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© Li Ying/Xinhua via Newscom

Juvenile-Involved School/Mass Shootings: Profile, Motive, Prevention

© Li Ying/Xinhua via Newscom
© Li Ying/Xinhua via Newscom
Juvenile mass shootings are mostly confined to school settings. School shooting appears to be primarily a US phenomenon and has been shaking America for the past twenty years. The profile of an average school shooter differs from the profile attached to other mass crimes. School shooters can come from middle or upper-class families and sometimes from ‘normal’ families. School shooters can be good students with high grades, but they are often isolated and have social difficulties. School shooters are usually bright and carefully plan their attacks.

Revenge serves as the principal motive behind many school shootings. Shooters have often expressed anger with other students or the whole school community, and bullying is usually blamed for such outbursts. However, some researchers claim that shooters are not victims of bullying. However, their mental state and way of life make them feel persecuted.

They are often socially awkward individuals who cannot or do not want to form social relationships. This frustration leads them to blame others for their failures. It motivates their decision to commit suicide in a way that also punishes those the shooter believes are responsible for their social problems.

The media has been blamed for portraying school shootings as a last resort and chance for revenge for the underdog. This portrayal has been blamed for copycat shootings. It can be a powerful motivator for those who have reached rock bottom and are seriously contemplating suicide.

The decision for school shooters to commit suicide in a mass shooting is similar to that of a suicide bomber. Taking their own life may be the individual’s primary goal, but they want to achieve this goal by taking others with them as an act of revenge. Suicide bombers can be motivated by religious belief, but there have been many non-religious suicide bombings or shootings worldwide.

The majority of school shooting incidents involve long-term planning that is often published online through social media. Many such posts about the planning of shooting are referred to law enforcement, but prevention is not always successful. Of course, many planned shootings have been prevented by the authorities, but not all. The first step in preventing such incidents is to take any threat seriously. The second step is to ensure every student receives adequate support in times of crisis and mental stress. Also, access to weapons is a serious issue that has to be looked at, but many shooters acquire weapons from relatives. It is too late to punish parents who allow their children to access guns, and there is not much that can prevent them from letting their troubled children use their firearms.

Suicide-motivated attacks are difficult to stop, whether they are school shootings, mass shootings, or suicide bombing. If someone wants to commit suicide, it is impossible to stop them. An article by Dr. Peter Langman (Langman, School Shooters: The Warning Signs) describes the many warning signs that precede a school shooting. However, it might still be a challenge to prevent the suicide element itself. Prevention should begin by creating a safe environment for children from the beginning of their education journey and seriously considering any slight indicator of suicidal thoughts. 

© Don Ryan / AP File
© Don Ryan / AP File
In another article by Dr. Langman (Langman, Ten Lessons Learned from School Shootings and Foiled Attacks), he talks about how the public always blames parents for school shootings. Thurston High School shooter Kip Kinkel, who was 15 years old at the time of the attack, had previously been suspended for bringing a gun to school. His teacher had warned his parents about their son’s disturbing behavior. The parents ignored the teacher and asked the school to have their son transferred to another teacher. On the day of the attack, Kip murdered his parents first, then went to the school with five weapons, where he killed two students and injured 25 (Frontline).

While parents can be the single most crucial factor in determining the direction juveniles take, it is not productive to blame them for their children’s behavior. The best short-term strategy for preventing school shootings is to educate students and teachers about the signs that a student is troubled and might engage in such an attack. There should be a policy to deal with high and low-level indications of possible attacks or troubled children. Local police should be involved in training schools on how to identify and respond to these signs.

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Fahad Hizam alHarbi, PI