As the parent of a public school student and the husband of a public school teacher, the subject of school shootings is something in which I have a keen interest. So when I saw this review for a new book titled “Ceremonial Violence: A Psychological Explanation of School Shootings” I was curious what the author and the reviewer had to say.
The premise of the book is straightforward: The author examined 13 school shootings in which children shot two or more people on school grounds in an attempt to find out why. From what I could glean from the review some of his conclusions are thus:
– School shootings are, in essence, a form of terrorism, albeit one not driven by any ideology. OK, that’s fair enough, if a bit self-evident.
– School shootings are deliberate, carefully planned affairs and the shooters themselves display no emotion or empathy. Again, most of us pretty much had that one figured out.
– In the taxonomy of murder, school shooters are classified as “pseudo-commandos”, people who are “obsessed with firearms, tactics and military training.” Maybe so, but that also describes your average history professor.
The book review goes on to cite a litany of external psychological factors – all completely plausible and painfully self-evident – that contribute to turning children into monsters. So far, so good. But then this:
And finally, there are the guns. Malignant narcissism, social cruelty and child abuse have been around forever, but school massacres are a phenomenon of the past 50 years. “It is a simple fact,” Fast writes, “that school shootings are impossible without guns that are affordable, available, easy to load and fire, and capable of firing many rounds within a few seconds.”
How can someone be so wrong? Yes, cruelty and abuse have been around forever. That’s human nature. But using the author’s logic one would surmise the easy availability of firearms is a modern phenomenon that only began 50 years ago. This is BS. We’ve always had guns. What has changed in fundamental and frightening ways is how we as a society view those guns.
Our children are visually assaulted from birth to adolescence with insane levels of violence disguised as entertainment, and they soak it up like a sponge because they have no choice and no outlet or environment for viewing guns in a positive way. When the only way in which a child sees a gun used is killing another human being, and when that action is seemingly condoned and glorified by society, is it any wonder we produce monsters?