The Pattern in School Shootings

Be warned: we pull no punches in this article. We write the truth, hard and in your face, with the intention of motivating change.

There seems to be a new school shooting every month now. See how it damages our national identity. See the devastation to our kids and our society. Most importantly, imagine what the families are going through.

Now, if you will, look at these horrific events through the lens of a writer; we begin to see a pattern. On reflection, it is astonishing that lawmakers and media and the survivors haven’t seen—or at least have not recognized—this pattern. Pay attention. This is important.

After every shooting, three inevitable facts ‘come out’:

  1. The shooter or shooters were bullied—by students and sometimes even by teachers
  2. The shooter used his parents or relatives’ gun
  3. The shooter had displayed signs or overtly stated that he would kill before the event

First off, let’s examine this bullying epidemic.

Like every other demographic (except for the very old), teens can be very cruel. But teens tend to receive this negative treatment in heightened straits, that is, they respond more severely, because of all the hormones and peer pressure–and immaturity. This unfortunate situation is compounded by the fact that they don’t really have anyone to turn to, especially when teachers are among the bullies, or are already aware of the bullying and fail to intervene.

So, we have a damaged psyche being exposed to continual abuse or neglect at least five days a week.

Add to this the convenience of guns.

Don’t even start in on the Second Amendment, because that’s not where we’re going with this.

Many parents own guns, as is their constitutional right. The issue is not ownership but access by their unstable, hurting, angry teenager.

Now we have a hurting, vengeful teen with access to assault weapons (that’s what semi-automatics are—weapons—so don’t whine about the wording; you don’t need semi-automatics to hunt deer).

At this point tragedy is still avoidable, if only the teen can and is willing to turn to a mature adult who is both trained to handle burgeoning rage and empathic enough to recognize the signs and deter them before it is too late.

Unfortunately such a person does not exist within school confines. In many cases at least, it would seem that guidance councilors are not doing their job.

Now this angry teen with convenient access to guns lashes out one day. He threatens to kill other students. Either he makes this statement in a half-joking manner or he overtly states that he wants to do it. In any case, other students hear this blatant warning sign. They ignore it. Maybe they are too scared to tell someone, or perhaps they feel there is no one to tell. The result is that they have now become accessory before the fact. Perhaps they are even liable under the term ‘accomplice liability’ for failing to report knowledge of a threat.

The simple hard truth is that:

  • Teachers are failing their students
  • Parents are failing their kids
  • Students who have overheard threats and seen warning signs and ignore them are failing their fellow students.

The time for excuses is over.

Our point is twofold: (1) the shooter is fully at fault but (2) his actions could have been avoided by not only his own will but by the intervention of those who witnessed signs or worse, participated in creating a monster.

Harsh words, we know.

Here are some more harsh words as seen and gleaned by writers: bullying does not need to be epidemic. It can be stopped. Teachers and school administrators are failing our students.

We as writers have detected a strange ritual in the Pattern. Following a school shooting you often hear a politician or celeb Tweet that their ‘prayers are with the victims’ families.’

Inevitably, trolls balk at such talk.

The issue is not with the failure of prayer to facilitate change, but with the use of the term as a simple and useless expression spewed by people who are not prayer warriors. So, in the absence of potent warriors of faith, what can be done to prevent further shootings?

If you ask policymakers, their response, following every school shooting, is this same lame suggestion, which shows that they are completely out of touch with the school situation: ‘We need to run more extensive background checks on gun buyers.’

What?

Don’t they realize that the people shooting up schools are teenagers? They don’t buy guns; they take them from their parents’ gun cabinets, or from under their parents’ beds. Go ahead and run your deeper background checks, but they won’t change a single bloody thing where it concerns school shootings.

So what is the answer?

PRESSURE

Schools are high-stress institutions.

That makes this answer difficult to suggest. Unfortunately no one with the power to effect change is actually effecting any change. So it boils down to pressure.

We need to put pressure on everyone inside our schools, a moral and obligatory pressure they cannot ignore. Everyone inside our schools needs to know that they will be held accountable for bullying (this includes teachers), and they need to feel obligated to report any threats or suspicious behavior. A high school student I know heard another student saying he was going to bring a gun to school and shoot people. He reported this to the police and the police investigated. They found signs on this boy’s computer that he was indeed planning to shoot up his school. They took him away. Today he is in a locked institution where he cannot harm anyone.

Tragedy averted.

Remember, this pressure idea is two-fold. It is through the threat and use of discipline that we will conquer the bullying epidemic. By doing this we will prevent our school students and teachers and administrators from adding layers of hatred to already-unstable angry souls. And by applying pressure, making students feel obligated to report any suspicious behavior, we can prevent further school shootings.

Anyway, that’s how we as writers see a bit of light through this horrific endemic situation. But we’ll leave the particulars to better minds.

As writers, we must remember that we can and often do see the world through a different lens.

It’s not a rosy-colored lens, to be sure. But it is often unique and, on special occasions, helpful to society. Look at the works of Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, Harriet Beecher Stowe, or at Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, which directly motivated a change in governmental oversight of the food industry.

School shooters are inevitably caught (they’re not that clever), but this occurs almost always after the shooting. If we don’t start holding other (less guilty) parties accountable for their role in or failure to report the threat, this horrid trend will continue. It’s a hard thing, in truth. But unless someone wants to fund the installation of metal detectors and hire and pay the continual salaries of multiple checkpoint officers for every school in America, something less invasive but more inclusive—as in ‘pressure’—needs to be done.

With all the namby-pamby parenting advice out there, we have become a generation of ineffective parents, creating a generation of undisciplined and unbridled children, who are so confused by options (you can do whatever you want, son, so long as it makes you happy) that nothing seems wrong in their eyes, except what is done to them.

Let’s face it, Strickland was right in Back to the Future; we need discipline.