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The Rise of School Shootings in the US

School shootings are a form of gun-related violence that has been rising within the U.S. over the years. The incidences comprise of a student killing one student or faculty member within the school, though usually multiple deaths tend to occur during such shootings (Riedman & Neill, 2018). Such attackers may exhibit certain traits of mental illness and may also belong to unstable families, though such traits can also be possessed by nonviolent students (Malcolm & Swearer, 2018).

One of the school shootings that has occurred in the U.S. is the Townville Elementary School shooting. The shooter was Jesse Osborne, and was fourteen years of age at the time of the shooting. Though at the time of the shooting, the shooter was being homeschooled, he had attended the school up till fifth grade. Before arriving at the school, he had also killed his father (Rueb & Garcia, 2019). Another shooting that occurred in the U.S. was the Aztec High School shooting in New Mexico. The shooter was a 21-year-old who had gone inside the school disguised as a student. He had prepared for the event for years, and the shooting resulted in the death of two students of the school (Kellogg, 2018). In certain circumstances, peer pressure can also lead to the student feeling more vulnerable and further motivate them to cause the mass shooting (Kozlov, 2020). In the case of the Aztec School Shootings, the shooter, William Atchison, had been in touch with other individuals with violent ideologies and was also in touch with an individual from Germany who had killed nine people in a mall. It is suspected that this may have further motivated him to plan the school shooting (Kellogg, 2018). Family abuse, neglect and lack of socialization are also traits common amongst school shooters (Kozlov, 2020). Mostly, the age group of perpetrators has been found to be within the age group of 16 to 20 years of age statistically (Dumitriu, 2013). However, this is not applicable in the case of the Townville School shooting and Aztec High School shooting. Both the school shooters had a former relationship with the school where the shooting took place, and both the shooters were also mentally unstable.

As per the social learning theory, criminal behavior is often conditioned within the criminal when the positive consequences of their deviant behavior are often more powerful than their normal behavior (Trauffer, 2020). In the case of William Atchison, speaking to individuals over the internet and planning the shooting may have led to such behavior being encouraged (Kellogg, 2018). This would also be supported by the ‘differential association theory’ that proposes that interaction with other individuals can lead to the adoption of criminal behavior, values and attitudes (Lokanan, 2018). Furthermore, as per the trait theory, certain personality and biological traits can create a predisposition for crime amongst individuals, a low I.Q. and mental illness is one of them (Siegel, 2019). In the case of the two shooters, both of them were mentally unstable.

Characteristics of School Shooters

One of the primary mechanisms for minimizing such school shooting incidences is to create stricter gun control laws, as easy access to firearms is one of the primary reasons for children and young adults being able to engage in such incidences (Scaptur & Boyle, 2020). This can be ensured through the efforts of state and federal governments. Local law enforcement authorities should take online threats related to school shootings by younger students seriously (Alfred University, n.d). In the case of William Atchison, he frequently engaged in social media communication related to violent ideologies (Kellogg, 2018). Jesse Osborne, who was the shooter in the Townsville School Shooting, also posted his intentions of shooting on social media (Mayo, 2019). Such threats should have been investigated extensively to ensure such children were not threats to various schools. Teachers should also create a supportive school environment and be able to show deeper concern for children who may be at risk of violent behaviors and should also educate children about the issue of school violence (Alfred University, n.d.). In terms of technological advancements that can aid in preventing school shootings, video surveillance systems, metal detectors, and entry control equipment can be helpful (Schwartz et al., 2016). Furthermore, technologies aimed at social media monitoring and providing emergency alerts to the local law enforcement authorities should also be enabled (Schwartz et al., 2016).

In conclusion, perpetrators of school shootings often have a co-relation to the school and may also display certain behaviors that are warning signs of the school shooting. However, through the use of stricter laws and advanced technologies, certain prevention efforts against such incidences can be undertaken.

References

Alfred University (n.d.). Can We Prevent School Shootings? Alfred.edu. https://www.alfred.edu/about/news/studies/lethal-school-violence/can-we-prevent.cfm

Dumitriu, C. (2013). School Violence around the World: A Social Phenomenon. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 92, 299

Kellogg, J. (2018). Aztec school shooter reached out to other school shooters, planned killings online. Farmington Daily Times. https://www.daily-times.com/story/news/crime/2018/04/17/aztec-high-school-shooting-investigation-william-atchison/513013002/

Kozlov, X.J. (2020). School shootings as a multi-faceted phenomenon: Social-ecological model-based review. Psychology in Education,2(4), 349

Lokanan, M. (2018).Informing The Fraud Triangle: Insights From Differential Association Theory. Journal of Theoretical Accounting Research, 14(1)

Malcolm, J. & Swearer, A. (2018). 3 Common Traits of School Shooters. Heritage. https://www.heritage.org/education/commentary/3-common-traits-school-shooters

Mayo, N. (2019). S.C. school shooter Jesse Osborne's disturbing history described in court testimony. Greenville News. https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/local/south-carolina/2019/11/12/townville-school-shooting-jesse-osborne-court-sentencing-hearing-anderson-county-sc/2522008001/

Riedman, D., & Neill, D. (2018). K-12 school shooting database. Center for Homeland Defense and Security

Rueb, E.S. & Garcia, S.E. (2019). Teenager Who Killed His Father and a 6 Year Old Is Sentenced to Life Without Parole. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/14/us/jesse-osborne-townville-school-shooting.html

Scaptura, M. N., & Boyle, K. M. (2020). Masculinity threat,“incel” traits, and violent fantasies among heterosexual men in the United States. Feminist criminology, 15(3), 278-298

Schwartz, H. L., Ramchand, R. N., Barnes-Proby, D., Grant, S., Jackson, B. A., Leuschner, K., ... & Saunders, J. M. (2016). Can Technology Make Schools Safer? RAND.

Siegel, L. (2019). Criminology: The core (7th ed.). Cengage Learning

Trauffer, N. (2020). A Comparison of Strain, Social Learning, Control, and Trauma Theories of Crime. City University of New York. https://academicworks.cuny.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4991&context=gc_etds

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