School Shootings, Gun Violence And The Need For Change

by Dan Harr

danharr_thumbMurder is a tragedy.

When murder is committed on a mass scale, as in the Newtown, CT, school shooting, the tragedy is elevated to being horrifyingly unimaginable.

The loss of twenty-six innocent souls, twenty of whom were barely starting off in what may have been long, productive lives, is a catastrophe our society needs to address through self-examination on what could lead someone to commit such atrocities.

Almost immediately following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the politicians, political pundits and media talking heads began spouting off about the need for more gun control, banning “assault” weapons and other restrictions that would contravene the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

If many in the anti-gun movement had their way, the Second Amendment would be repealed altogether.

The big question is, however, whether such response would be the best answer to the growing problem of firearm violence being perpetrated by a handful of crazies who, through their illegal acts, take lives in ever-increasing numbers. When all facts are examined by level-minded individuals, there can only be one conclusion.

The answer is a resounding no.


glock-bill-of-rightsEver since the founding fathers laid down their pens after signing the Declaration of Independence and creating the Bill of Rights, Americans have enjoyed the right to keep and bear arms. In a recent U.S. Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v. Heller, the highest court in the land upheld the rights of Americans to own and possess firearms.

Guns have a solid place in our history, both in self-protection and in opening up new frontiers. Unfortunately, along with the positive side comes the negative.

As long as mankind has had access to guns, they have been used to hurt and kill others. However, the same can be said of knives, swords, bows and arrows, axes, cars, baseball bats and more. When there is a means to do harm to another, the ways will always be found to do so no matter what tool is used.

In almost every case since Patrick Purdy picked up a civilian copy of an AK-47 in 1989 and shot up a school in Stockton, California, an “assault” weapon has been the primary choice of the perpetrator. But what is an “assault” weapon?

Wikipedia defines it as “a political term, often used by gun control advocates, typically referring to firearms designed for rapidly firing at human targets from close range, sometimes described as military-style features useful in combat.”

In reality, an assault weapon is one that is capable of selective firing, including fully automatic, such as a military M-16 rifle. The weapons used in most school shootings are semi-automatic rifles, handguns and revolvers.

Purchasing these types of guns in America is either easy or hard, depending on your point of view and how you go about doing it.

To buy a gun legally, an individual must go to a registered firearms dealer and fill out a document called a Form 4473. On it are a number of questions which must be answered, including whether the buyer has a history of mental illness, criminal activity and so on.

Once the form is filled out, a background check of the buyer is made by the FBI through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and launched by the FBI on November 30, 1998, NICS is used to instantly determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy a gun.

Before ringing up the sale, cashiers call in a check to the FBI or to other designated agencies to ensure that each customer does not have a criminal record or isn’t otherwise ineligible to make a purchase. More than 100 million such checks have been made in the last decade, leading to more than 700,000 denials.

Guns are also purchased at gun shows from private owners and others, all without the background check occurring. Many anti-gunners have the opinion that curtailing these unregistered gun show and private sales would help reduce gun violence in the U.S.

In the majority of high-impact mass killings in recent times, the weapons used were either stolen from lawful owners or purchased on the black market from gangs or other criminals who obtain their weapons illegally. Therefore, would placing more restrictions on legal, albeit unregistered sales reduce or put an end to gun violence around the country?

Probably not.


In the late 1800’s, American inventor Hiram Maxim created the world’s first portable, fully functional machinegun. By the 1920’s, a new category of weapons appeared – the submachine gun. This smaller, even more portable version of rapidly-firing guns found its broad advent in the 1921 Thompson submachine gun.

thompson-sub-machine-gunFiring from a high-capacity drum holding up to 100 rounds of ammunition, the Thompson submachine gun could be purchased up until 1934 by anyone over the age of 18 at their local hardware store without any type of registration. The gun became popular with criminals such as Al Capone, whose men used the Thompson in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

During World War II, countries all over the world developed weapons that were easily transported and used by troops. Americans had the M1 Carbine, the M3 “grease gun” and, of course, the Thompson, among others. In Germany, the STG 44 which would be the design predecessor to the AK-47, was developed and became the world’s first actual “assault” rifle.

The Vietnam War saw the creation of the Colt M-16 rifle, the M-14 and more.

In other words, the ability to kill in large numbers – and access to the weapons capable of doing so – has been around for well over a century. But it wasn’t until almost 15 years after the end of the Vietnam conflict, and then again ten years later with the Columbine killings, that mass school shootings and other horrific acts started occuring.

Why didn’t a twenty year old in 1966 steal a M-16 and shoot up a schoolyard? Where are the reports of an eighteen year old buying a Thompson in 1930 and killing his classmates or others?

What’s changed?

In most of the mass-shootings that have occurred since Patrick Purdy in 1989, the shooters have all been 25 years old or younger.  They are the children and grand-children of the Baby Boom generation.  They are the “Gen-Xers”, the “Millennials” and “Generation Y” kids.

They are the generation most influenced by electronic media in television, video games and movies. They are the ones watching those programs or playing video games that have multiple murders and killings throughout. Sandwiched in between those acts of violence are commercials which teach us to be as self-indulgent as we want.

Is it any wonder, then, why today’s generations are learning to “do what they want” without any sense of guidance or moral compass? Could “Generation Y” be better described as “Generation Why,” as in “Why should I be responsible” or “Why should I care about anything?”



Since the early 1980’s, the government has taken many rights of discipline and teaching our children away from parents, instead placing it into the hands of school teachers and psychologists. More children today are on prescribed mood-altering drugs than ever before.

There have been numerous cases of parents being arrested when they discipline their children, or try to teach them something other than what the socialized school systems are prescribing as curriculum.

Violent video games and television has evolved since the late 1990s, and – with it – violent acts like the school shooting in Newtown. Instead of keeping children from playing those games and viewing the television programs, many parents purchase them as birthday or Christmas presents for their kids.

Divorce rates and broken families are at an all-time high in the U.S.  The government makes it easy for a family to be broken up, many times even assisting in the process.  Children are returning home from school, or spending time on weekends, alone and without adult supervision.

Instead, they have their electronic “babysitters” – the television and video games.

Their “friends” are located inside their computers, spread across the social media networks where true interpersonal relationships simply don’t exist. Instead, it become impersonal, superficial and shallow, and has no semblance of actual socialization which is a fundamental part of the growing up process.

By losing that socialization process, we lose our sense of fundamental right and wrong as it relates to our fellow man. Thus, morality has taken a backseat to the “it feels good now” attitude that is so prevalent amongst the “Generation Y-ers”.


Several years ago, former American Idol and Country Music star Bucky Covington had a song on the radio called “A Different World.”  In the verses, he speaks of days gone by as evidenced by the following:

We were born to mothers who smoked and drank
Our cribs were covered in lead based paint
No child proof lids no seat belts in cars
Rode bikes with no helmets and still here we are, still here we are
We got daddy’s belt when we misbehaved
Had three TV channels you got up to change
No video games and no satellite
All we had were friends and they were outside, playin’ outside
School always started the same every day
The pledge of allegiance then someone would pray
Not every kid made the team when they tried
We got disappointed and that was all right, we turned out all right

While it’s easy for baby boomers to pine for the days of our youth, when things seemed simpler and much more civilized, we also have to realize that times have changed. Even more so, unfortunately, is the realization that we’re responsible for many of those changes.

We’ve allowed God to be removed from the schools.  We are the ones who have decided the nuclear family is no longer a viable part of the American landscape.  We’re the ones enacting laws which have eroded parental rights and allowed our children to be taught morals and values with which we don’t agree.

We must ask ourselves why – why have we allowed those changes to take place?  For the most part, to quote the song above, “we turned out all right.”  Why would we want it any different for our own children?

In the wake of the Newtown school shooting, and others which are likely yet to come, we don’t need to re-examine whether gun control will make a difference in stopping these mindless acts of violence.

Instead, we need to find out why so many in the younger generations are mindless to begin with, and how we might effectively make positive changes to the moral fiber of our society so there’s no longer a compulsive urge by someone to pick up a weapon of choice and kill others without a second thought.

Gun control isn’t the answer.  Parental control, is.

Once we remember that teaching responsibility and morality begins – and ends – at home and not in the schools, once we move away from the idea that that children need to be medicated for every act of misbehavior, we might return to a nation of civilized people.

Until then…

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