Small Steps To Prevent School Shootings In America

In America now it is not too uncommon to hear about a school shooting unfortunately. Ideas have been thrown around, but no real change has been implemented because of the political disputes involving different solutions. Now what if there were some things, we could do that would have very little to no negative effects and potentially help prevent future mass school shootings. Because of the drastic growth in school shootings, any solution is welcome, necessary, and helpful to the situation.

There has been a significant increase in school shootings between the 1980s and where we are today. There has been very little research being conducted despite the rise in the amount of school shootings. There are many thoughts as to why the amount of school shootings and school violence has gone up in number. Current things that some people seem to pin as the cause of violence in schools is information being more available on the Internet, as well as violence in movies, media, and video games. Companies such as Walmart have pledged to stop selling violent video games. According to Anderson, Shibuya, and Ihori (2010), “exposure to media violence can increase aggression amongst viewers, and youth will be more interested in acquiring and using guns after exposure to gun violence in films.“ Lots of the time after an active school shooting, the media will focus on gun control and the politics of school shootings rather than on the shooter’s personal life or the family’s responsibility for the actions. Mass shootings in the schools are the most difficult to prevent using gun control. This is largely due to the fact that most gun control solutions and proposals involve banning certain types of guns, often time being “assault style weapons” which is hard to define and has many opposing views. The more effective type of gun control that could be beneficial would be to have systems that prevent certain people from buying any type of gun. Not banning certain types of guns from all people.

A couple of the proposed solutions in this paper involving preventing certain types of people from obtaining firearms. Is it possible to profile a school shooter and if so, how would you go about doing so? Mass shooters are usually loners, and a large amount of them have had suicide thoughts or actions and have had cases of depression. About three fourths of the school shooters studied contemplated or attempted suicide before their attacks. Like this point, “in more than three-fourths of the incidents, the attackers had difficulty coping with a major change in a significant relationship or loss of status, such as a lost love or a humiliating failure”. Bullying is a common issue among school shooters. As a large portion of the time the shooters are loners and are without any close friends at school. So, although profiling a school shooter can be difficult it’s still possible to discern who could be a potential threat and who would not. The solutions proposed are to help prevent any potential threat and so have to prevent certain people from purchasing firearms.

One thing that would help to prevent potential school shooters from acquiring a firearm would be to implement mental health reforms in places where guns are sold. Another more extreme alternation to this would be to ban citizens with a mental health history from purchasing any firearm all together. Doing this would prevent those with harmful intentions due to their mental state from buying a gun and in doing so would cause less attacks by students who have history of attempting harm on themselves or others. “78% of school shooters had a history of suicide attempts or suicidal ideations prior to their attack. Also, many of the attackers (61%) demonstrated a history of suicidal attempts, as well as had a documented history of experiencing symptoms of extreme depression or desperation, prior to an attack.” Lots of the kids who have committed shootings were not included as much, didn’t have a large number of friends, or were bullied. Social rejection is shown also to cause higher levels of depression, and desperation. One example of this scenario is Dylan Klebold, one of the kids involved in the well-known Columbine shooting. Dylan had been depressed and suicidal two years before he committed the shooting. However, despite this he and his partner were both able to buy guns legally and without any major issues. If we had more restrictions on purchasing weapons with those who have shown a history of self-harm or depression, we could stop any of their actions from harming not only themselves but their fellow classmates and peers. A study by the FBI has also shown that a large amount of the shooters were feeling desperate before they committed the shooting. Mental health problems do not cause school shootings by themselves. A rather small number of students with mental issues become school shooters. But mental issues are a part of it because they can lower a student’s ability to deal with stress. And studies have also shown that lots of school shooters have had very stressful lives. Lots of the shooters have had childhood traumas such as abuse, both physical and mental, divided families, or an alcoholic parent, if they even have parents, and the majority of school shooters have had major family member losses sometime in their life. “98% of perpetrators struggled with a deep personal loss prior to the attack and lacked appropriate coping skills to deal with their loss.” An example of this is the shooter from the infamous Parkland, Florida shooting in 2018, Nikolas Cruz was the shooter and his adopted mother died from the flu just a few of months before he committed the shooting. His adopted father had also passed away when he was a young child. Once again though, he was able to buy his gun legally and was not prevented in any way from buying this weapon. This was obviously not the sole factor in what caused the school shooting but played a part in it. These two examples show that shooters with mental illnesses could buy their weapons without any restrictions. By creating a system where people with mental illnesses are prevented from purchasing weapons, there we be less guns in the hands of dangerous people who could harm themselves and others, and if laws like this had been implemented earlier, then those two terrible shootings could have been potentially avoided.

Another small improvement we can make to laws involving guns and gun purchases is to create a federal wait time for purchasing a firearm. A waiting period law requires a certain number of days to pass between the purchase of a firearm and when the buyer can have possession of the gun. By preventing immediate access to firearms, waiting periods create a period that can help prevent impulsive acts of gun violence, such as homicides and suicides. The waiting period right now is almost nonexistent. There is no federal waiting period. Done through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a dealer may sell a firearm to a purchaser as soon as they pass a background check. If the FBI is unable to complete a background check within three business days, the dealer may complete the sale without the check. Federal law also doesn’t make private sellers perform background checks on gun purchasers. People who purchase firearms from private sellers may buy it right away, unless the state law says different. There are eight states that have a wait time for all guns, he only two states that have a required waiting period on just semiautomatic rifles are Minnesota and Washington, and only three more than that have a wait time on handguns. So, in total only thirteen of all the states have any law at all, and those laws are only for specific guns and not for all guns. As the gun waiting periods are very little to none in most of the states there is lots of situations where a shooter or someone planning to do harm to themselves or others purchase the gun that day. Some ideas to help refine the waiting period legislation would be to establish a waiting period for all firearm purchases, of a long enough duration to allow a cooling-off period before the purchaser can take possession of the firearm, those who have permits to carry firearms in public cannot be exempted from the waiting period, and also that the transfer of the gun is prohibited until the background check process has been completed, regardless of whether the waiting period has passed or not. These laws would help to reduce the amount of not only suicides by guns but shootings also, especially because often shootings or even more so suicides are instinct events and the shooter will purchase the gun the day before, or even the day of the shooting. In the instance of Emily Frazier’s 21-year-old husband, Ryan Frazier, who shot himself with a semiautomatic in 2008, soon after bringing a lawsuit against a priest who had molested him during his teenage years. The priest was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to 30 days in jail. This once again shows how traumatic events as a younger person can affect how your mind works in relation to gun violence, as Ryan had struggled with nightmares since the incident with the priest. Ryan had never used a gun before. The police report said he had fired test shots out the window of the car. Ryan bought the gun from a gas station just a few miles from where they found him dead. He had walked in, purchased the gun with a thorough and quick background check, and then walked out with a handgun. He killed himself just around an hour after the purchase. If there had been laws in place where a waiting period was required to buy a gun, then the incident would have never happened as Ryan would have had to wait to purchase in gun in such a short amount of time. Suicide attempts are often impulsive, short lived episodes that involve little planning or thought. Many studies suggest that most suicide survivors contemplated their actions for only a brief period, often less than 24 hours, before attempting suicide. In relation to this, studies suggest that thoughts that cause violence against others, such as anger and rage, can be short-lived as well. Waiting period laws, which create a buffer between the time of gun purchase and gun ownership, can help to prevent impulsive acts of gun violence. In some studies, it shows that waiting period laws prevent firearm suicides and firearm homicides. By one estimation, waiting period laws may reduce firearm suicide rates by 7–11%. Waiting period laws can also lessen the number of shootings. One study found that waiting period laws that delay the purchase of firearms by a few days can reduce gun homicides by around 17%. Waiting periods can also give additional time to complete background checks that sometimes cannot be completed within the three-day window that federal law currently has implemented. “Each year, approximately 3,800 ineligible people acquire firearms through so-called “default proceed” sales, in which a dealer completes a sale without a completed background check after three business days, as is allowed under federal law.” For these reasons extending the time to complete background checks will lessen the number of prohibited people to purchase firearms. The result of this would be a reduced amount of suicides and shootings.

One change to make that could potentially save hundreds of lives in shootings would be to implement a system where each citizen that purchases a firearm must be reviewed by either a computer program, person, or any other thing that can determine if they should be a threat or not. There are currently some laws in place that do this to a certain extent. Federal law prohibits the purchase and possession of firearms by people such as domestic abusers, convicted felons, and people with specific kinds of mental health histories. With just these few kinds of people, background checks have prevented over 3 million people from obtaining guns, federal law does not usually include any other type of people although they may be a potential harm as well. There are lots of other type of people that should have restricted firearm access as well. People with violent or gun involved misdemeanants should be prohibited from buying firearms. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association analyzing purchasers of handguns in California found that purchasers with at least one prior misdemeanor conviction were more than seven times as likely as those with no prior criminal history to be charged with a new offense after a handgun purchase. People with alcohol related crimes should be prevented from purchasing firearms. Multiple studies have found links between alcohol abuse and a person’s tendency to engage in violence and spontaneous behavior. In correlation with this, heavy alcohol use is more common among firearm owners who keep their guns unlocked and loaded. In an average month, an estimated 8.9 to 11.7 million gun owner will drink consistently. deaths from alcohol-related firearm violence equal those from all alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes among men. Since the focus of this paper is to reduce school shootings in any way, one group of people that should have firearm access completely banned is those with juvenile offenses. Those that have committed violent acts at a young age are more likely to cause violence as adults. An example of this would be the Colorado STEM School shooting, in which the shooter, Devon Erickson, had been convicted of a juvenile offense and then committed the shooting at age 18. Relating back to the first point, those with mental illnesses should be banned from purchasing firearms as well. Federal law prevents those who have been sent to a mental institution or are mentally defective. This does not stop many other people known to be dangerously mentally ill. The Safe Schools Initiative Report also suggested that 71% of the attackers were victims of bullying and 87% of school shooting perpetrators left behind evidence that they were victims of severe bullying. Bullying is often the reason that many students are depressed although many students don’t get the mental help they need and so it is unknown that they have a mental issue. By creating a system where more students for checked for and helped with mental illnesses you could find those that are struggling with issues like depression. By doing so you could then ban those from purchasing firearms potentially stopping those shooters with certain types of mental issues. One way you could take this idea one step further is by not only preventing these certain people from purchasing firearms, but to review their social media platforms, medical past, and factors like family history. By doing so you could check each person individually.

The amount of increase involving gun violence and shootings in schools is extremely worrying and must be fixed in some way. Schools should be a safe environment for learning and create a beneficial environment for the students as well as teachers. When acts such as gun shootings take place, students feel scared, traumatized, and fearful of the future. To make sure that the safety of all students is kept, it would be beneficial to help create a system to help protect and help those with mental illnesses. Not only to prevent them from access to firearms, but to help them to overcome and assist in their mental struggles. By creating a waiting period, you could help prevent the violent impulses that many people who have depression or troubled pasts are often victim of. And by doing so ensuring that they are kept from hurting themselves or others. By implementing a system where you are able to prevent other potential threats such as those with gun related crimes, alcohol related crimes, those convicted of a juvenile offense, and those with mental issues should be prevented from purchasing firearms as well. By implementing such ideas, you could prevent those who have the potential to become a shooter from inflicting harm on themselves and others. 

09 March 2021
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