Guns at School
Guns, children, and school should never be used in the same sentence. But over the last few years a trend has emerged causing the media to report incidents of gun violence in our schools. This has got to stop! The question is how do we stop it?
A knee-jerk response like "ban all the guns" is an over simplification of a more complex problem. It has been reported that in the United States guns are manufactured at a rate of about 18,000 per day and have an estimated life of about 400 years each. It should be no surprise then, to learn that in the United States there are more guns than there are adults. To think or believe that guns can be removed from every home in America is illogical, especially since our Constitution specifically guarantees our right to bear arms. In all fairness, however, the writers of our Constitution, over 200 years ago, were probably thinking about citizens having a slow-loading, single-shot Musket for civil defense against invaders. They could not possibly foresee the use of assault weapons at school and mass murder.
Another common solution offered is to control the public and private sale of guns. These regulations would further limit private sales to minors, prohibit sales of certain automatic weapons, and cause more registration of guns. All these methods may have some impact on the availability of guns in the future and will undoubtedly help the police locate more gun owners. Unfortunately, more laws and regulations tend to open up the black-market where gun transactions will continue to flourish illegally. All we have to do is look at our existing drug laws and our failed attempt at liquor prohibition to see that legislation is a slow process and has definite limitations.
Declining Crime Rate
Although gun violence is in the spotlight because of the recent pattern of school shootings, the violent crime rate and criminal incidents involving guns has been declining over the past several years. Arguably, gun violence should be increasing almost exponentially based on the number of guns in existence and the number of new guns being manufactured year after year.
The question of how to stop gun violence on campus may best be understood by looking at the connection between "where" the incidents occur, "who" is committing them, "who" are the intended victims, and "why". The most common thread is the location…our high schools and middle schools. The second pattern that has emerged is that the perpetrators are also students. The third pattern is that the shooters were male and to varying degrees not apart of the mainstream school social structure.
Why this level of violence continues to occur at schools, as opposed to some other place, is obvious. The first school shooting created media frenzy and the offending students became infamous. The massive media blitz creates a sick notoriety for those who want to make a statement by the massacre of fellow students. Clearly, a "copycat" game is now in play. Unfortunately, others may decide that they want to beat the record and get a higher body count. Aside from the media, it seems that the Internet is playing a role in spreading the word about violence, hate, and guns. For the first time in our history, anyone on the Internet can learn how to make a bomb or communicate anonymously with hate groups, or with terrorists.
I predict this sick copycat trend will pass and the period will be recorded as a dark time in our history. What is needed now is increased awareness, both at home and at school. Parents, teachers, and students need to communicate about the underlying issues and everyone needs to pay attention for the telltale signs of violence. Evidence of the potential for violence is often found in a student’s home, on their computer, in their notebooks or in their locker at school.
Are Video Games to Blame?
Violent video games, like the first-person-shooters, may have influenced the mindless and surreal concept of randomly shooting students. At no other time in history could a young person have sat for hours in front of a video monitor and simulated the massacre of hundreds people (or aliens) using a high-powered arsenal of weapons. This form "electronic entertainment" does not represent reality because there are no consequences after pulling the trigger. Graphic shooter video games teach the player to seek out and destroy everything in their path while displaying the blood and guts in vivid color, 3-D, and with stereo sound effects. It is not surprising that a few of these video shut-ins may begin to fantasize about shooting other students they believe have tormented or shunned them while at school.
How to Stop guns on Campus
Sure, we can make it more difficult to bring guns onto campus. But this will come at a cost of personal freedom. We can build a fortress-like school with higher fences, lock more doors, close the campus, install magnetometers and x-ray machines, and conduct pat downs and random locker searches. The problem is that the student violence could simply move to another public gathering place like a movie theater, a shopping mall, or a restaurant.
When someone is carrying a gun at school, usually other students will know, but won’t say anything…that needs to change. Many times parents will observe a negative change in behavior of their children, but won’t inquire or investigate the suspicious activity…that needs to change. Many parents allow their children to surf the web everyday, without knowing how to supervise their activity…this may be our greatest challenge. Teachers are our messengers and have the forum to promote discussions about the social and moral impact of hate, violence, guns, and computer video games…that subject needs to be incorporated into the mainstream curricula.
For now, our students need more social awareness, parental interaction, and protection by our existing laws. For the long term, our society needs to figure out how to deal with the availability of guns, how to handle the programming content on the Internet, in violent video games, and in movies. Children are our future and we need to help them find a balance between the rapidly changing technology and with traditional social values.