipartisan gun plan called the National Firearms Agreement. After the stricter guns law went into effect there were no mass shootings for 18 years. A 2011 review of the results showed that homicides and suicides (1996 to 2003) dropped by 42% and 57%, respectively. Read about this in (McCann, 2019, pages 187-192). 
The three branches of our Federal Government can step up their game and prevent more murdered children. Both American State and Federal government and we citizens all working together could make change happen, but decade after decade one or more of the political parties, the branches of government, and groups of citizens negligently avoid doing the obvious!
3. Don’t skip this paragraph! 
David and Lauren Hogg’s book #NEVERAGAIN is remarkable because it’s not just depressing news about more kids and teachers murdered somewhere else.
Instead, with this well-written story we’re not merely readers but feel with them throughout their small book, identify with them as they feel danger, use their critical event skills, run and hide, hear the distant pop of gunshots, cram themselves into classroom storage rooms, use their cell phones, read a text that one of their friends was shot, share videos, and finally experience law enforcement taking them to safety. 
The children, David and Lauren, in writing their book provide all that should be necessary for American parents to rise up and expose and vote out of office the politicians who have UTTERLY FAILED to make American schools safe from mass shooters. 
Most Americans are OK with more gun control but there are some politicians who BRAG about their support for zero gun controls. They BRAG about getting “Constitutional carry.” They post on social media pictures of themselves and children grinning proudly with their AR-15 assault rifles. The Supreme Court would find this well within free speech rights.
4. Before the tragedy, Parkland High School had taken some preventative measures against a mass shootings. Reading this book we are reminded once again that when a criminal wants badly to penetrate our defense and succeeds, the cost of learning our weaknesses can be tragic.
And now in Uvalde County, Texas, on May 24, 2022, 19 children and two adults were killed at an elementary school. 
Before mass school shootings occur, few people are seriously worried about the security plan they worked to successfully implement. But during the tragedy of an attack, everything moves too fast and safety measures may work poorly if at all. Furthermore, mass shooters are known to plan their attack. In self-protection, the bad guy almost always “has the drop” on the good guy. The bad guy stalks his way in, knows he’ll need to overcome some barriers, and he wants to take his prey by surprise. 
According to the New York Times, since 1970 at least 200 K-12 children have been killed in mass shootings.

The most important fight for safe schools won’t be won by local school districts raising taxes to make schools physically hardened against mass shooters. 
No. Schools will become acceptably safe ONLY when all State governors, Congressmen, and Congresswomen begin to seriously care about the children who will be murdered at schools in coming months, in the coming years
How long will it take American politicians to become responsible leaders enough to legislate a broad array of effective interventions? 
As voters we should diligently search the economic and political influences stalemating gun control. There appear to be no effective leaders for gun control in Congress. One would think that school mass shootings would, as they say in politics, get some “traction.”
Anyone following news in Houston over the past several years can recognize, without needing any statistics, the obvious gun problems: weekly road rage shootings, young children finding loaded guns at home and unintentionally shooting siblings, intentional drive-by shootings, and seemingly random shootings. In one case police were able to find the man who simply shot up in the air and the bullet killed a person as it sped back to earth. Houston homicides have risen significantly in the past several years.

Finally, I want to highly recommend the book Enough Is Enough by Michelle McCann. She is both a professional illustrator and an author of children’s books. Her book is full of interesting illustrations and useful information. Teens as well as adults would likely enjoy the style.
Please forward this to others whom you feel would be receptive or at least willing to read it. Thanks!
        For references, see page BIBLIOGRAPHY / WORKS CITED
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