Sample Term Paper on Gun Violence in High Schools in the US

Gun Violence in High Schools in the US

The rate of firearm-related crime in the US has been decreasing; however, the incidences of gun violence in schools have remained high. In a school environment, a member of the school community, namely, a student, teacher, and other support staff or an intruder, may perpetrate gun violence. The damages are fatal, ranging from mass killing to self-inflicted deaths. In any case, though, the impacts are the same; pain and sorrow, long trauma, and high medical cost. For the past twenty years, gun violence has resulted in 77% of violent deaths in schools, 68% of which has occurred in high schools (Children’s Defense Fund, 2013). The increased instances of gun violence in schools indicate that schools are turning out to be among the most unsafe places to be. Educators and students are leaving in absolute fear, evaluating their chances of being the next victim (Rocque, 2012). Parents are not at peace either while their children are in schools because no one knows when and where the next attacker will strike. The rates of shootings in schools are disturbing, but are the policymakers doing enough to mitigate the situation? This essay will examine the issue of gun violence in high schools in the US, by analyzing the causes, stakeholders’ views, and possible solutions.

The US community was aroused to the threat of gun violence in schools in December 2012, when a mentally disturbed man opened fire in an elementary school in Connecticut, killing 20 children and 6 caregivers. However, incidences of gun violence have been evident in schools for as long as guns have existed. According to a study by Stader (2005), guns have been seized from students in schools from as early as the 1990s. Even so, Stader notes a declining trend in the number of armed students in schools. Although the rates of gun possession in schools could be declining, this has not had a significant impact in reducing the rates of gun violence in schools. This is according to the recent study by the Children’s Defense Fund, which revealed the number of shootings in schools taking place in an academic year is increasing (2013). Before the year 2000, there had been no single academic year in which the reported incidents of school gun violence exceeded ten (Rocque, 2012). This changed in 2010-2011 when 12 school shootings were recorded. The worst-case was the 2012-2013 academic year in which this number has raised to 24. Clearly, the rising trend is an indicator that school shooting is a public problem that needs immediate alleviation.

Excluding the shootings in elementary schools, colleges, and universities, the rates of shootings in US high schools alone are alarming. Some have been fatal such as the popular Columbine high school massacre of April 20, 199 in Colorado, which claimed the lives of twelve students and one teacher, while others are trivial and with no injury such as the latest Benjamin Banneker High school shooting of March 25, 2014 (Lamb, 2008, Gray & Stevens, 2014). In January 2014 alone, four out of the 11 reported schools took place in high schools (Ohlheiser, 2014). These include the shootings reported in Liberty Tech Magnet high school, Hill house high School, and Albany high school on the thirteenth, seventeenth, and nineteenth of January, respectively.

Several factors have been identified as the cause of gun violence in high schools. Some are internal while others are externally instigated. To begin with, the post-analysis of any high school shooting in the US has revealed that psychological disorders, varying from minor stress to depression are the major cause of the incidents. Garbarino (2002) argues that schools shooters are people who have shown a sign of despair at some point in their life prior. There are several forms of mental-related problems, with distinct causes and repercussions. Among the students, for example, one may be depressed as a result of the bullying from peers, failure to attain academic targets, and feeling unappreciated by both teachers and parents at home (Leary, 2003). Depressed students may resort to committing suicide to escape from troubles. They may also consider eliminating whoever is causing their troubles.

The second major factor that has been proved to cause shooting in schools is the ease of availability of guns in modern society. According to a report by the Children’s Defense Fund, the number of US civilians in possession of firearms has greatly increased (2013). These guns are available to the whole family in the homesteads including children. The ease of access has seen several high school teens carrying arms to school (Reza et al, 2003). The increased number of unlicensed gun dealers has made it possible for teenagers to own guns, some keeping guns behind their parents’ backs. This has increased the cases of accidental shootings as they experiment with gun use in schools. It also tempts them to open fire whenever there is slight disagreement.

Gun violence in high schools has also been caused by media influence. Reports have indicated that modern teenagers spend a substantive amount of time watching movies (Hemenway, 2002). Some of the videos are violent, with others portraying successful shooters as heroes and heroines. This creates the notion that firing guns are as normal as a small fight when settling disputes. Apart from violent movies, children are exposed to video games at a tender age. Certain video games such as the first-person shooter may, as explained by Muschert, impart the concept of a random shooting (2007). Such ideas may be acquired in childhood, but prevail, even at teenage and adulthood. Although the absorbed concepts may remain dormant, they may be put into use when the person is upset.

The distressing rates of gun violence in schools in the US have fascinated all the relevant stakeholders. The Federal government, for instance, has expressed its concern and the willingness to mitigate the problem. In addition to increasing school safety, President Obama has repeatedly urged Congress to enact the gun control bill. According to the White House report, the government intends to validate the background checks when one is purchasing a gun and outlaw the ownership of high-capacity and military-style arms by individuals (2013). The gun control law has, however, faced rigid objection from democrats who argues that it infringes on their freedom. The government has also proposed to avail mental health services to the population. This is aimed at assisting depressed and other mentally disturbed individuals before they resort to mass killings.

Other than the government’s efforts, the school boards, teachers, and parents have responded to the school shootings public problem. State school boards are organizing teachers’ training programs in which educators are prepared on what to do in the eruption of gun violence in the schools. Others have also resolved to train and arm the teachers, school guards, and janitors. The parents, on the other hand, have launched a strong campaign for the safekeeping of guns at home (Bliss, 2006). Through the Mom Demand Action for Gun Sense in America movement, their objective is to demand an amicable solution from the legislators, education institutions, and state and federal governments on the menace of gun violence in schools.

There are varying solutions that can end, or at least reduce, the number of shootings in schools. Since the circumstances under which every shooting occurs are different, appropriate solutions are unique to each scenario. To begin with, the government’s proposed gun control laws may, in the end, reduce gun availability and hence shooting in schools. Arming teachers and guards may also be viewed as an immediate solution, though its scope is limited. For example, an armed guard or a teacher may only help in reducing the mass homicide through killing the shooter but can do little in stopping suicidal cases (Rowe-Finkbeiner, 2012).

Although the proposed measures can reduce school shootings by a given degree, the most sustainable goal and objective would be to address the psychological problems that drive a shooter into committing the act.  Policymakers should aim at establishing a psychologically stable school community. According to Garbarino, any shooter shows some indicative signs long before the act. If the teachers, parents, and the community, in general, are on the lookout, they should be able to notice an emotionally disturbed person and recommend the necessary mental health aid.  Schools should, therefore, enact avenues through which such information can be relayed to the teachers. The public should also be on the lookout to identify any mentally disturbed individual to facilitate their mental care access.

Another viable objective would be to have every individual join in the fight against gun violence, not just in schools but also at homes and public places.  The fight against gun violence in schools should not be the responsibility of the immediate stakeholders only. Gun manufacturers, for instance, may apply technology when designing gun features. For example, using chip technology, innovators can design a gun that will demand access code to operate. This will reduce cases of negligent gun usage. For this to succeed, however, policies makers need to ensure that licensed gun dealers are not dispatching guns to minors and irresponsible persons. Gun holders should also ensure the safety of their guns; avoid storing loaded guns or sharing their gun security codes.

Gun violence in high schools in the US is increasing. The matter is grave that it has attracted the attention of both the federal and states governments. The major causes of gun violence in schools, just like any other violence, are psychological reasons, which are easily solvable. The government and the relevant stakeholders have shown an impressive response to the problem. School shootings are, however, a public problem that needs a collective public solution. Everyone should play his or her part in identifying a potential culprit for prevention is better than cure.

References

Bliss, M. J., Emshoff, J., Buck, C. A., & Cook, S. L. (2006). Parents’ perceptions of causes of and solutions for school violence: Implications for policy. Journal of Primary Prevention, 27(3), 265-80. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10935-006-0032-1

Children’s Defense Fund. (2013). Protect children, not guns: Key facts. Retrieved from http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/data/state-data-repository/protect-children-not-guns-key-facts-2013.pdf

Gray, B. & Stevens, A. (March 26, 2014). Fourth person arrested after shots fired outside Banneker High School. Retrieved from http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/fourth-person-arrested-after-shots-fired-outside-b/nfLqy/

Garbarino, J., Bradshaw, C. P., & Vorrasi, J. A. (2002). Mitigating the effects of gun violence on children and youth. The Future of Children, 12(2), 72-85. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/220195313?accountid=1611

Hemenway, D. (2002). Commentary: Lethal Violence in the Schools. Journal of health politics, policy and law27(2), 267-271. Retrieved from http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/jhp/summary/v027/27.2hemenway.html

Leary, M. R., Kowalski, R. M., Smith, L., & Phillips, S. (2003). Teasing, rejection, and violence: Case studies of the school shootings. Aggressive Behavior29(3), 202-214. http://www.sozialpsychologie.uni-frankfurt.de/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Leary-et-al.-2003.pdf

Lamb, Gina (April 17, 2008). Columbine High School. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/c/columbine_high_school/index.html

Muschert, G. W. (2007). Research in school shootings. Sociology Compass,1(1), 60-80. http://www.langelandschoolmassacre.com/public_site/webroot/cache/media/file/school_Shootings1.pdf

Ohlheiser, O. (JAN 28, 2014). January’s epidemic: 11 school shootings in 19 days. The Wire. Retrieved on 31 March 2014 from http://www.thewire.com/national/2014/01/januarys-school-shootings/357448/  

Reza, A., Modzeleski, W., Feucht, T., Anderson, M., Simon, T. R., & Barrios, L. (2003). Source of firearms used by students in school-associated violent deaths–United States, 1992-1999. MMWR, 52(9), 169-172. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5209a1.htm

Rocque, M. (2012). Exploring school rampage shootings: Research, theory, and policy. The Social Science Journal49(3), 304-313. http://scottbarrykaufman.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Rocque_2012_SSJ.pdf

Rowe-Finkbeiner, K. (2012). Armed guards in schools will not end gun violence. U.S.News & World Report, 1. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1272285234?accountid=1611

Stader, D. L. (2006). Zero tolerance: Safe schools or zero sense?. Journal of forensic psychology practice6(2), 65-75. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J158v06n02_05?journalCode=wfpp20#.UzPcXaiSzD4

The White House (2013). Now is the Time: The President’s plan to protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/wh_now_is_the_time_full.pdf