How to prevent creating a killer in one easy stepMikey 17 comments
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.