by Aviya Hernstadt
“Schools are still part of the American society and the American society is violent,” said Bill Bond, who was principal at Heath High School in West Pudacah in 1997. During his time there a 14 year old freshman opened fire on a prayer group. In recent years, there has been a rise in school shootings, totaling a minimum of 44 mass shootings since Sandy Hook in December 2012. Legislators and citizens everywhere are in a panic. Where do these urges for killing begin? Why target a school? More importantly, what can we do to stop it?
Protecting our children is one of the few things that connect all people. Our government’s main response to this crisis has been to tighten security in schools. About 90% of school districts have increased security since Newtown, installing metal detectors, surveillance cameras, and bulletproof glass. Schools are now implementing a stricter routine of lockdown drills, reminiscent of Cold War air raid drills. According to Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, this has helped, but parents across the country continue to live in fear that their child is next.
Rather than providing more security in the case of a shooting, we should be focusing on the root of the problem. What seems like the obvious solution is to increase restrictions and background checks for purchasing guns. But it’s no big secret that America is, on the whole, more than supportive of our second amendment. In many communities guns are a huge part of the culture, heritage, and everyday life; every household has at least one gun. This is a secondary cause of school shootings, especially considering the fact that many shooters obtain guns from their homes. Parents should have better security over their guns, regardless of the mental stability of their children. However, lawmakers have proven resolute in their refusal to reform gun laws, especially taking into account the immense influence of the National Rifle Association.
It’s impossible to talk about school shootings and not discuss mental health. Most perpetrators of mass shootings have had severe mental health issues, and many identify as lonely or hopeless. They wish to affect society in the most damaging way possible, and thus choose to target its most innocent and helpless members.
People with serious mental illnesses are three to four times more likely to have violent tendencies. However, this doesn’t mean the solution is to keep everyone with mental health issues from buying guns. This is because the vast majority of people with mental illnesses aren’t violent, and will never be.
There is legislation in America stating that anyone who has been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward may not buy a gun. This has helped the issue slightly, but has not made a huge impact. This law assumes that someone who was involuntarily admitted to a psych ward in the past, and has since recovered, is a danger to society. However, it fails to include voluntary patients of psych wards and those who never sought help at all.
On May 23, 2014, Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree on the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Rodger had posted YouTube videos talking about his anger, concerning many of his relatives. When the police visited him on a welfare check a month earlier, they concluded that he was not mentally ill. Police did not watch his videos or search his room. Rodger wrote in his manifesto, “If they had demanded to search my room… That would have ended everything.” This is a clear example of someone who, simply, slipped through the cracks. Perhaps, had there been a more in depth analysis of Rodger’s mental state, lives could have been saved.
Dudley Brown, gun rights advocate and executive director of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners group, believes that to combat these events school, staff should be armed in case an active shooter enters the building. There are two huge issues this creates. Arming school staff would create an entirely different learning environment, and could likely make children and parents feel significantly less comfortable. This idea also assumes that every teacher is mentally stable. Adding more guns into the equation cannot be the only solution.
There is no clear solution to this issue, and failing to act won’t put our minds at ease. It’s time to come together and stop these tragic events at the root.