So today I was watching this documentary about child killers, mainly about situations like Columbine. They focused on Gothic teens and the possibility that media influences such as Marilyn Manson may have triggered these violent acts. While watching this documentary, I noticed several common factors, aside from violent video games and tyupes of music, that these teenagers had in common. In the documentary, each case occured in a seemingly perfect town, often somewhere in the Bible belt, and in a small, close knit community. The other common factor that I noticed was that all the kids had very easy access to guns. And I don't mean, oh, it's nyc, we keep a gun to protect ourselves (which doesn't even work out well) I mean huge racks of large rifles.
The towns seemed to have almost a caste system among the students, which even authority figures endorsed. The jocks and academic types were the most popular, and then there'd be two or three kids, the "gothic teens" that everyone else stigmatized and mocked. Even at home, their families were often extremely religions, often frowning on everything about their child, rather than just inappropriate behavior. The children also had a sense of entitlement. Materialistically, they had almost everything they wanted, including the violent music, videos, and games that many people bleme, yet at the same time, they were often ignored, spending hours alone because they were different, and left feeling like they had no one they could confide in.
Easy access to guns was another concern. One part of the documentary talked about a father who found out his only son had killed himself while he was away on business. The father returned home and found what he believed to be the cause of his suon's suicide in his cd player, a Marilyn Manson album. While he was saying this, they were filming him in front of a large rack of rifles. Psychological studies have shown that exposre to a gun, even one that's simply present, and not being used, increases indviduals' feelings of violence. At the same time, studies about the media's influence on teens has been inconclusive. After the shooting in Little Rock, Marilyn Manson canceled the part of his tour in that area, stating that the people there "had had enough". The National Rifle Association, on the other hand, did not, and went ahead with a rally they'd planned.
Obviously it's not a single factor that causes a student to bring a gun to school and target their classmates, there's a combination of psychological, environmental, and possibly even biological factors, however the needed actions are not being taken. Rather than looking for concrete evidence as to what risk factors should be adressed, parents and politicans and other concerned members of society argue about whether to blame the media and the gothic subculture, or the parents of the teens for the violent actions. Society needs to take steps to support diversity, schools should encourage students to reach out to each other, and should have more than the flimsy anti-bullying programs that everyone mocks anyway. High school and middle school students should have easier access to school counselors, and should be made more aware of other resources that can help them. As a society, we set the example that violence is the answer. We are currently at war, and the United States is the only western country that still uses the death penalty. We've only recently stopped sentencing minors to the death penalty. Our president as govenor of texas has sent the mentally ill and retarded to their death. We need stricter gun laws and we need to make more effort to be openminded, rather than taking the easy way out and simply condemning the 'gothic subculture' and hoping that action will solve society's problems.
Above all, we need to spread the message that high school is not forever, life does get better, and even if individual towns aren't diverse, the world is.