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And as to reportedly lax laws that make it reasonably easy to purchase a weapon at a gun show, Kleck asserts "...determined killers who plan their murders over a long period of time are the people least likely to be blocked from getting a gun by background checks." The perpetrators who are "most strongly motivated" and have long-range plans are also likely the "most motivated and able to evade the controls," he explains.
The bottom line for Kleck is that quick-fixes based on the emotion and passion stirred up by wall-to-wall coverage of a massacre are rarely, if ever, legitimate solutions. This is why he chose the title. In making his case as cogently and calmly as possible, he writes, "assessments of preventative measures based on a narrow focus on violent events that did occur" are "inherently misleading." The reason they are misleading is that they focus "only" on the "failures of preventive efforts." The success rate of preventative measures cannot be measured as easily as the failure of preventative measures, he continues. Moreover, the diagnosis of the causes of violence "is similarly distorted by a narrow focus on the attributes of a few violent actors." more realistic focus for Kleck should be on how "honest advocates" present their proposals as relevant to a more general form of youthful violence, and not necessarily to "extraordinarily violent events." In other words, are there measures that can be put in place in a more general way to stem the violence youths are capable of, prior to that violence turning into a holocaust of hatefulness and killings in a cafeteria?
The fuel is in plentiful supply for the passionate, emotional (and yet ill-conceived) answers and solutions to an extraordinary event like Columbine, thanks to television's heavy coverage. And while Kleck isn't blaming television, he is saying that it is phony to come up with radical solutions to mass killings just because one recently happened. He does admit, towards the end of his essay, that "drawing lessons from high-profile tragedies" might be justified (didn't he say at the outset there were no lessons to be learned?). What he means is, it is reasonable for a person or a culture to "make use of the temporarily elevated level of concern about violence to advance worthy suggestions..."
Those "worthy suggestions" (and it seems like any and all suggestions should be given consideration, since no one predicted this mass murder and certainly no one prevented it), according to Kleck's essay, might not prevent "unusual events" like the Columbine killings. But such suggestions might help "in the long run" with "more mundane crimes." He doesn't explain how this might be possible.
Still, having said that, Kleck turns around and said that believing that a worthwhile suggestion can be made would "seem to depend on the dubious premise" that people make "wise choices in times of fear and hysteria." People who are frightened tend to favor actions that "make them feel better over those that would actually make them safer," he explains in the last portion of his essay. And Kleck seems to be restating the obvious, and weakening his arguments, when he writes that people are "less logical" in the "aftermath" of "ghastly crimes." In the end, Kleck, a professor of criminology at Florida State University, finally offers several suggestions that any teacher or parent (and many students) could agree with. Schools should more closely monitor and try to stop bullying and taunting on their campuses; and, they should education students about "male-on-female teen dating violence." As to his additional concern, the issue of "violence-saturated entertainment disseminated by profit-hungry corporations" (X-Boxes, Nintendo, etc.), these electronic games (that both boys who perpetrated the Columbine killings were heavily involved with) are completely out of control. Parents who do limit their children's (mainly boys) access to these violent games are few and far between.
Conclusion: this is a good essay, and it stirs the mind to thinking about possible solutions. But one can't help but wonder what Kleck has to say about the most recent school mass murder at the University of Virginia.
Kleck, Gary. "There Are No Lessons to Be Learned from Littleton." Criminal Justice Ethics
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