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The Rise of Mass Shootings

Adaeze Chukukuwa, Staff Writer

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“Florida shooting demands more than thoughts and prayers,” an aptly titled article from USA today reads. On February 14th, 19-year old Nikolas Cruz charged through Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS in Florida, killing 17 people. This isn’t new to the American public. There have been 30 U.S. mass shootings so far in 2018—7 of them being school shootings. Since 2000, over 200 lives have been taken by mass shootings. It’s been 19 years since Columbine shook the nation. It’s been almost 11 years since the Virginia Tech massacre, the most fatal school shooting in our history. And it’s been a little over 5 years since Sandy Hook. We’ve had multiple opportunities and enough time to make a change, so why aren’t things getting any better?

 

As we continue to lose lives, we have to ask where the real problem lies. Is it in the gun-related legislation of the nation, or somewhere else? To find where we keep going wrong, we have to take a look at patterns in the past. Below are brief descriptions of some of the deadliest mass shootings in the nation.

COLUMBINE – 1999
On the morning of April 20th, seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people at Columbine HS in Colorado. They obtained their weapons through a straw purchase: the purchase of a gun by a legal owner with the sole purpose of giving the gun to an illegal owner. The student who provided them with the weapons did not ask any questions.

 

Both Harris and Klebold had a past riddled with bullying and harassment. For a school project, the two re-enacted a brutal school shooting. Neither the teacher nor fellow students asked any questions. The police later discovered a website in which Harris posted images of him operating bombs and revealed his malevolent feelings toward the people around him. The police quietly shut it down without asking questions.

 

VIRGINIA TECH – 2007
Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at Virginia Tech University, killed 32 people by gunfire on April 16th. Despite a history of mental illness, Cho passed multiple background checks to obtain some of his weapons, as he did not disclose his history on the questionnaire included in the check. Cho bought the rest of his guns and accessories off of eBay.

 

Cho once wrote in a school assignment about wanting to “replicate the Columbine boys, [and] even out do them.” No questions were asked. Cho was recommended by both the court and his church pastor to seek treatment for his mental health, but his mother declined. Fellow students joked that Cho was “the kind of guy who might go on a rampage killing.” There were factors of Cho’s behavior that led them to make these jokes, but nobody took them seriously.

 

SANDY HOOK – 2012
On December 14th, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother in their home before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and killing 26 children and teachers. Lanza acquired his weapons through straw purchasing; his mother was a gun fanatic and often supplied him with firearms, ignoring his growing obsession with them. With his heavy firearms, Lanza was able to blow through the school’s new security system.

 

Lanza also had a history of  mental health issues. He would remain secluded in his room for months at a time, making little contact with his mother. She never asked any questions. Online friends knew about Lanza’s obsession with mass shooters and knew of how he idolized the perpetrators. They never asked any questions, nor did they tell anyone of Lanza’s unhealthy obsession. A previous teacher of Lanza stated that, he would often choose to write about brutal violence in great detail and had an unusual interest in doing so. The teacher never told anyone of his unhealthy obsession until after the shootings.

 

FLORIDA – 2018
Nikolas Cruz was 19 when he ditched GED class to open fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS in Florida. Cruz was expelled from the school for violence. He had engaged in self-harm, talked about killing animals, and posed with guns in disturbing photos on social media. Nobody asked any questions. He had an alleged affiliation with white supremacists and claimed that he wanted to become a “professional school shooter”. However, nobody inquired about his behavior.


Is there a common occurrence that sticks out in these cases? Although improper enforcement of gun legislation was the culprit in some cases, the ignorance of those around the perpetrator was a culprit in every case. There were evident signs that the individual might try to inflict harm on others. However, rarely did anyone reach out for help or treatment. Rarely did anyone ask questions.

 

This is what we keep doing wrong. The gun legislation of the nation could be improved, but real change lies in our day-to-day lives. Maybe the real improvement comes in better mental health programs in the nation. But why wait? Notice the signs, take the initiative, and seek help when necessary. Such a problem will always be complex, but we need to start somewhere. We need to start now. So next time you think about sending out your “thoughts and prayers,” think about providing material help as well.

 

Sources:
McLaughlin, Elliot. “Social media paints picture of racist ‘professional school shooter’.” CNN.com, CNN, 15 Feb. 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/14/us/nikolas-cruz-florida-shooting-suspect/index.html

Robinson, Melia. “There have been 30 mass shootings in the US so far in 2018 — here’s the full list.” BusinessInsider.com, Business Insider, 15 Feb. 2018, http://www.businessinsider.com/how-many-mass-shootings-in-america-this-year-2018-2

Willingham, AJ. “Columbine is no longer one of the 10 deadliest shootings in modern US history.” CNN.com, CNN, 16 Feb. 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/07/health/deadliest-mass-shootings-columbine-in-modern-us-history-trnd/index.html

Featured Image: Vox

 

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