Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD

School Shootings: We're Looking Past the Problem

By Rob Tenery, MD on March 12, 2018

Administrations of both political Parties have tried to address the concerns of the school shootings by making these institutions gun-free zones. However, turning them into ‘soft targets’ appears to have made them even more vulnerable. George H. Bush signed the 1990 Gun-Free School Zones Act prohibiting any unauthorized individual from knowingly possessing a loaded or unsecured firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone. Then President Bill Clinton signed the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 into law. The law that requires each state receiving federal funds to have a law requiring local educational agencies to expel, for at least one year, any student who brings a weapon to school.

One of the most important concessions that may come out of this recent school shooting in Florida is to selectively remove schools from the gun-free zone list. That would mean allowing certain individuals, such a teachers, law enforcement and post-military personal who are trained in the proper use of weapons, to carry a firearm while they are on the campus.

Not including the terrorists, who have strong ties to the Muslim faith, the profile of the participants in most of the recent shootings in gun-free zones as churches and schools is very similar. After the other proposed solutions have been tried, understanding and acting on these shooters’ common weakness may end up as the most effective answer. The offenders are white or light-skinned males, probably mentally disturbed but not out of touch with reality, consider themselves outsiders from an early age and share a need for notoriety--- to receive attention. For most, dying while in the act, is not a deterrent. Otherwise, these killers would have taken the path of other mass murders that commit their crimes in anonymity, such as Wayne Gacey and the Son of Sam.

The Oklahoma bomber, Timothy McVeigh is a perfect example. His Irish American parents divorced when he was ten years old. He was raised by his father in Pendleton, New York. McVeigh claimed to have been a target of bullying at school, and he took refuge in a fantasy world where he imagined retaliating against the bullies. At the end of his life, he stated his belief that the United States government was the ultimate bully. Most who knew McVeigh remember him as being very shy and withdrawn, while a few described him as an outgoing and playful child who withdrew as an adolescent. McVeigh is said to have had only one girlfriend during his adolescence; he later stated to journalists that he did not have any idea how to impress girls.*  

The part of the profile that stands out is their overriding desire to attract attention to themselves, but not in a good way. The example of Timothy McVeigh fits the profile and not a shot was fired. Taking away guns from the innocent as demonstrated in Chicago’s out-of-control firearm homicide rate, where the gun laws are known to be some of the strictest in the country, isn’t the answer.

After all the suggested changes have been implemented, this country may have to face a very difficult decision. Do we believe it is more important to be politically correct than saving the future lives of our children?

Then, it may be time to evaluate how Singapore, to some extent Japan and many third world countries approach criminal punishment. Calling on the most basic deterrent--- that is to take away the alleged criminals’ due process rights? No day-in-court. Just sentencing as dictated by the crime committed.

When previous killers are denied notoriety, given no publicity, stripped of their identity and locked away to serve their sentences as deemed appropriate, the next potential killer may just think twice!





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