School Shooting

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All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You'd better run, better run
Outrun my gun
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You'd better run, better run
Faster than my bullet
~ Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People, a song about school shootings.

A school shooting is an attack on an educational institution, most commonly a school or university, using one or more firearm.

Columbine shooters on Eric Harris (left) and Dylan Klebold (right) on CCTV.

School shootings are especially common in the United States, but they can occur in other countries as well. It manifests as a student simply shooting a classmate or teacher in revenge to large scale bombings and/or mass shootings.

The shooter(s) often commits suicide after they are finished with their attack, although some have surrendered to or been killed by police. Suicidal school shooters typically made martyrdom videos; typically explaining their act(s) and/or ranting about bullies.

File:Virginia Tech shooting Footage
Seung-Hui Cho shoots up Virginia Tech - News

School shootings have became much more common in the 21st Century.

History

While school shootings did occasionally occur before the 20th century, the true first school shooting was Enoch Brown school massacre which was done by 4 men which are Native Americans, the first incident of what is today widely considered a school shooting (in which a current or former student of a school perpetrates an act of gun violence at an educational institution) is thought to be the University of Texas Tower shooting of 1966. The perpetrator, Charles Whitman, was a student of architectural engineering at the university, and killed 31 people. This incident was the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman at the time.

Though there were several school shootings in the 70's and 80's, few of these resulted in multiple deaths. Some that did, including the CSU, Fullerton massacre and the Stockton schoolyard massacre were perpetrated by adults who either had never attended the institutions they attacked, or had passed out/dropped out long ago.

The 90's saw a surge in school shootings. The archetype of the school shooter as an angry, alienated young person (young man, mostly) was established in this decade. School shooters sought to emulate former shooters by wearing the same clothes as them, and, in some cases (mainly black trench coats) , using the same weapons (pipe bombs/ specific guns). The most tragic school shooting of this decade, as well as the deadliest High School shooting at the time, was the Columbine High School shooting, in which perpetrators Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people and injured many more, before taking their own lives.

Several school shooters were inspired by Columbine, with copycats appearing as soon as a month after it. Copycat shooters donned black trench coats and even imitated the dialogue of the Columbine shooters during their sprees (for example, some shooters asked their victims whether they believed in God before shooting them). The copycat effect is in part due to the excessive focus of the media on the background of the shooters, and the easy availability of journals/manifestos written by previous shooters online.

Among the deadliest of school shootings of the 21st century are the Virginia Tech Shooting, the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting, and the Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting, all of which surpassed Columbine in the terms of numbers of deaths. Each of these shootings resulted in debates about firearm possession and increased background checks during gun purchases in the United States of America.

From the mid-2000s onward, copycat attacks have been perpetrated in other countries as well. Incidents of shooting and stabbing sprees in countries like Finland and Russia have been perpetrated by people inspired by Columbine.

Causes

  • Bullying (peer victimization, peer pressure, cyberbullying, etc.) which can cause depression and/or personality disorders. For that matter, the shooter may (sometimes also) be a bully themselves. Evidence of the shooter being a bully and/or bullied can often be seen by them taunting their shooting victims.
  • Revenge against teachers for punishing the shooter unfairly. For that matter, there are cases of adults shooting staff members and/or students for wrongs/perceived wrongs the victim(s) committed against the perpetrator or their friends and/or family.
  • Mental illness (sometimes without cause)
  • Psychopathy
  • Misanthropy
  • Expulsion from the school
  • Notoriety (wanting to gain widespread recognition for their actions)
  • Political tension
  • Xenophobia (targeting specific racial groups out of hatred, usually the belief that Caucasians are superior to all other races)
  • They have been physically abused at home.
  • The Copycat/Columbine Effect (the shooter might have been inspired by previous school shootings and wish to emulate them)
  • Bullycide

Typology

Dr. Peter F. Langman, an expert on school shooters, provides the following typology for rampage school shooters:

  1. Traumatized School Shooters: This category consists of shooters who come from broken homes. Shooters from this category are likely to have been physically and/or sexually abused. Dr. Langman found that all of the subjects from his study sample who fell into this category had at least one parent with a history of substance abuse, and one parents who had been incarcerated. Shooters in this category include Evan Ramsey, Mitchell Johnson, and Jefferey Weise.
  2. Psychotic School Shooters: School shooters from this category come from intact families and have no history of abuse or parental substance abuse or incarceration. These shooters exhibit signs of schizophrenia or schizotypal personality disorder, including paranoid delusions, delusions of grandeur, and auditory hallucinations. Shooters in this category include Kip Kinkel, Michael Carneal, and Andrew Wurst.
  3. Psychopathic School Shooters: Shooters who fall into this category also come from intact families. They demonstrate signs of narcissism, a lack of empathy, a lack of conscience, and sadistic behavior. Shooters in this category include Andrew Golden, and Robert Poulin.

Signs of a School Shooter and to prevent a school shooting

No one attribute (such as having a mental illness) or experience (bullying) can be considered the primary cause of a school shooting. However, research shows that there are several signs that an individual might be contemplating and/or planning an attack. Some of these signs are:

  1. "Leak" of intent: Several perpetrators leak their intentions to peers. This may happen through efforts to recruit other students to help in the attack, or through social media posts.
  2. Obsession with past shootings: Several aspiring shooters show an almost fanatical interest in past school shootings, sometimes going as far as visiting the sites where previous shootings occurred. Aspiring shooters might also be active on online discussion forums dedicated to previous shootings.
  3. Concerning behavior: Aspiring shooters might engage in behavior that causes other concerns prior to their attack. This might be anything from efforts to obtain firearms, to disturbing writings, and self-harm.
  4. Victims of bullying: According to the Safe Schools Initiative Report, roughly 71% of perpetrators of school shootings are the victims of bullying, with 87% leaving evidence that they were victims of severe bullying.
  5. Suicide ideation/attempt: Individuals planning attacks often exhibit suicidal tendencies. Several perpetrators leave behind journals and online posts that reveal that they are contemplating suicide. In fact, some shooters perpetrate attacks in an attempt to commit suicide by cop.
  6. Other psychological factors: According to the Safe Schools Initiative Report, 10% of school shooters that had been diagnosed with a mental illness had failed to comply with their prescribed psychiatric medications. In addition to showing symptoms of depression, several perpetrators also struggled with narcissistic tendencies, rage, and tended to rely on the psychological strategy of 'splitting' (having extreme ways of thinking/ black and white thinking). Splitting is observed in certain personality disorders, and can even contribute to rationalizing homicide.

While no one of these signs is the definitive sign of a school shooter, the presence of several or these, simultaneously, might help identify an aspiring perpetrator.

Examples

A list of various school shootings based on perpetrator's fate.

Perpetrator(s) School Date Fatalities Injuries Location Kill to Wound Ratio (Perpetrator's Death(s) Excluded) Fate
Dimitrios Pagourtzis Santa Fe High School May 18th, 2018 10 13 Santa Fe, Texas, U.S. 10:13 Arrested; Still awaiting conviction
Nikolas Cruz Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School February 14th, 2018 17 17 Parkland, Florida, U.S. 1:1 Arrested; Still awaiting conviction
Luke Woodham Pearl High School October 1st, 1997 2 (including his mother) 7 Pearl, Mississippi, U.S. 2:7 Life in prison
Charles Whitman University of Texas August 1st, 1966 16 32

Austin, Texas,

U.S.

1:2 Killed by Police
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold Columbine High School April 20th, 1999 13 21

Columbine, Colorado,

U.S.

13:21 Both Committed Suicide
Seung-Hui Cho Virginia Tech University April 16th, 2007 32 17

Blacksburg, Virginia,


U.S.

22:29 Suicide
Adam Lanza Sandy Hook Elementary School December 14th, 2012 27 (including his mother) 2

Newtown, Connecticut,

U.S.

27:2 Suicide
Tim Kretschmer Albertville Realschule  and Wendlingen shootout March 11th, 2009 15 9 Winnenden, Germany 5:3 Suicide
Pekka-Eric Auvinen Jokela High School November 7th, 2007 8 1 Tuusula, Finland 8:1 Suicide
Jeff Weise Red Lake High School March 21st, 2005 9 5

Red Lake, Minnesota,

U.S.

9:5 Suicide
TJ Lane Chardon High School February 27th, 2012 3 3 Chardon, Ohio,


U.S.

3:3 Life in prison
Brenda Spencer Cleveland Elementary School January 29th, 1979 2 9 San Diego, California,


U.S.

Life in prison
Christopher Harper-Mercer Umpqua Community College October 1st, 2015 9 8 Roseburg, Oregon


U.S.

2:1 Suicide
Vladislav Roslyakov Kerch Polytechnic College October 17th, 2018 20 70 Kerch, Crimea Suicide
Barry Loukaitis Frontier Middle School February 2nd, 1996 3 1 Moses Lake, Washington


U.S.

3:1 Life in prison
Trystan Andrew Terrell University of North Carolina at Charlotte April 30th, 2019 2 4 Charlotte, North Carolina


U.S.

2:4 Arrested; Still awaiting conviction
Steven Kazmierczak Northern Illinois University February 14th, 2008 5 17 DeKalb, Illinois


U.S.

Suicide
Kip Kinkel Thurston High School May 21st, 1998 4 (including his parents) 25 Springfield, Oregon


U.S.

Life in prison
Robert Steinhäuser Gutenberg-Gymnasium Secondary School April 26th, 2002 16 1 Erfut, Germany Suicide


U.S.

Federico Guevara Elizondo Northeast American School January 18th, 2017 1 3 Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico Suicide