Mass Shooting in Schools

free essayMass shooting is a global problem. Nevertheless, the United States, having experienced the deadliest mass shootings, has been hit the hardest where most mass shootings have taken place in school contexts. Thus, the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech University, in which 32 students were killed, is considered one of the worst school shootings in the country. In the wake of the continuous shootings and the inherent costs, a major question on the extent, to which colleges should go to keep the campuses safe, has arisen. Subsequently many policy proposals have been put forward.

Effects of Mass Shootings on the Community

Mass shootings render heavy costs to the community. Whenever dramatic deaths or injuries occur and consistently receive significant media coverage, the community succumbs to the feelings of insecurity, vulnerability, and perpetual fear. According to Miller, this collective trauma has its effect, and many people, especially those who witness the mass shootings in schools and other public settings, adopt a defensive stance similar to that of the post-traumatic response depicted by the survivors of the tragedy. The adverse effects of mass shootings are even more pronounced on students when the tragedy occurs in their schools. Victims of school shootings suffer numerous emotional and psychological problems. According to American Psychological Association, the psychological problems are reflected in the decline of school performance in the years after the shooting, anxiety, and changes in relational capacity. The enrollments in schools that have experienced mass shootings also decline due to fear of recurrence of the incident.

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A survey conducted by Beland and Kim on schools in California has found that a large number of students are likely to change their school after a shooting (113). In addition, school staffs also suffer psychological damage due to the post-traumatic disorder. Further, according to Miller, the families of the victims of mass shootings may suffer from instability. They may feel fundamentally different, hopeless, and abandoned as they strive to deal with the pain of loss or maiming of their loved ones. Furthermore, society incurs heavy finance costs in dealing with the aftermath of mass shootings.

Causes of Mass Shootings

For a long time, mental illness has been attributed to mass shootings. While it is true that most mass shootings (63%) have been perpetrated by young men with acute mental disorders (Follman), the assertion that mental illness is the major cause of mass shootings in the United States loses popularity. According to Follman, the governance system’s failure to establish effective gun controls has contributed immensely to the mass shootings because the possession of firearms causing these mass shootings, irrespective of the mental health of the perpetrator, makes them easier and much more lethal. Currently, estimated at 300 million firearms are in circulation.

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A substantial number of these firearms were acquired without adherence to the due legal process, thanks to loopholes in the law and the deficient political will to make the law more effective. Although the federal law requires firearm vendors to be licensed and purchasers to be subjected to background checks, the perfect legality of making and possessing gun for personal use without the need for licensure or registration creates a loophole that can allow people who cannot pass background checks to obtain firearms (Enderle and Murphy 132).

Besides mental illness and weak firearm controls, Fox and Delateur attribute mass shooting to the broader problems organized around five themes that can occur independently or jointly (3). These factors serve as motivators for the perpetrators. They include the following. First is revenge, for example, where a disgruntled person seeks vengeance for a score of failures in school, career, or personal life. Second is power, for example, where an individual, who feels marginalized, attempts to wage personal war against the community. Shootings can occur out of loyalty, for example, where a devoted husband murders his whole family and himself to save them from the miserable existence. People shoot others to instill terror, for instance, where a political dissenter seeks to destroy some government property with several people killed in the process to convey a stern message to those in power. Finally, profit can be the cause of shooting when, for example, a criminal executes customers and workers at a restaurant to eliminate all witnesses of his crime

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Obama’s Position on Mass Shooting in Schools

President Obama has declared his policy stance on the routine of school shootings. At the memorial service of the children killed during shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Obama unveiled his plan to forestall further incidences of mass murder in schools (Siemaszko). At the core of his plan lies a reform to limit the flooding of firearms and keep weapons out of the hands of the would-be mass murderers. According to Obama, the influx of lethal weapons in the country is the principal cause of school shootings, a problem he blames on rogue gun sellers who bypass the federal laws to sell guns to violent felons without any background check (Siemaszko). On several occasions, Obama has blamed Congress and the National Rifle Association for thwarting his previous gun control reform proposals (Siemaszko).

Under Obama’s plan, strict rules will be enforced to compel all gun sellers, over the internet or at regular stores, to acquire a federal vendor’s license and conduct a thorough background check on the purchasers. In addition, the plan provides for hiring of more examiners to assist the FBI in conducting background checks and a requirement for weapons dealers to inform the authorities if weapons are lost or stolen from their stores (Siemaszko). Further, in concurrence that mental illness is a major cause of mass shootings, a system to assist individuals with mental health problems will be established and federal mental health data incorporated in the background check system. Further, the new initiative will take steps to enhance gun safety technology (Siemaszko).

State Laws Allowing Weapons at Schools

The largest percentage of colleges and universities in the United States prohibits carrying of firearms on their institutions. The advocators of strict gun regulations attribute these gun-free policies to the traditional reputation of post-secondary institutions as the some of the safest places in the nation (“Guns on Campus’ Laws for Public Colleges and Universities”). However, perpetual college shootings in the recent years have seen a number of states introduce legislations to permit concealed carrying of guns on campuses. Following the enactment of some of these legislations, colleges and universities in Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Wisconsin Mississippi, and Texas now allow carrying of concealed firearms on their campus sites. Nineteen states proscribe carrying of concealed firearms on their premises, while 23 others defer the decision to allow or ban carrying of concealed firearms to individual colleges or Universities (Hultin).

How It Works

The Utah State has a statute that expressly names public universities and colleges as public entities that have no mandate to prohibit carrying of concealed firearms; hence, all ten public universities and colleges permit concealed weapons on their campuses. At the same time, Kansas legislation embeds a provision stating that universities and colleges cannot prohibit carrying of concealed firearms unless sufficient security measures are installed in campus buildings. Mississippi legislation allows carrying firearms on colleges and universities for individuals who have undertaken a non-compulsory course on safe gun handling and usage from an accredited instructor (Hultin).

Proposed Solution to School Shootings

With the need to feel protected in an environment where individuals increasingly become unpredictable with their movements, a number of solutions to the menace of mass shooting, especially in schools, have been proposed. These proposals have ingrained advantages and disadvantages. National Issues Forums Institute details these proposals. Teachers and school administrators should be allowed to carry weapons for their own protection and that of their students. This proposal is advantageous to the extent that in the event of a school shooting, and if there are not enough security guards on campus, or the response of the police is slow, teachers and administrators could save their lives and those of students. If teachers at Sandy Elementary School had been armed, it is highly probable the fatality of the shooting could have been mitigated. The problem with this proposal is that it puts teachers and school administrators in a position they may not be comfortable with or even be suited. In addition, accidents may occur, and the firearms may go off accidentally, thus, inflicting damages

Another proposal is for all states to permit law-abiding citizens, including eligible campus students, to carry firearms at school. This proposal has already been enacted in some states (National Issues Forums Institute). The armed students would feel safer, in control, and in a position to defend themselves. However, this proposal is quite risky. Schools are places where levels of stress are high and differences among students abound every day (Tierra and Kesselring). Thus, it may be too dangerous to allow students to carry guns at school.

The other proposal negates the foregoing proposal. It campaigns for the learning institutions, especially with respect to students, to be gun-free. The advantage of this proposal is that it prevents proliferation of firearms in schools, thus preventing an atmosphere of a police state in the learning institutions as well as the apparent extreme dangers inherent in arming students who are associated with susceptibility to emotional imbalances (National Issues Forums Institute). However, the suitability of this proposal can only be affirmed when the schools have sufficient security measures in place; otherwise, it would leave students vulnerable in view that the means for committing school shootings still exist and the potential perpetrators are free in the public.

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In conclusion, mass shootings continue to be a major challenge to the country. Most mass shootings have occurred in schools and other public places. Mass shootings in general are attributed to the failure of governance systems to control the flow of guns adequately, which results in ineligible people having access to lethal weapons. Most incidences of mass shootings have been committed by young men with histories of acute metal disorders. In order to prevent further incidences of school shootings, a number of policy proposals to keep the learning institutions safe have been advanced. These proposals base their content on either arming school fraternity for self-defense or making schools gun-free and providing alternative security means.

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