With all the attention in the media about “School” shootings in particular and “Mass” shootings in general, I have been doing a lot of reading lately on these two subjects.
Let me start by saying that I am a staunch believer that guns are not the problem and that the lack of personal accountability and the decline in social and moral structure in our culture is far more to blame than the availability of firearms.
For the purpose of this piece I am using a common definition of “Mass Shooting” provided by the FBI – four or more fatalities and not stemming from gang violence or the commission of another preceding crime, it also leaves out shootings involving multiple members of families known to the shooter. However in the “School” shooting category I did not apply the “Mass Shooting” criteria.
Observations from my reading. There have been 150 “Mass” shootings, in the United States since 1966, beginning with the “Clock Tower” shooting at the University of Texas – Austin (17 killed) and ending with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland Florida (also 17 killed). During that 51 year period 1,077 people have been killed (including some of the shooters), there were 153 shooters (150 of which were male), 88 of them died during the commission of the crime (some by suicide). There were 292 guns used (or available – I believe this number includes Las Vegas where the shooter had numerous (24) weapons in the room, but obviously not all were actually used during the shooting spree), 167 were obtained legally, 49 illegally and 76 were of undermined origin.
They occurred in 41 states, California with the most (23) and obviously nine states had zero (Texas had 13). The numbers by decade – 1960’s = 5, 1970’s = 9, 1980’s = 20, 1990’s = 30, 2000’s = 33 and so far in the 2010’s = 40. They have occurred in a variety of places including military bases (4), churches or other places of worship (10), schools / colleges / university (21), stores / restaurants/ bars (34) offices (35) and other unspecified locations (56). As the figures above indicate, the number of incidents are on the increase. The question is why.
Now let’s talk “School” shootings. As stated previously, I did not filter these numbers by the FBI “Mass Shooting” criteria. These are reported shootings that occurred at a school regardless of whether or not school was in session or not and regardless of the number of deaths and/or injured. I used this particular set of statistics to show that “school” shootings are NOT something new. In fact these reports go back before the Revolutionary War.
Let’s begin in 1764, there was a school shooting in which ten people died, resulting from an uprising of the local indian tribe. However only one was killed by gunfire, the rest were killed by what were classified as “melee” weapons. The next incident reported in the article I used as a source was in 1840.
I am going to list these a little differently, while I am still listing by decade, I want to add how many total shootings occurred, how many were “Mass” shootings and how many resulted in “0” deaths:
1840 – 1899 37 total 0=mass 19=0 deaths
1900 – 1909 15 total 0=mass 5=0 deaths
1910 – 1919 19 total 0=mass 8=0 deaths
1920 – 1929 10 total 0=mass 6=0 deaths
1930 – 1939 9 total 0=mass 1=0 deaths
1940 – 1949 7 total 1-mass 2=0 deaths
1950 – 1959 17 total 0=mass 4=0 deaths
1960 – 1969 18 total 2=mass 1=0 deaths
1970 – 1979 30 total 2=mass 7=0 deaths
1980 – 1989 39 total 1 mass 7=0 deaths
1990 – 1999 62 total 4=mass 16=0 deaths
2000 – 2009 63 total 5=mass 26=9 deaths
2001 – 2018 148 total 7=mass 84=0 deaths
This set of statistics also shows an overall trend upward in the number of incidents during the comparable period of the 1960’s to the present. Again the question is “Why”? I do believe firearm availability does come into play here somewhat. In light of the fact that many of the school shootings involve students, who are by nature less mature, their decision making would be more “emotion” driven rather than “analytical” in nature. So by availability here, I am referring to households that do not keep weapons secure and are therefore readily “available” to minors, as opposed the the overall availability to law abiding adults.
Now let’s contemplate the “Why” posed above. What has changed during this 50 years plus time frame, besides the increased availability of guns, that explains why people are increasingly willing to do harm to and even murder others?
In my humble opinion it comes down to the morale degradation of our society, beginning in the 1960’s (Engle vs. Vitale, (1962) effectively ending prayer in school and Murray vs Curlett, (1963) effectively ending Bible reading in schools), all the way up to the present.
Since the 1960’s when these two events happened up to today, we have seen an ever increasing decline in the accountability of the “individual” through laws and social permissiveness in everything ranging from what was allowable on TV and in movies (Rating system) all the way to what is now available on “Social Media”. It has increasingly become a mindset of “Anything Goes”. The language allowed (can you imagine some of the words we hear on TV now being used on public broadcasts in the 60′, 70’s and even the 80’s), the pervasiveness of sex, (some things allowed on TV today would have been X-rated in the early rating system at the box office), the violence (the graphic nature of violence now in the name of “realism” was never allowed before the 60’s, you almost never saw anyone even bleed in the old western movies) and the disrespect, (can you imagine Opie talking to his “Pa” in the Andy Griffith show the way youth today is routinely shown to address their parents on show after show).
Technology is only increasing the speed at which these things are taking place. The PC (Personal Computer) was introduced in the late 70’s, “mobile phones” were first commercially available in the early 70’s, cell phones came on the scene in the early to mid 80’s, laptop computers came in the early 80’s, “tablet” computers came in the 90’s and “Smartphones” appeared in the early 2000’s. If you notice this roughly corresponds to the timeline of the increase in shootings.
Now I am not saying the technological advances cause shootings, but I am saying that the immediate availability of information becoming so widespread may be contributing to the root cause behind them. In 2013 and 2014 there were several reports linking social media and anger, not just in America, but worldwide.
Maybe this spreading anger in our culture has a direct impact on these events. Once again the removal of moral teachings in our education system changes how we, as citizens, respond to this anger. Without a sound moral compass ingrained in us from childhood, maybe more and more of our young people make bad choices.
It is up to us as Average Red Blooded American Citizens to replace what the schools have abandoned, teach our kids and grand kids about biblical moral behaviors.