Main Title: Improving School Safety Measures to Address the Problem of School Shootings
School shootings are a problem that, unfortunately, is not going away. Every year there seems to be another one, and by now the list is far too long for any civilized society to continue to view itself as civilized. What is at the heart of the problem of school shootings? Is it guns? Is it a lack of school security? Or is it something else? This paper will examine some of the most deadly school shootings before discussing the Uvalde elementary school shooting of 2022. Then it will examine the possible gun control measures and school safety measures that could resolve the problem. It will conclude with a suggestion that American society take a closer look at the mental health of school shooters.
The recent shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, left 19 children and two teachers dead. It ranks as the third deadliest school shooting in American history. Why did it happen? Was it because 18 year old Salvador Ramos had too easy access to guns? Or does the problem run deeper and exist on multiple levels? Should schools be more secure since school shootings have now become more commonplace? Should teachers be armed? Or should guns be banned completely in the US in spite of the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution?
When it comes to school shootings, there are no easy answers—but based on what we do know about them it stands to reason that precautions on the level of gun control and school safety can be implemented to better protect students.
Most Deadly School Shootings
The deadliest school shooting in America happened in 2007 at Virginia Tech. 23 year old Seung-Hui Cho, a South Korean immigrant to the US, suffered from mental instability which eventually erupted in violence on his college campus, when he began shooting students in the various halls of the campus. Cho had suicidal and homicidal thoughts throughout his life (Lyttle, 2012; Schulte & Jenkins, 2007). He failed, however, to receive the medical help he needed in spite of a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, severe anxiety, and mental illness. Cho was on antidepressants at the time—also known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) (Huffington, 2007).
The second deadliest school shooting in America happened in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The shooter was 20 year old Adam Lanza, and he killed 27 people—the majority of them first-graders. Lanza suffered mental issues stemming from family problems at home (his parents were divorced and his mother was overly-protective in some ways). Because of his mental health issues, he too was prescribed SSRIs (Barker, 2014).
The third deadliest school shooting was the Uvalde shooting in Texas that happened in 2022. It is followed by the University of Texas Tower Shooting of 1966, the Parkland school shooting of 2018, and the Columbine shooting of 1999. In all of these shootings, mental illness was a major factor. Ramos, for instance, is reported to have been a cutter—one who self-harms by cutting himself with a razor blade (Pettaway, 2022). Ramos clearly did not have a stable home life, and whatever mental health or spiritual issues he was dealing with went on without being addressed by a professional. Like many school shooters, he had a fascination with morbidity and would joke about raping and kidnapping girls, abuse animals for fun, and fantasize about killing.
In the Uvalde shooting, Ramos first shot his grandmother and then proceeded to Robb Elementary. He posted frequently to social media, and hinted at what he was going to do that day, the 24th of May, 2022. However, the big issue that politicians have focused on during this tragedy is the fact that Ramos bought guns when he turned 18—the legal age to purchase guns in the US. State Senator Roland Gutierrez, for example, seemed to chide gun-rights advocates by saying that the “first thing” Ramos did on his 18th birthday was go…to pass through metal detectors under the eye of an armed guard—and in such a setting there is no way someone like Ramos gains access to the school without getting past the guard first. And if he did get past the guard, he would then face the prospect of a school building’s alarms going off and doors and halls automatically locking. Police would be alerted immediately and in this type of situation it is highly unlikely that Ramos would be able to kill anyone at all.
Additionally, having armed guards, such as veterans who have combat training, installed in the schools would make it harder for someone like Ramos to be able to get away with murder. Someone like Ramos preys on innocent, vulnerable, helpless creatures—like animals and children. But if there are stronger people around who have the ability to exert deadly force, someone like Ramos would not come within a mile of that place. Ramos never tried to mess with big animals like bulls or bears or wolves. He preyed on cats. And when he decided to kill, who did he aim for? A helpless old grandmother and helpless children: anyone can see that if the school had at least some type of armed presence—even if it was just teachers—the shooter probably would not have seen it as such an easy target.
The point is that schools are targeted by insane people because insane people think they are easy targets. Whether it was the Sandy Hook shooter, the Columbine shooters, the Parkland shooter, or the Virginia Tech shooter, it is always the same: crazy murderers look for defenseless targets. They don’t want a fair fight. If schools want to make themselves safer or prevent the next shooting, they should put guns in the hands of teachers and put armed vets in their halls; they should have one entrance, overseen by an armed guard. It might not be pretty; it might make schools look like prisons. But until America addresses its cultural and spiritual…
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