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Apr 99

25 Dead in US School Shootings

Swat Team vs 2 Teens
No, these aren’t ground troops in Kosovo.

No doubt you’ve heard about this shocking news already. News coverage has been going on for the past 24 hours. When I was on the way to the train station this morning, reports over the radio said that gunmen had “held up” a school in Denver. Details were still sketchy, but when I came back from uni, I found out everything soon enough. If you haven’t heard about this, check out CNN’s coverage, or the Denver Post (or any other news site). There… it’s on TV right now. And there it is on another channel…

As a result of these events, as always, multiple issues have been raised – all with the aim of finding the cause of this massacre.

Firstly there’s the issue of gun control. I do believe that this was a “cause”. Maybe not a big a cause as some make it out to be, but still it is a cause. In Australia guns are for the most part, illegal. I do not recall a school shooting ever happening in Australia. Gun control in Australia has made firearms more inaccessible. Families don’t keep guns in their homes. The only time I ever used a firearm was in cadets, and never since then. Ahhh but of course this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to obtain these weapons. Think back to Martin Bryant and the Port Arthur massacre. What Australia’s gun control has done, however, is create a culture in which guns are far less commonplace and have never been a problem for schools (not yet, anyway). Sure you can still get guns. Sure it’s relatively easy to make homemade explosives (I had friends playing around with a pretty potent 5″ homemade spud gun last year). But it’s more difficult in Australia. If you asked me where I could buy a gun, I would have no idea. But I’m hypothesising that most Americans would know where to go. So, it’s a culture thing.

Secondly, there’s the issue of “external forces”. Video games and stuff. Blah blah. I don’t hold this to be a really valid reason. Maybe in some cases, where the perpetrator may have been mentally imbalanced, but in this case the guys were described as being reasonably intelligent. They knew what they were doing. If there was an external force, it was their morbid following of Hitler what he stood for. And that is a following that is not as commonplace as the number of people that watch violent movies, or play computer games.

Thirdly, the issue of parenting has been raised. I can’t really comment on this… all families are different. I don’t know how hard it is for parents to notice something is wrong with their kid. I’m guessing that, however, if your kid starts dressing in black, develops an addiction for WW2 stuff, and joins a group called the “Trench Coat Mafia” you’d suspect something. But of course, you still wouldn’t expect something of this magnitude to happen.

Finally there’s the deal about punishment. This argument is one that I feel is quite valid. Bear with me for a sec… What feels ominous about this whole thing is that we’re talking about teenagers here. It’s shocking isn’t it? … Or is it? Also on the news today were two girls, 14 and 16, charged with stabbing and killing a man in Penrith (an Australian suburb). They’re due to be sentenced in a children’s court because to be tried as an adult you have to be 18. But that age “18” has been there for more than 20 years. Film censors have gotten “softer”, in effect exposing younger audiences to more and more graphic sex, violence and language in the theatre. This reflects society’s changing values, views and tolerance to this. However, by not lowering the age of “18” (for “adult crimes”) this loss of innocence in teens hasn’t been reflected. I think someone who’s 17 and goes and murders someone knows exactly what the hell they’re doing and should be tried as an adult. Which brings me to the issue about punishment. Stricter laws and punishments work. The stricter the laws, the more ordered society tends to be. There is, of course, the issue of how much “personal freedom” we’re willing to “give up” in exchange for tougher penalties and less crime. The question is – which do we prefer? Let me phrase it this way:

Is it really that much of an insult to bring metal detectors and security guards into schools? So much of an insult that people would rather have a school shooting instead? (“I’d never have thought it would have happened at our school!” sounds familiar enough). It’s like the bouncer who asks someone who is over 18 for their ID. They’re not asking to insult you (well… not in most cases), they’re just making sure you’re not one of the bad apples breaking the law.

The only problem is, the two gunmen suicided. They took the easy way out… no consequences… no accountability. No way for society to voice their disgust for them, at them. Tougher punishments wouldn’t have mattered diddly-squat in this tragedy.

I understand that this post is convoluted. I’m not writing an essay so I didn’t make a plan – ideas just tumbled out of my head and I put them down in the order they plopped out. Got a response? Mail me. Time to read what everyone else has been saying…