Essay Mass School Shootings in America

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American schools became dangerous places at the end of the twentieth century. Children as young as twelve and thirteen came to school not to study but to shoot as many people as possible. Even as these students transformed schools into war zones, teachers and other students did what they could to restore order and to save lives. In doing so, they became unlikely heroes on America’s latest battlefield.
Although violence in schools is nothing new, multiple shootings are. According to the 1999 Annual Report on School Violence, the number of such shootings increased from one in 1994-95 to five in 1997-98. Tragically, the epidemic of violence continued, and in December 1999, one television newscast called a shooting in Oklahoma the ninth nationwide since 1997 (NBC Evening News). The most serious incident occurred on April 20, 1999, when two teenagers in Littleton, Colorado killed fifteen of their classmates (Health and Administration Development Group 6).
Why so many children committed mass murder in so short a time is a mystery. In the past, some crimes were justified because they were committed “against an unjust system” (Devine), but these school shootings were not attached to any worthy causes. One writer has summarized many factors that may have played a part in these shootings. He mentions
parental neglect, a breakdown of societal morality, the easy availability of assault weapons, the lack of metal detectors, [and] the perverse influence of violently graphic video games and films, of certain kinds of music and of material on the Internet. (McBrien 19)
To these general causes we may add a desire for celebrity. Many of the killers seemed to be copycats, merely imitating the violence they heard and saw in the news. However, ...

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...not revenge, but healing. “I’d talk to him like a friend,” he said. “I’d see why he did it and I would pray with him” (Bragg, “Forgiveness”).
Mass school shootings have been a nightmare for many students, parents, and teachers. No doubt, the tragedy of this needless violence will not be restricted to the twentieth century. Psychologists and educators have looked for answers, but they have found few that really can help them anticipate and prevent random, apparently unmotivated acts of violence. Metal detectors, school evacuation plans, and improved counseling can reduce the likelihood of another tragic killing spree. However, if and when violence erupts, the first line of defense will remain heroic teachers and students who, in times of crisis, act courageously and selflessly to save others and to start the process of healing.

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