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An FBI study on school shooters found school shootings are never a result of a crazy person “snapping.” Most shooters do have serious mental health or emotional issues, but they all plan their attacks months or even years in advance. And as they plan, they almost always “leak” information about the attack beforehand, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes in incredibly obvious ways.
Both Harris and Rodger had the police called on them multiple times due to suspicious behavior. Both of them had a history of strange and violent outbursts towards friends and those close to them. Both put their intentions and their angry rants up on the web for everyone to see. Elliot Rodger wrote and re-wrote his plan out, sometimes including murdering his family members and stealing their car. He wrote that if someone had just searched his room, it would have all come apart, he would have been found out. Eric Harris wrote almost the exact same thing 15 years earlier.
Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter who killed 32 people, turned in paper after paper that depicted gruesome killings and gun violence. He had a history of mental health issues and had been reported to the campus police four times for aggressive and antisocial behavior, particularly towards women. One of his professors went so far as to tell the board that she would rather resign than teach another class with him in it.
Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, also had a history of mental illness and inappropriate anti-social behavior. And he too, began sharing his intentions online through forum posts and audio. Lanza had paranoid delusions about mass media and the government, and began to argue that school shootings were justified as a form of protest or revolt. People humored him and ignored him. No one realized he had a small armory of semi-automatic weapons in his house.
Then there are those who are simply ignored. Dylan Klebold was suicidally depressed for over two years. He fantasized and wrote about killing himself liberally. Despite getting into trouble with the law, turning in school assignments that glorified murder and suicide and failing most of his classes senior year, his parents and friends claimed that they had no idea something was amiss. George Sodini, a middle-aged Pennsylvania man who shot up an aerobics class full of women, wrote in his journal that since he spent the past 20 years of his life alone and miserable, there was no reason to think that the next 20 wouldn’t be lonely and miserable as well. His mother had been emotionally abusive. His father hadn’t had a meaningful conversation with him in over 30 years. Simply put: he had nothing to live for. So why not take some revenge on your way out?
Gun control gets the headlines. Mental health care gets the headlines. Violence and video games and misogyny and internet forums and atheism — the list is endless at this point.
Here’s what doesn’t get the headlines: Empathy. Listening to those around you. Even if you don’t like them very much.
Despite being relevant and important discussions, the glamorous headlines are ultimately distractions — they just feed into the carnage and the attention and the fame the killer desired. They are distractions from what is right in front of you and me and the victims of tomorrow’s shooting: people who need help. And while we’re all fighting over whose pet cause is more right and more true and more noble, there’s likely another young man out there, maybe suicidally depressed, maybe paranoid and delusional, maybe a psychopath, and he’s researching guns and bombs and mapping out schools and recording videos and thinking every day about the anger and hate he feels for this world.
And no one is paying attention to him."
- 3 days ago