School Shootings and Their Causes

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School Shootings and Their Causes

On April 20, 1999, in the moderately sized town of
Littleton, Colorado, at approximately 11:20 a.m., two young
men, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, stormed into
Columbine High School. No more than twenty minutes later, 15
people were dead, including the two of them, and another
twenty-three wounded (Gibbs 28-29). Knowing that the duo are
teenagers, and probably played many violent video games and
watched hundreds of violent shows, people immediately began to
blame the media, and the violence that these young men had
been exposed to by it. But is it the media that is to blame
for all these deaths? Is it violent movies, television shows,
music, and video games that made these two, and other killers
like them, do what they did? In this paper I plan to discuss
the happenings at Columbine and the recent similar assaults
that have occurred on schools, but more specifically I plan to
concluded what caused these kids to do what they did, with a
focus on media violence as the primary reason. As I begin
this paper I dont personally believe that media violence is
to blame for all these shootings, I may not know why the kids
did what they did, but I cant see them killing classmates
because of a movie they saw, a song they listened to, a show
they watched, or a video game they played. Through this paper
I plan to either further my belief of this, or possibly prove
otherwise and change my views.

The recent explosion in media coverage of Columbine made
it seem like it was a random event, which weve never seen the
likes of before, but many crimes like this have happened
before. Since February of 1996, there has been six other
high profile school violence cases like Columbine. The
first of these was committed by Barry Loukaitis, 14, on Feb.

2, 1996. Loukaitis killed three people, and injured one
other, with a rifle that he got from home. On Oct. 1, 1997
Luke Woodham, 16, killed two people and his mother, and
wounded another 7, also with a rifle that he got from home.

Two months later, on Dec. 1, 1997, Michael Carneal, 14, killed
3 students, and wounded 5 others with a pistol that he stole
from his neighbor. Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden,
11, killed 5 people, and wounded another 10 on Mar. 24, 1998,
with 3 rifles and 7 handguns that they got from their
relatives. On May 21, 1998, Kipland Kinkel, 15, killed 2
students, and wounded 20 others with 2 pistols and a
semiautomatic rifle that he owned. The most famous of the
list, Columbine, was committed by Harris, and Klebold, who
killed 13, and injured another 23, with a handgun, a rifle,
two shotguns, and numerous homemade bombs. The latest of
these school shootings occurred exactly one month after
Columbine, on May 20, 1999, when Thomas Solomon, 15, wounded 6
students with a rifle that he got from home. All of the
shooters are now in some form of a jail, whether it be prison,
or a detention center, with, of course, the exception of
Klebold and Harris, who committed suicide. The rest are
serving a total of seven life sentences, with three in
juvenile detention centers, and a fourth is still awaiting
trial (Cloud 36-37).

Although many people think that this sort of thing only
happens in large, high capacity schools like Columbine, with
an attendance of almost 2,000, the largest of the group by
more than 500, it doesnt. The school that Golden and Johnson
attacked was a school of just 250 students. The real reasons
for all of these shootings is unknown, but family problems is
probably not a major factor in all cases except for Loukaitis,
whose suicidal mother was about to divorce his father, and
Woodham, whose father left the family when he was 11. All the
others had two-parent families with no serious problems.

Another possible cause would be the immediate situation that
the person, or persons, were in. Of the seven most recent
instances those possible motives range from being teased, and
publicly humiliated, to breaking up with girlfriends, and
impending expulsion from school. All of the shooters had
various mental health issues, and those are generally
considered to be the most prominent of causes for the
shootings. Collectively the group was taking three different
kinds of mind altering drugs; Luvox, Prozac, and Ritalin. In
fact, Seven of the nine shooters were considered to be
depressed (Cloud 36-37). It is all these factors that are
considered to be possible reasons for the shootings, but that
one other possible reason, media violence, seems to be what
everyone wants to blame these shootings on.

Generally considered to be a major factor in all of
these shootings is media violence. Marilyn Manson music is
one of the most common cultural influences listed, with
Woodham, Kinkel, Harris, and Klebold all known to have
listened to it. The very popular first-person shooter games
Doom and Quake were both favorites of Carneal, Harris, and
Klebold (Cloud 36-37). Harris even went as far as to say
Its gonna be like f_ing Doom, Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick (A
representation of the Doom theme)…Haa! That f_ing shot gun
is straight out of Doom (Roche 42-43). Mortal Kombat,
another particularly violent game was also a favorite of
Golden, Johnson, and Solomon (Cloud 36-37). But are these
games to blame? I personally have played all of them and I
seem fine, but it has been said that not everyone who plays
these games will become a murderer, just as not everyone who
smokes gets cancer, but they all get sickened (Quittner 54).

For a view of what teens think about this issue, a
survey was taken by approximately 50 Ramapo High School
Students, it showed that kids here dont really think that the
media is to blame. Four questions were asked and the results
are: To the question How likely is it that an incident
similar to the one in Littleton, Colorado, would occur here?
24% said very or somewhat likely, and 76% said not very or not
likely at all. To the question Has this incident given ideas
to troubled kids at Ramapo to do something similar? 18% said
Yes 92% said No. To the question Do you know someone who has
spoken seriously about committing an act of violence at
Ramapo? 20% said Yes 80% said No. To the big question of
How responsible are the following for what happened at
Columbine? Availability of guns: 84% Very/Somewhat likely 16%
Not very likely/Not at all likely. Internet: 74%
Very/Somewhat likely 26% Not very likely/Not at all likely.

Parents: 66% Very/Somewhat likely 34% Not very likely/Not at
all likely. Schools: 60% Very/Somewhat likely 40% Not very
likely/Not at all likely. Violence in news: 56% Very/Somewhat
likely 44% Not very likely/Not at all likely. Violence in
Movies, TV and Music: 66% Very/Somewhat likely 34% Not very
likely/Not at all likely. Violence in Video Games: 56%
Very/Somewhat likely 44% Not very likely/Not at all likely.

This survey showed that, for the most part, teens believe that
all of the possibilities listed are pretty much to blame for
Columbine, but it wasnt violence in various forms that was
thought to be the most likely cause, it was the availability
of guns to the duo that was to blame.

Before researching this paper, I didnt really believe
that media violence, in its many forms, was to blame for
killings like Columbine. I had been exposed to many of the
same things that all these kids had, I played Doom, Quake and
Mortal Kombat, I listened to bands like Limp Bizkit, Korn, Kid
Rock, Tupac and Nirvana, I saw movies like Natural Born
Killers and Basketball Diaries. So how could people try to
blame these for what happened at Columbine? I always figured
that the kids were just messed up in the head, and the fact
that they had an arsenal of guns at their disposal didnt help
either. In fact, all of the killers listed earlier got their
guns from home, neighbors, relatives or friends. So maybe it
isnt media violence that is to blame, maybe its the
incompetence of people that give these kids access to all
these guns, and maybe the kids were just crazy. Adults do
things like this all the time and most of them are said to be
crazy, so why couldnt the kids be? Before writing this paper
I didnt think media violence was to blame, but I wasnt sure
what was. After writing it, I know media violence is not to
blame, but now I that it may have contributed. I also think
that the availability of guns and psyche problems are to blame
too, along with many other unnamed factors.


Works Cited
1. Cloud, John. Just a Routine School Shooting. Time
Magazine. May 31, 1999: 34 – 38.


2. Roche, Timothy and Gibbs, Nancy. The Columbine
Tapes. Time Magazine. December 20, 1999: 40 – 51.
3. Gibbs, Nancy. Special Report: The Littleton
Massacre. Time Magazine. May 3, 1999: 20 – 36.


4. Quittner, Joshua. Are Video Games Really So Bad?.

Time Magazine. May 10, 1999: 50 – 59.