Einstein is generally credited with the statement, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The recent school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas is indicative of that kind of insanity. The challenge is to determine exactly what kinds of things have been repeated.
A few weeks ago, I commented on the sentencing of Lindsay Souvannarath, the young Chicago area woman who made plans with two young men from Nova Scotia to kill as many people as possible in the Halifax Shopping Centre. A large portion of their plans was based on repetition of the actions of the Columbine killers. Police received a tip and were able to prevent disaster. The only death was that of James Gamble who committed suicide at the time police came to arrest him.
With 22 school shootings in the United States during the past school year it is apparent that there is repetition of these events. It is also apparent that what has been repeated to prevent these situations is not working. So what do needs to be done differently?
Following the Parkland School massacre I happened to come across Sue Klebold's book. Her son Dylan was one of the Columbine killers. Klebold was initially in total disbelief. She fully believed her son was a completely normal teen who had many friends and no problems. She spent years doing serious research to try to understand where things went wrong. She learned that her son had hid much from her and her husband. It is also important to note that Lindsay Souvannarath's parents are certain their daughter would never have gone through with plans to commit mass murder, then commit suicide. They ignored the fact that she had purchased a one-way flight to Nova Scotia.
Parents of all young people are the first line of defense...protecting society from senseless death and injury, as well as protecting their child. Any sign of unprovoked anger, hanging out with others who exhibit less than desireable behaviour, or dark postings on Facebook or other social media accounts are red flags. And yes, it is the parent's job to poke their nose into their kids business and lives.
We have good gun control laws here. Guns are to be registered and they are to be locked. However, we would be fooling ourselves if we believe these cautions are foolproof. If there are guns in a household it is up to the parents to account for those firearms at all times. A very different situation exists in the U.S. The purchase of semi-automatic weapons is allowed, and the many guns in some households might indicate that there are those who believe they still need a citizen militia.
Oliver North, the new NRA president, blames the school shootings on the use of Ritalin...which is used to treat hyperactivity disorder. He also mentions the violence shown in movies and on TV. While movies, TV, and video games can desensitize young people to violence it still takes availability of guns to carry out their actions.
Unfortunately, there is one other thing that continues to be repeated. This is the news coverage which gives the name of the killer, shows how that person(s) has repeated much of the attire and actions of the Columbine killers. Drs. Frank Ochberg and Zeynep Tufekci state it is imperative that news media institute guidlines for reporting these shootings.
Do not show the image of the killer, do not repeat the name of the killer, do not publish any manifesto the killer may have written, do not show their weapon(s), and do not sensationalize the violence or the body count. It is also important to not oversimplify the motivations behind the act. If the killer is not given “an identity” they will not have their very sick moment of fame. Denying that focus might give some would-be murderers second thoughts.
I suspect the gun-loving Republican's and the NRA might be in for a surprise with the upcoming election. Huge numbers of first-time voters in the United Statesare registering to vote. There might be a big change in the country to the south.
Shirley Hallee is a freelance author living in Amherst. Her column appears weekly in the Amherst News.