How to prevent creating a killer in one easy step

Mikey 17 comments
How to prevent creating a killer in one easy step

By now we've heard the tragic news that another school shooting has occurred, once again with innocent casualties and once again in a country which I consider to have rather lax gun laws. Though this time (surprisingly) it didn't happen in America.

Everything I am about to write here is based purely from an external observers point of view looking in to a country and a situation I know very little about. Over here in Australia news like this comes with a couple of main reactions. First there is the initial shock and disbelief, and secondly is the moment when you try to draw comparisons between what happened there and how it would have played out in Australia.

Bare with me on this. The average Australian will easily go an entire life time not only never handling a gun, but sometimes never even seeing a gun or knowing someone who owns a one. I turn 39 next week and thus far I have never seen a real life gun (except on a cop) leave alone ever handled one. The point I'm making here is that unless you're a farmer, a cop, or a professional shooter in Australia, you're probably never going to have the opportunity to get your mits on a gun of any sort, even if you wanted to. Your neighbour isn't going to have one and if they did it would make headlines in your community. The idea is just too far out for most of us Aussies to comprehend.

But I don't blame the Winnenden shooting on guns. That's for policy makers to haphazardly speculate over. Nor do I blame it on video games as some media outlets predictably have (shame on them).

What has emerged since was that Tim Kretschmer fell into a depression in 2008 after systematic verbal bullying from his classmates for having poor grades. While no one can say for sure if this was the start of something bigger, I think it's reasonable to speculate on the subject.

Just like guns, bullying is a big problem in many countries. The long term psychological effects of bullying are well documented which is why many schools now have strict anti-bullying policies. My daughter goes to such a school and it was one of the deciding factors for us sending her there.

Some kids handle bullying better than others, but that doesn't mean we should look the other way. I was bullied during certain times of high school and the thought of unleashing a world of pain on my oppressors does cross your mind from time to time. Luckily I was always a level headed kind of kid and even if I had access to a gun, I was smart enough to know it wouldn't solve anything. I guess you could say I was one of the 'bigger picture' kids. I took solace in knowing I would be their boss one day or at the least they would be serving fries to me and my family (the latter turned out to be true for one of my oppressors).

But what about the others? If history has taught us anything it's that bullied kids have the potential to exact revenge in a catastrophic fashion. Here are some examples.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (The Columbine Massacre)
12 dead, 23 wounded. According to many witnesses, Harris and Klebold were subject to bullying and were also the target of many homophobic taunts during high school. Witnesses also testified that bullying was rampant at Columbine High and teachers seldom dealt with it.

Martin Bryant (The Port Arthur Massacre)
35 dead, 21 wounded. As a child Bryant was severely bullied by other children and according to his teachers often shows signs of being detached from reality.

Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech massacre)
32 dead, 25 wounded. During middle school and high school Cho was severally teased for being shy and for his poor English speaking ability. His bad English made him a laughing stock of the class, and on one occasion the entire class laughed and pointed while chanting 'go back to China!'. Cho was systematically teased by older students as well, and was a frequent victim of physical abuse.

Nathan Ferris (Missouri High School Shooting)
1 dead. Tired of being teased, Ferris bought a pistol to school and when a classmate made fun of him, killed another boy. Then he turned the gun on himself.

Evan Ramsey (Bethel High School Shooting)
2 dead, 2 wounded. Ramsey killed a boy and the principal (and injured 2 others) at the school where he was often taunted as being 'retarded' or a 'spaz'.

The list is endless and I won't include any more here. When I started doing this research I wasn't at all surprised to find the one thing all these killers had in common was being the subject of frequent bullying. What I did find surprising is the number of kids who come out afterwards stating they knew the fact. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realise that a weak kid pushed too far can snap. So did they do anything to help? Did the teachers do anything? Did the Principal do anything? The testimonies don't seem to support any such theory.

I'm not saying that every kid who get's bullied will be a killer. If that were true I would be blogging this from a prison cell right now.  I'm saying bullying is a root cause. You get pushed far enough; it's only a matter of time before you're pushed past the point of no return.

I would be willing to bet anything that if those kids weren't bullied, even with easy access to guns, they would not have committed those atrocious crimes.




Saturday 14th March 2009 | 09:14 PM
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i have recently seen a gun cupboard full of guns on a trip to esperance recently, all licensed, they belong to my wife's uncle. handguns, rifles and bullets that would rip you in halve, and a machine that makes them.
my late father in law also had a handgun that dirty harry would be proud of ( quite heavy ) but it was the size of the bullets that was scary. my brother in law also owns a rifle.

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Sunday 15th March 2009 | 01:44 AM
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This is a very thoughtful post, Mikey, that is also very right on, so thanks. I was also bullied in high school and while I still occasionally feel the sting of it now (especially after "bumping into" a few of my youthful tormentors on FaceBook) I realize that, as they say, "Living well is the best revenge." Too bad this kind of rempant abuse is not swiftly dealt with in all schools

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Sunday 15th March 2009 | 07:14 AM
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Hey Mikey,

I am very interested in your post and I thought you would be interested in the following information and hopefully share it with all you know.

I wish to introduce you to an inspirational individual working in schools around the world addressing issues of bullying (all forms), anger, hate, violence and prejudice.
This short video introduces him and his work:

You can us and share your thoughts with like minded people at:

See The Scary Guy on Teachers’ TV -

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The Movie Whore

The Movie Whore

Sunday 15th March 2009 | 07:28 AM
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I grew up with guns and love them. I have shot several different guns and enjoyed it.

As a kid I was also bullied quite a bit. I never shot anyone but I can attest to those thoughts going through my head. The bullying stopped in high school. I can't say for sure that if the bullying had not stopped that I would not have taken some sort of desperate action to make it stop.

The fact that I had used a gun and knew where to get one did not factor in to the problem. The problem was the bullying. I am an inventive guy and if I had reached that point of despair I would found a way to inflict damage on a large scale with or with out a gun. The gun is not the problem the bullying is the problem. Just because guns were used does not mean that these kids who had been pushed over the edge would not have some other way to inflict mass damage in a short period of time.

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The Computer Whisperer

The Computer Whisperer

Sunday 15th March 2009 | 08:21 AM
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Agreed Mikey... as the old saying goes Guns don't kill people, People kill people.

I think you're right on the money.

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Sunday 15th March 2009 | 08:56 AM
235 total kudos response to this comment by Gary. Thanks for the info Gary. That's very useful.

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Soup Nazi

Soup Nazi

Sunday 15th March 2009 | 04:23 PM
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Well said guy. Without guns the kids would have just used something else like a knife or worse a home made bomb or something. I'm tired of those bleeding heart assholes saying that better gun control will prevent kids going postal. They snapped because they got bullied not because they has access to a gun. Word up for this cool site too.

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Sunday 15th March 2009 | 07:33 PM
340 total kudos | 2 for this comment response to this comment by Soup Nazi. There's also a second common thread to every cited story, here - and it is guns. Every of of these killing sprees was facilitated by the way guns provide unskilled, untrained people with the capacity to kill.

Of course bullying is the root cause of these killings and needs to be addressed. But bullying isn't going to go away overnight. People are always going to be jerks. (As a minor example, you yourself refer to "bleeding heart assholes", which is a form of abuse and therefore bullying.) However guns provide people with the capacity to do a lot of damage to a lot of people, quickly and without skill or training.

If, as you suggest, he had taken a knife, then someone stronger or with superior skill could have taken it off him. Likewise, a group of people could disarm him. Sure - he could still kill someone, but his capacity to inflict damage would have been substantially reduced. Likewise, most people who attempt, without skill or training, to make a bomb, fail to make a substantial one.

The bottom line, and I am afraid it's inescapable, is that guns provide people with a means to quickly kill or maim many other people and unless they are controlled, such incidents will continue to occur, in ever greater numbers. People will always snap, for one reason or another - how about we try to limit the damage when they do.

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Monday 16th March 2009 | 11:52 AM

i myself was bullied, i guess everyone afronts it at some part in their life time. i snapped at one stage, i ended up throwing a chair across a room and punching the guy in the head who was my tormentor.. he never bullied me again after that incident. the problem with americans, is that they believe it is their right to bare arms.. because of how they read the constitution.. what they fail to realise is that ammendment was written for the ppl to uprise and form a militia against the government (a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed).

my dad used to own a rifle, a 22 gauge. which he had from when he worked on farms. he gladly gave this in when the gun laws came into play. the only other times he shot it was when we lived out at norseman, and he knocked off the feral cat, rabbit and fox population.. i've shot some guns, but in a controlled environment, and it was a couple of cans (can't bring myself to shoot an animal) one was a rifle and the other a shot-gun.

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Monday 16th March 2009 | 12:34 PM response to this comment by The Computer Whisperer. I am sorry to say that guns do kill people. They are the tools which carry out the wish of the user.
No gun - no shootings!
Yes you could use other methods but a gun or rifle will inflict far more damage far more quickly.

I was bullied most of my high school life but did I want to go and kill? No I did not! That thought did not even come into my mind. My only thought was to punch that person in the mouth.

So these people who go and commit mass murder in schools or anywhere for that matter have a bigger problem then just being bullied at school. Something has happened to their mental state - bulling may be just one small part of the underlying mental problems.

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Tuesday 17th March 2009 | 05:06 AM

If we shouldn't USE guns, what should we do? All I think of is running away, which is very hard because no one cares about bullying in high school. Nothing I can think of will work unless it's in a public school. However, in HIGH SCHOOL, it's a complete different story. Better get warmed up! Do well in phys.ed, I guess.

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Jake Farr-Wharton

Tuesday 17th March 2009 | 08:43 AM

Hi Mikey,

The proof is in the pudding right? Wrong!

While I certainly agree that bullying can crack a person beyond psychotic redemption, and I also strongly believe in strong gun controll, it is not that simple.

Each of the 5 or so institutions I attended throughout my schooling had "strict" anti-bullying policies and were fabulously dilligent, or so my parents were told. Nonetheless, I went home most nights of the week bruised, either mentally or physically, from one of the many people that made my life hell throughout primary and secondary school. Regardless of the policies or the 'power' the teachers had, bullying had to be proven, and tears and an arbitrary bruise, scuff or scrape simply doesn't constitute proof and whittnesses were never forthcoming.

Yet I continued on, did not pocket one of my neighbour's many, many guns and auchestrate a massacre.

My point is not that 'I was one of the rare few', kids get bullied all the time, thousands of them in every school across every country. All it takes is an ego driven wanker and a kid with a trait outside of the norm who is not willing to fight back. Being bullied is not the chief contributing factor, hence, while attention and policy towards anti-bullying is a step in the right direction, it is not the way to stop these mass killings.

In these cases, we will always be looking at 'the kid that the system missed'. In those instances, while it is easy for you and I on the outside to blame guns or bullying, these poor kids are unlikely to stop just because getting a gun is hard... afterall you can make an extremly volitile and explosive ammonium nitrate bomb from crap you buy at home.

The adage, 'where there is a will, there is a way' seems fairly apt.

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Tuesday 17th March 2009 | 01:03 PM

Everyone gets bullied. At every school. All over the world. It's a fact of life.

It's down to a few things why tragic occurrences like in America and Germany aren't more common:

- character of the child. Every person is born with a differently wired brain. How they react to stress is heavily influenced by their brain.

- character of the parents. Same with the parents. If the home life is just as bad as school, or if the parents can't help advise their child properly on what to do/how to react.

- availability of weapons. I agree with Jake. If the guns can't be easily acquired, then it's a much safer world. There's no escaping the USA as the worlds leader in juvenile violence and murder.

I was bullied when I went to the UK (from Australia) as a 7 year-old. I wanted to play football in the park one day with the local kids of the area I`d just moved to. They were nearly all bigger/older than me, and they pushed me around when I went over to them. I went home crying to my step-dad. With one of the very very few decent things he ever said or did for me in my life, he told me to go back across the road and hit the biggest kid. So I did. Punched him right in the face. I expected to get beaten up, but they all ran away. See, Bullies really are cowards. If you hit them back (without guns), then they will go after easier prey. I was bullied once in South Africa at high-school. I stood up to the bully and got beaten up (he was much bigger and a better fighter). He badly damaged his hand on the wall behind my face when I dodged, just before he knocked me out with his other fist :) . He never gave me any trouble again.

Now I have children of my own, and my eldest (4) is in pre-primary. Bullying happens there too. Sometimes she might be the bully (hopefully not). I tell her that if anyone hits her then she has to tell the teacher. If they hit her again, then she is allowed to hit them back. Maybe not the most p-c of attitudes, but I think people have to take the consequences of their actions (no matter what age) and that everyone has a right to defend themselves. If she learns that by standing up to bullies, she won't get bullied any more, then that is a great lesson.

The Computer Whisperer

The Computer Whisperer

Tuesday 17th March 2009 | 09:26 PM
89 total kudos response to this comment by Bob. Bob, if guns kill people, and cars kill people, along with bombs killing people.....

If Guns make it easier to kill people, let's make them illegal.

If Cars make it easier to run people over and kill them, lets ban cars.

If Street Motorcycles make it easier for people to kill themselves then lets ban them too.

Lets ban cow poo and brake fluid while we are at it too... just to stop people making bombs. We can stick butt plugs up all of the cows arses to stop them from taking a dump and we can make everyone rely on the hand brake in a car to stop, oh wait, it doesn't matter anyway because at this point cars would be illegal anyway.

What about banning the activity of sitting around on their fat asses and gorging, that kills more people than all of these things according to global statistics.

Hey... if lack of oxygen kills people, lets make it illegal for you to put your hand over someone else's mouth until they are dead. Oh wait, that's already illegal.

Bob... in the end, no matter which way you look at it, people kill people.

The issue is the psychological conditioning of children by their peers.

The issue never had anything to do with guns or computer games.

The issue is a reaction to other people's actions.

Bullying is a MAJOR part of and often generally the main reason for this kind of occurance.

So, Bob, you were bullied for most of your high school life? Consider yourself lucky it was for such a short period.

People + Guns does not equal mass murder.

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Tuesday 17th March 2009 | 09:57 PM
340 total kudos | 1 for this comment response to this comment by The Computer Whisperer. Sorry TCW but while I respect you and your opinion, I don't agree with your statement.

Cars are designed to move people about, in as much safety and comfort as possible. People die in cars because of *accidents*.

Motorcycles are designed to be as safe as possible, while providing maximum manoeuvrability to the rider. People die on bikes because of *accidents*.

Guns are designed to kill people. Their one purpose in this world is to end lives. They are designed to ensure that the target they are pointed at will die. People die from guns *by intent*.

That's a fundamental difference.

No one outside of various forms law enforcement, in most modern, western cities, requires a gun. People *want* guns, because they feel safer, or cooler, or tougher or whatever but they don't *need* them. You don't *need* to shoot rabbits in the city. And the old "guns for home protection" is an utter joke of an argument. Even disregarding the well proven statistics that you're more likely to kill a family member than an intruder, simple logic shows that guns are nearly useless as a home defence system. If the gun is inside your house, properly and legally stored in a locked gun cabinet, with no ammunition in it, there is no way in hell you can get it out in time to stop an intruder. In fact, unless you sleep with it loaded under your pillow, it's pretty much useless to you. Or you can leave it loaded by the beside table, where your 8 year old can find it and blow his own head off, while you're at work... Either way, you lose with guns.

It's a simple distinction. Guns are made to kill people and cars are made to transport people. If you must have a gun to feel secure, so be it - but don't delude yourself it provides *actual* protection.

We can all agree that this story is truly about root causes and in this case, that's bullying and possibly lack of attention from loved ones and authorities. But harm minimisation would dictate that this story could have been limited to a whole lot less people, if the kid didn't have the automated capacity to inflict death by point and click.

Sadly, I think you'll find that all too often "People + Guns does equal mass murder". There are 10 cases cited in the parent article for your perusal.

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The Computer Whisperer

The Computer Whisperer

Wednesday 18th March 2009 | 04:45 PM
89 total kudos response to this comment by Rodney. OK, so UZIs and AK47s are manufactured to kill people, however the person pulling the trigger actually kills the people.

It is not the responsibility of the gun to not fire when pointed at people.

Guns do not make decisions.

You neglected to comment on explosives in your comment Rodney. Explosives probably would have been an acceptible alternative to the people that committed these crimes if guns were unavailable.

I agree with you to an extent on the "Guns for protection" statement, however this can be important in some parts of the world, considering the state of some countries.

Shooting targets has been a well respected sport for a very long time and there are a variety of safe and fun sports that revolve around guns and shooting. It can be a very entertaining and satisfying situation to use a gun on the provision that a person makes sensible decision as to the handling of said gun.

The majority of the shooters in the articles cited above were educated, intelligent humans and they knew alot about the firearms they were wielding. They had a purpose and a goal, it wasn't random silliness that made all of those people dead as you imply by your "point and click" comment.

In the majority of cases there were early indicators that these people were having trouble with life and were likely to be suffering from some big social issues.

Gun control is very important, especially with all of the maniacs in the United States.

With or without guns Rodney, maniacs will be maniacs.

Guns also do not need to come from a big manufacturer, it is quite straightforward, if you have the knowledge to make some very effective projectile weapons which could be considered as a firearm from regular, over the counter items.

For example.....

Making guns illegal doesn't stop people from obtaining them, it just makes mass produced ones a bit more expensive.

Capitalism and the world economy both revolve around weapons, of course people are interested in them.

It is hypocritical of a government (governments are made from people too) to say "You can't use guns, but we can" or "You can't use guns if you are a civillan".

Laws will not stop people from buying and shooting firearms.

It's the same as laws will not prevent hoon drivers from driving like hoons. Driver education however, in my opinion, would definately curb the effects.

In closing, I think the shootings referenced in the above article were caused by the undiagnosed and unrecognised/ignored psychiactric issues of the shooters.

Hey Rodney... why don't we make people with psychological disorders illegal too? how should we get rid of them?

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Wednesday 18th March 2009 | 06:58 PM
340 total kudos | 1 for this comment response to this comment by The Computer Whisperer. You're missing the point, which is best summed up by your own comment: "With or without guns Rodney, maniacs will be maniacs." - So why make it easier for people to inflict damage. Everyone who argues in favour of guns makes the same arguments you do - i.e. "cars kill people and so does other stuff so guns are ok". That's bogus as hell and surely you know it.

Guns are designed to make it easy for the untrained to kill. Most people couldn't make a serious explosive to save their lives. Everyone can quote that ammonia or other household items are capable of being formed into explosive - but very, very few people will have success at manufacturing a serious explosive *on their own*, on the first attempt. It takes time, effort, planning, research and trial and error - all of which allows the person time to cool down. Remember that most gun deaths occur in the heat of the moment. In any case, large sales of such chemicals are regulated, for this very reason.

You think it's hypocritical of governments to use guns in the military but ban the public from having them? So I suppose you're in favour of Joe 6 pack having nuclear weapons, F16s and Apache helicopters??

You then extend my argument, in which I say gun control is good, to follow that I must want to kill mentally handicapped people? You can't seriously be trying to draw that bow?? How did you even arrive the station, for that train of thought?

It simply cannot be logically argued that by reducing guns, you won't reduce gun deaths. Less guns = less shootings. It's really quite simple. Just check the gun deaths statistics for, oh say any 1st World country and compare them to the US.

So if I may also have an in closing: I agree, as I have said all along, the root cause of the above was lax care and undiagnosed conditions. But guns sure didn't help the situation.

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