The Columbine School Shooting was the largest mass shooting of its time and was the first mass shooting in more than five years that had killed over ten people. Since then, there have been no such gaps between mass shootings. Five out of the past six years have had a minimum of one shooting with at least ten deaths. Mass shootings have are no longer a shocking surprise, but a sad reality. Society has become desensitized to these attacks and less reactive because they have become a regular occurance.
The impact of the Columbine shooting has been greater than policy changes. The Columbine shooting became a blueprint for other shooters. Columbine has spurred on a cult following and produced copycat shooters. Columbine was sensationalized and the media focused on the two teen shooters, challenging other disturbed individuals to achieve the same fame. While Columbine was originally one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history, Columbine has not even reached the top ten now.
Even sadder, three out of the five deadliest shootings has occurred in the past year and a half. Once the Columbine shooting occurred, schools policy changed significantly. Most schools have adopted a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to violence, drugs, or weapons. Schools mandate harsh sentencing for students, often expelling students or suspending them for violence. Students are often severely punished for small infractions in hopes of avoiding just being “another school shooting.” The effort to curb school violence is obviously not working, as the number of school shootings has only grown over the years.
Often, school shooters have no previous infractions with the school or law enforcement. School staff and students have been given lockdown procedures for what to do during a shooting in order to achieve the least amount of casualties possible. Schools consistently have lockdown drills, similarly to how schools hold fire drills.
In regards to the criminal justice system, most schools have since gained a designated officer either on campus, or one who makes regular visits to the school’s campus to form a relationship with students, staff, and parents. Financially, it’s not possible to put one police officer at every school full time, but it is helpful to make students and parents feel safe at school, as well as remind possible shooters that there are repercussions for their actions. The best way to combat school shootings, in my opinion, is prevention.
While teaching students and staff what to do if a shooter is on campus is necessary, educating society on how to prevent school shootings is more proactive. To start, we should strengthen gun laws in regards to minors. A minor should not easily be able to purchase a gun. Next, our mental health care system needs to be improved. We must educate our society on mental health and, specifically, parents and school staff should be educated on the warning signs for mental health issues. It is likely that the Columbine shooting happened because of too many missed warning signs.
While one english teacher find the writings of one of the Columbine shooters alarming, she never reported the disturbing writing and simply informed the shooters parents. While the parents of one of the shooters noticed that their son was making pipe bombs, they failed to find treatment for their son and chose to ignore the problem. Both of the shooters had obvious social issues and many warning signs. To prevent future shootings, parents and school staff should focus on building trust between themselves and students, as well as learn to recognize the warning signs of an individual who could be a danger to themselves and others. Another way to prevent school shootings is through the media.
Sensationalizing the school shooting and focusing on the shooters, challenges other shooters to reach the same fame. Instead of focusing on the perpetrators, the media should focus on the victims and leave the shooter in anonymity. Despite all efforts, the amount of school shootings only seems to be rising. Teachers, school administrators, and police are doing their best to develop trust and protocols to prevent and contain the issues of school shootings. Society has been desensitized to school shootings and has accepted them as a tragic, but regular, occurance. The media continues to sensationalize the disturbed shooters, which only encourages more school shootings. One can only hope that school shootings will begin to decrease as the population because more educated on the warning signs of mental illness and harmful individuals.