Teenage Rampage. School shootings

Pre-University Paper, 2007

28 Pages, Grade: 1,1


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Shootings
2.1. Definition of a school shooting
2.2 History of school shootings
2.3 Causes of school shootings
2.3.1 Mental Illnesses
2.3.2 Social trouble
2.3.3 Gun availability
2.3.4 Violent media
2.3.5 Combinations of factors
2.4 The Shooters

3. Aftermaths of school rampages
3.1 How victims cope with the shootings
3.2 What became of the shooters
3.3 The copycat effect

4. Prevention methods
4.1 Gun Control
4.2 Restrictions of violent media
4.3 What schools can do

5. Conclusion

7. Bibliography
7.1 Books
7.2 Articles
7.3 Time Magazine Articles
7.4 Videos
7.5 Homepages
7.6 PDF Data
7.7 Pictures

1. Introduction

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“After I mow down a whole area full of you snotty-ass rich motherfucker high-strung God-like-attitude-having worthless pieces of shit whores, I don’t care if I live or die.”[1] With provocative quotes like this one, Eric Harris announced his merciless school shooting. Together with Dylan Klebold, he committed the Columbine massacre - the worst carnage ever perpetrated by teenagers in the United States. On 18 April, 1999, the two youngsters entered Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, heavily armed.[2] Their arsenal included “two sawn off shotguns, [a] 9mm Hi-Point carbine rifle, [a] TEC-DC-9 semi-automatic pistol and a total of 95 explosive devices.”[3] Regardless of the consequences Harris and Klebold methodically killed their fellow students. A total of thirteen dead and twenty-three wounded people was the sad result of this atrocious act.[4] After the bloodbath the American people wondered why warning signs were not taken serious and how such a bloody deed could take place in a suburban area in Colorado. Even so, the Columbine massacre was not a singular instance, it was the incident that drew attention to school shootings. Before the deadly homicide Eric Harris recorded a message saying “People will die because of me … It will be a day that will be remembered forever.”[5] Tragically, he was proved right. People all over the world kept the shooting in mind and, in addition to it, the idiom ‘pull a Columbine’ was append to the American encyclopedia.[6] Because of the fatal carnage, people became aware of a big problem in society. There have been heated controversies about the homicides themselves questioning if the legal custodian, violent music, weapons of the shooters or the system of cliques which is part of the normal high school life should be blamed.[7] Also, the aftermaths of the schoolyard shootings and prevention methods which should be introduced were discussed in public. The following paper will give a valuable insight into the topic.

2. Shootings

2.1. Definition of a school shooting

A carnage must involve certain factors to be defined as a school shooting. For one thing, it must “take place on a school-related stage before an audience.”[8] Secondly, the killing must incriminate multiple victims, some of whom are only shot because of their figurative importance or haphazardly. Thus, the perpetrator must attempt to commit a mass murder by killing as many people as possible. Hence, homicides with single targets are not recognized as school shootings even so they occur on an education places. Additionally, such an event has to be committed by one or more shooters who are pupils or former students of the school. According to this definition carnages committed by outsiders are not determined as school shootings.[9]

2.2 History of school shootings

School shootings existed long before Columbine. Already in the 1980’s such events took place. For instance, fourteen-year-old James Alan Kearbey entered his Junior high school armed with guns and “killed the school principal, and wounded two teachers and a student.”[10] This tragic occurrence happened in 1985 and made the Goddard Junior High School students in Kansas to one of the first witnesses of a problem which just started to spread all over the United States.[11] In “Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings” a diagram shows the number of school shootings in the period from 1974 to 2002.[12] As one can observe, shootings occurred scarcely until 1989. Merely six attacks took place within fifteen school years. Bloodbaths on school grounds have experienced a boost in the 1990’s. In the year 1997-1998 the number of schoolyard shootings was culminating with a total of six homicides. Fortunately, in the following years the count decreased again. The diagram also exposes the number of attacks plus post-Columbine plots since 1999. This displays the actions which were disclosed by police and school officials after the deadly Columbine massacre. It is impossible to know if these plots would have concluded with lethal homicides and many victims or would have stayed a perverse fancy in a youngsters mind. “Either way they are particularly reassuring: students are still thinking about, planning and moving to execute rampage shootings.”[13] The attempted mass murder on a schoolyard in Emsdetten, Germany, on November 20, 2006, when a teenager wounded five students before killing himself, shows that this propensity is still up-to-date.[14] Also, the threats that followed, after this incident was made public, are shocking.[15] This school homicide also indicates that teenage carnages are not only a problem of American society. Even though most shootings took place in the United States, in the last years they occurred more frequently in other countries, too. Some non-American nations have shocking records. For example, the worst bloodbath on an education place ever perpetrated by a youngster took place in Erfurt, Germany. On April 26, 2002, nineteen-year-old Robert Steinhäuser entered the Johann Gutenberg Gymnasium armed and masked, after he was expelled from the school in February. His arsenal included a pistol and a deadly shotgun. Belonging to two gun clubs, Steinhäuser was an excellent marksman.

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Since his deadly carnage pertained his former teachers, Robert chased them. In consequence he killed one policeman, two students and a dismaying number of thirteen teachers before committing suicide.[16] With a total of sixteen dead victims, the German student slew more people than the Columbine shooters. Ever since horrifying stories like Erfurt or Columbine hit the headlines, experts are reflecting about the causes for the bloody deeds.

2.3 Causes of school shootings

2.3.1 Mental Illnesses

Firstly, a mental illness can be the cause of a school shooting. The problem in finding a direct influence is that only a few shooters are diagnosed mentally ill before their carnage. An undetected insanity can be problematical, because it is not a conspicuous warning sign. However, “many are discovered afterward to be mentally ill.” [17] Those shooters need diverse ranges of treatment after their crimes. It is possible that the teenagers are going to be suicidal for a major part of their lives. Also, presumably they will sustain iterated flashbacks to the day of their shooting.[18] But yet there are cases in which gunners were known to be laid up with mental illnesses. Most specifically those maladies are depression and schizophrenia. In these cases the students were treated by psychiatrists with different drugs such as Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil and Luvox. These antidepressants have various adverse reactions.[19] ”The following side effects are listed for Prozac: apathy; hallucinations; hostility; irrational ideas; paranoid reactions; antisocial behavior; hysteria; and suicidal thoughts.” [20] Therefore, conjectures have been made that the drugs, which were prescribed by doctors, could be linked directly to the teenage rampages. Nevertheless one has to be careful with assumptions like that, since more then two million people in the United States are affected with schizophrenia. In most cases the illness developed during their adolescence. [21] Hence one can say that the number of school shootings is incommensurable to the number of juveniles treated with antidepressants.

2.3.2 Social trouble

Another possible cause for the school shootings can be social trouble. These social problems can be family difficulties such as parent’s “divorce or sexual abuse, frequent relocations, and fragile family relationships as well as lack of awareness or involvement [of parents] in children’s lives.”[22] Based on these reasons one may wonder if parents should be held responsible for their sons’ and daughters’ behaviors. If warning signs are ignored or dismissed, society blames the parents asking themselves why the bloody deeds were not stopped and where the parents were.[23] These familiar troubles can result in antisocial behavior and, therefore, the students are more likely to become outsiders. Not only family problems are covered by the factor social trouble but also bullying at school. If a teenager does not belong to a famous group at school, such as cheerleaders or sport teams, he is treated like an outsider. Youngsters are psychologically frail. They do not know how to deal with rejection. Assaults and battery, mistreatment and violation leave one’s mark on a teenager. Consequently “kids who feel powerless and rejected are capable of doing horrible things.”[24] For the students’ troubles at their education place “school[s] came in for criticism as well.”[25] They were blistered to be too large and for that reason too impersonal. Thus, teachers and administrators are not able to pay as much attention to students as they demand. Consequential, some youngsters are lost and left alone at their schools and warning signs remain unnoticed. The lack of communication between students and teachers is animadverted, as well. Naught of significance is conveyed from a teenager to the older generation anymore. Thereby, the detection of premonition features is aggravated.[26] This shows very plainly, that the milieu and the social periphery influence teenagers a lot and they are also part of unmasking warning signs. If the assessment of warning signs does not work or when social trouble negatively influence a teenager, it can be a factor for the youngster to commit a deadly crime at his or her school.

2.3.3 Gun availability

In addition, gun availability is a topic often discussed closely linked to school shootings. Society wonders if weapons are to blame for the teenage rampages. Gun activists demanded stricter laws to limit the access to firearms by introducing tougher firearm specifications.[27] Due to the fact that the activists believe that “it is foolish to think that we can reduce gun violence among young people without reducing their easy access to weapons”[28], they charge the gun availability for the school homicides. Studies show that most of the shooters got their firearms because they were stored irresponsibly in the parental home or a friend’s house.[29] The high number of guns in American houses enables the children to gain access easily. There exist circa two hundred million guns in the United States which are possessed by peradventure thirty-five percent of all American ménages. The existence of these weapons influences the lives of the American people. With a substantial number of guns the number of murder and suicide increases. The prospect that an instant of fury will terminate in an injury or in death is more likely when a weapon is being gamed. Many humans are dying yearly, and, in fact, more people are losing friends and family. Exceedingly, the guns which revolve in society impinge on youngsters. Firearms are the weapon for homicide as well as suicide.[30] Thus, one can say that the subsistence of guns in American society is a factor that most school shootings are committed in the United States. Yet, school homicide also happen in countries with stricter gun laws like Germany. Germany has one of the most severe laws concerning guns. While in America only a driver’s license is needed to buy or to posses a firearm, Germans must evince their ‘need’ as well as pass a government test.[31] In defiance of the strict gun laws, the worst school shooting ever was committed in Germany.[32] All in all, it suggests itself that the access to weaponry is connected to school shootings. Notwithstanding, in hindsight, we will never know if the perpetrators would have committed their assaults without having guns available so easily.

2.3.4 Violent media

Moreover, violent media can be a cause for school shootings. All youngsters are exposed to violent movies, extreme music and rowdyish homepages on the internet. Vengeance fantasies are rambling in movies. Brutal films do inspire some children to commit vicious bloodbaths at school. For instance, the movie “Natural Born Killers” which tells the story of two teenagers traveling through the Southwest conducting psychedelic mass-slaughters was studied by the Columbine shooters.[33] Also violent games like “Doom“ and “Quake“ hit the headlines after school shootings were committed. These crunch encounters are first-person shooter games and are known for the wide range of arsenal which is available for the players. Yet, it is not possible to calculate the effect the games and the movies had on the gunners in retrospect.[34] Nevertheless, a 2003 study reveals that playing violent video games in a young age can trigger aggressiveness in one’s behavior in later years. Likewise, researches have evicted a twelve percent raise in aggressive behavioral problems after watching violent television. Also, children who watch television shows and films for more than four hours a day, have to face other problems than being exposed to violent media. Inquests have shown that heavy viewers “put in less effort at school, have poorer reading skills, play less friendly with friends, have fewer hobbies and activities, and are more likely to be overweight.”[35] This can constitute the children to outsiders. Overall, one can say that studies showed that there are three main implications of playing rowdyish video games and watching brutal television shows. Firstly, children may become less sensible to the ache, agony and affliction of others. Secondly, minors could be more timorous and afraid of their surroundings. And thirdly, youngsters might be more presumably to behaving thuggish, violent or hurtful toward other people.[36] In connection with school shootings violent music was mentioned as well. Especially the name of the “self-proclaimed Antichrist superstar Marilyn Manson”[37] hit the headlines. The Columbine killers listened to Marilyn Manson’s rock songs which according to the press promote death, hate, suicide, drugs and Columbine-like behavior. Yet, the musician doubts that his influence is as big as the media alleges. He rather believes that the President and the real world have their effects on youngsters. In an interview with filmmaker Michael Moore, he states that watching the news radiates fear since stories about floods, wars, AIDS and murder are reported.[38] The superstar encapsulates the most important fact, neither one can really tell to what extend violent media influences a child, nor can anyone tell if it is news stories or brutal music which transforms a ordinary teenager into a mass murder. Almost every teenager in the world is confronted with violent media but doubtless only the least of all are thinking about committing a schoolyard shooting.

2.3.5 Combinations of factors

Recapitulating, one can say that there is not a single reason for a shooter to commit a school homicide. Not every youngster with a mental illness, every kid with social trouble, every student with access to guns, nor every teenager exposed to violent media is a future school shooter. Thus, there has to be a combination of factors to prevail a teenager to shoot down his teachers and fellow classmates. Thus, one can say that it is like a big puzzle with lots of pieces to it.[39] Additionally, warning signs must be ignored by friends and family. Therefore, it is easy for the shooters to carry out their plans. However, one can only list the factors that may have led to the shootings. But yet, the final result is that no one can really say what prompts a teenager to perpetrate a mass murder at school. There is no register where one can check off warning signs indicating who is capable of committing a blood bath on a school-related stage.[40] In addition to this, many students also “remain well below radar range.”[41] This means that many youngsters are able to hide their troubles and difficulties. And invisible warning signs cannot be detected by other people. Also, in advance, no one can expect a person to be aware of the reasons why a gunner perpetrates a carnage, when one does not even know in retrospect. Solely the shooters themselves might know what misdirected them. However, nobody can ask the perpetrators who committed suicide about their reasons. And the gunners who are still alive sometimes cannot name the factors that made them to the greatly feared teenagers that are known all over the world, because they hit the headlines with their deadly massacres.


[1] Mendoza, Antonio (2002, pg. 123).

[2] Cf. Lane, Brian and Gregg, Wilfred (2004, pg. 73 f.).

[3] Mendoza, Antonio (2002, pg. 123).

[4] Cf. Lane, Brian and Gregg, Wilfred (2004, pg. 73 f.).

[5] Brooks, Brown and Merritt, Rob. No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death at Columbine (2002, pg. 124).

[6] Cf. Mendoza, Antonio (2002, pg. 123).

[7] Cf. Gibbs, Nancy. ...In Sorrow and Disbelief (1999, Vol. 153 No. 17; pg. 25 f.).

[8] Newman, Katherine S. and Fox, Cybelle and Roth, Wendy (2002, pg.50).

[9] Cf. Newman, Katherine S. and Fox, Cybelle and Roth, Wendy (2002, pg.50).

[10] Mendoza, Antonio (2002, pg. 14).

[11] Cf. Mendoza, Antonio (2002, pg. 14).

[12] Cf. Appendix: Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings.

[13] Newman, Katherine S. and Fox, Cybelle and Roth, Wendy (2002, pg.51).

[14] Cf. Pleigen, Fritz. Emsdetten: Amoklauf war lange geplant (06/01/2007).

[15] Cf. Polizei Minden-Lübbecke. Trittbrettfahrer nach Amoklauf von Emsdetten beschäftigten auch die Polizei in Minden (06/01/2007).

[16] Cf. Lane, Brian and Gregg, Wilfred (2004, pg. 317).

[17] Newman, Katherine S. and Fox, Cybelle and Roth, Wendy (2002, pg.59).

[18] Roche, Timothy and Bower, Amanda. Young Voices from the Cell (08/08/2006).

[19] Cf. Mendoza, Antonio (2002, pg. 8 f.).

[20] Mendoza, Antonio (2002, pg. 8 f.).

[21] Cf. Newman, Katherine S. and Fox, Cybelle and Roth, Wendy (2002, pg. 60).

[22] Cf. Newman, Katherine S. and Fox, Cybelle and Roth, Wendy (2002, pg. 62).

[23] Cf. Dickinson, Amy. Where Were the Parents? (1999, Vol. 153 No. 17; pg. 40.).

[24] Cohen, Adam. A Curse of Cliques (1999, Vol. 153 No. 17; pg. 45).

[25] Carter, Green Lee (2002, pg. 521).

[26] Cf. Carter, Green Lee (2002, pg. 521 f.).

[27] Cf. “The School Shootings: Are Guns to Blame?.” Issues & Controversies On File 29 May 1998.

[28] “The School Shootings: Are Guns to Blame?.” Issues & Controversies On File 29 May 1998.

[29] Cf. Carter, Green Lee (2002, pg. 521).

[30] Cf. Embar, Wanda. Gun availability (10/01/2007).

[31] Cf. National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action. Gun Laws, Culture, Justice & Crime in Foreign Countries (10/01/2007).

[32] Cf. Lane, Brian and Gregg, Wilfred (2004, pg. 317).

[33] Cf. Corliss, Richard. Bang, You’re Dead (1999 Vol. 153 No. 17; pg. 49 f.).

[34] Cf. Taylor, Chris. Digital Dungeons. (1999 Vol. 153 No. 17; pg. 50).

[35] Tompkins, Aimee. The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children (07/01/2007).

[36] Cf. Tompkins. The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children (07/01/2007).

[37] Corliss, Richard. Bang, You’re Dead (1999 Vol. 153 No. 17; pg. 49).

[38] Cf. Appendix: Bowling For Columbine: Are we a nation of gun nuts or are we just nuts?

[39] Cf. Corliss, Richard. Bang, You’re Dead (1999 Vol. 153 No. 17; pg. 50).

[40] Cf. FBI Academy. The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective (pg. 1).

[41] Cf. Newman, Katherine S. and Fox, Cybelle and Roth, Wendy (2002, pg. 110).

Excerpt out of 28 pages


Teenage Rampage. School shootings
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Remi Bauer (Author), 2007, Teenage Rampage. School shootings, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/266434


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