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Shots Fired at Santana High School.
March 5, 2001 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Shots Fired at Santana High School. MSNBC is reporting Shots have been fired at Santana High School in Santee, CA. There have been MULTIPLE kids calling into local TV stations in San Diego and MSNBC, Fox News, CNN Headline News is picking them up. It's odd really...some of these kids are pretty eloquent. Mixed reports are that 9 kids have been hit with a small caliber handgun out in the "quad" at the school. The gunmen was allegedly smiling the whole time. Of course, as these things go, the truth never really comes out until weeks after the fact.
posted by bkdelong (99 comments total)

 
Here's the blurb on the MSNBC front page:

School shooting
Several injured east of Santee, Calif.
At least 9 people — most of them students — wounded after a gunman opened fire inside a high school in this suburb of San Diego. More details soon.

posted by pnevares at 10:10 AM on March 5, 2001


Oh god, what a great way to start the week. If anyone wants me, I'll be vomiting in the bathroom.
posted by Hackworth at 10:11 AM on March 5, 2001


*sigh* 1900 students total at the school. Supposedly the police have one male in custody.
posted by bkdelong at 10:22 AM on March 5, 2001


Bright side - no one is dead... yet.
posted by da5id at 10:22 AM on March 5, 2001


Makes me sick
posted by outsider at 10:27 AM on March 5, 2001


Here's a report from the San Diego Union Tribune. So far there's not very much info.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:32 AM on March 5, 2001


A live caller just said it's a ninth grader. What's next? 3rd graders with AKs?
posted by bkdelong at 10:33 AM on March 5, 2001


I'm glad no one appears to have died at this point.

I'm curious to see how Bush will react to this. It's foolish to be too outraged when many of your supporters think gun laws are too strict.
posted by jragon at 10:42 AM on March 5, 2001


Oh, but there's just so many other things that can be blamed besides guns. I'm sure if they look into the kid's history they'll find that he's played a few violent video games & watched a few violent movies.. those are surely the true culprits here. Bleh. Definitely a cruddy way to start the week. Here's hoping that those injured come out ok.
posted by zempf at 10:54 AM on March 5, 2001


One student confirmed dead.
posted by bkdelong at 10:56 AM on March 5, 2001


I'm sure the internet turned the killer's heart dark.
posted by owillis at 10:57 AM on March 5, 2001


they'll find that he's played a few violent video games & watched a few violent movies

Violent video games my ass. I've played plenty of violent video games when I was a kid including the kill everyone game Postal which I loved but would never EVER think of going out there and "reenacting" the game. It's ridiculous. How can you take someone's life? Blaming them on video games are just stupid. Parents need to be more responsible if they're going to have guns and kids in the same house. Kids NEED to learn gun safety and learn to respect the dangerousness that comes with owning and using a gun.

jesus.
posted by bkdelong at 11:01 AM on March 5, 2001


Possible Bush speech:

Open with diatribe against violence in games & on TV.
Call for bipartisanship.
Propose a faith-based initiative involving vouchers, charter schools.
Close with amusing non sequitur.
posted by gimli at 11:02 AM on March 5, 2001


since people got tired of blaming marylin manson, i'm sure they'll blame eminem for this one...
posted by afx114 at 11:09 AM on March 5, 2001


"Oh, but there's just so many other things that can be blamed besides guns. I'm sure if they look into the kid's history they'll find that he's played a few violent video games & watched a few violent movies.. those are surely the true culprits here."

I might (or might not) agree with you that guns per se are not the root cause of our violent culture. But the fact remains that where guns are readily available violence is more easily expressed in a lethal manner. There may be root causes that need addressing, but why not get rid of the means of carrying out the most vicious violence? Is that treating a symptom and not the underlying issue? Perhaps, but any parent with a sick child will worry first about bringing a high fever down before finding the right antibiotic.

Yes, work to reduce violence (including gun violence) in movies and videogames. Sure, encourage parents to monitor their children's internet usage. But get rid of the guns first. Fewer children will lose their lives while we worry over how to save their souls.
posted by anapestic at 11:10 AM on March 5, 2001


“Violent video games my ass.”

Agreed, but I believe (hope?) he was being sarcastic. There’s not even a strong correlation between boys who play violent video games & boys who commit crimes. For such a correlation to exist (judging by how popular some violent games are), we’d probably need a school shooting every few hours.
posted by gleemax at 11:16 AM on March 5, 2001


“Fewer children will lose their lives while we worry over how to save their souls.”

Would it bother you to know that not all children believe they have souls and would take particular offense to someone attempting to “save” their soul?
posted by gleemax at 11:18 AM on March 5, 2001


I've given up trying to convince right-to-bear-arms zealots that we need better gun safety laws. I will still maintain the fact that we do....but while we're waiting, kids need to be educated and talked to about violence and guns. If we as parents, friends and family do not do out part to help them distinguish right-from-wrong, then they'll do it on their own - with obvious consequenses.

one dead, 14 wounded.



posted by bkdelong at 11:20 AM on March 5, 2001


Sorry to be unclear, gleemax. I was using "souls" in a more figurative, less religious sense. I wasn't advocating old style tent revivals with altar calls and the like. I'm a Unitarian Universalist, and I have great admiration for any child with the strength of will to understand that he doesn't need to be saved.
posted by anapestic at 11:21 AM on March 5, 2001


Sorry to get you all in a lather, but yes, my original statement was made with tongue firmly in cheek. I was just anticipating the reaction by the higher-ups in society who feel the need to assign blame to someone in this school shooting. Next time I'll be a little more clear with my sarcasm & blame it on too much reading of metafilter.com..
posted by zempf at 11:22 AM on March 5, 2001


from msnbc: "Another student who said he was the suspect’s best friend said that the youth talked about planning the shooting last week but that friends thought he was joking, even when he invited them to join him.
'He said he had it all planned out,' the student said. 'You better be joking,' I said. 'No, I’m serious,' the student said the suspect told him.
"

Umm...hello? Here, no wait, Here you go, kid.
posted by Hankins at 11:28 AM on March 5, 2001


2 reported dead.


posted by bkdelong at 11:29 AM on March 5, 2001


Do we know yet if the shooter was a regular lurker on Metafilter? I hope my double-post last Friday wasn't what set him off.
posted by darren at 11:30 AM on March 5, 2001


Now, my previous snitty inappropriate comment aside, it's clear that it's lax gun laws and irresponsible parents that allow a 9th grade to have access to a handgun -- in California, no less. I hope the press jumps all over Dubya about this when he tries to play the Ronald Reagan sympathy card.
posted by darren at 11:31 AM on March 5, 2001


it's clear that it's lax gun laws and irresponsible parents that allow a 9th grade to have access to a handgun

I'm inclined to say it's more the parents fault. Not necessarily for having guns in the house or not even for their lack of awareness of what their kid was "planning" - but for having a gun that their child could easily access and not educating or instilling in them the responsibility and carefulness needed when there's a gun in the house.

And for christ sake....get a goddamn gun lock if you can't trust your kid to go postal at school with one of your pieces.
posted by bkdelong at 11:36 AM on March 5, 2001


Ah, I see anapestic. Sorry to be hostile. I see where you’re coming from now. Now I feel dumb. :)
posted by gleemax at 11:36 AM on March 5, 2001


1 fatality at the scene- person unidentified. 1 - 15 yr old boy, shot in the head just died at Grossmont Hospital. (These are the 2 confirmed dead thus far)
posted by bkdelong at 11:41 AM on March 5, 2001


2 fatalities confirmed by CNN.

Sickest thing is the kid who grabbed a camera and started taking shots. Was he blogging it?
posted by owillis at 11:46 AM on March 5, 2001


shows the state american schools are in. with little or no security in most cases
posted by stevridie at 11:54 AM on March 5, 2001


I'm all in favor of gun safety education. It could significantly reduce the number of accidental shootings.

But what good would gun safety education do in the case of someone who wants to go to school and kill people? He clearly knows what guns can do. Or is there some indication that he thought a little flag saying "Bang" was going to come out of the barrel.

Gun locks are also a good idea, but I saw a Washington Post report (February 7, but it's no longer available for free) that of 32 brands of gun locks tested, only two passed the safety tests. Apparently, it's no big deal to pry them off or make them come loose by dropping the gun.
posted by anapestic at 11:59 AM on March 5, 2001


You ain't kiddin', stevridie. I once trained as a traveling salesman, 2000 style. This guy took me around town trying to sell paintings to businesses at low prices. We walked right into a Jewish day school and no one even said "boo"! The kids even pointed us to the office so we could get in contact with as many people as possible! Crazy.
posted by starvingartist at 12:01 PM on March 5, 2001


Eerie sort of coincidence: The school is apparently in the same disctrict as the elementary school where Brenda Spencer killed two and injured nine in an event immortalized in the song "I Don't Like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats.
posted by dnash at 12:02 PM on March 5, 2001


Sickest thing is the kid who grabbed a camera and started taking shots. Was he blogging it?

I wouldn't say sick necessarily. I'd say pretty damn smart. That's the first thing I'd want to do if I could - snap off a bunch of shots on the digital and get out of there. Blog it up before the police confiscate the camera. 'Course, hindsight it 20/20. Why let media distort the story when as a student and potential witness, you can tell your side of the story. One would debate that it could distort the facts before all the info is released but I doubt we'll hear anything solid until press conferences are held.

This was a big argument when I was involved in creating the first Web site for the UMass Amherst News Office. I was all for live news, immediate responses to incidents, up-to-date emergency info etc. But politics and policy often cause info to get disemminated more slowly.

Are there any "Breaking News" blogs like for the Earthquake or snow storm in the east or even this incident? With the amount of bloggers around the country, we'd rival any good news organization for the ability to offer raw news, pictures and information.

posted by bkdelong at 12:03 PM on March 5, 2001


shows the state american schools are in. with little or no security in most cases

Jeeze. What does it say that our kids need security, x-ray, metal detectors and frisking at their high schools?
posted by bkdelong at 12:07 PM on March 5, 2001


Fox News is reporting they have confirmed the suspect in custody is 15 yr. old Andy Williams, a ninth grader at the school.
posted by bkdelong at 12:08 PM on March 5, 2001


I'm glad I'm out of high school. Never feared for my life, but I would be worried at the misguided attempts to protect us they'd implement. No backpacks or baggy pants, but still leaving doors all over school unlocked...
It'd be another thing if they cared about protecting students. School official's goal is to calm parents, so they put in policies that sound nice and are easy to implement.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:14 PM on March 5, 2001


I'm another one who'd be more afraid of being rounded up "for my own good" than of getting shot if I were in high school today.
posted by harmful at 12:16 PM on March 5, 2001


gimli writes:
Possible Bush speech:
Open with diatribe against violence in games & on TV.
Call for bipartisanship.
Propose a faith-based initiative involving vouchers, charter schools.
Close with amusing non sequitur.


You're gonna work a Bush-slam into this tradgedy? That's low, very low...

posted by Sal Amander at 12:18 PM on March 5, 2001


While no one can every prevent any such tragedy, here's two simple steps that could have made it much more difficult for today's tragedy to occur:

>> Mandatory safety training before the kids' parent would be given a permit. The training would stress importance of locking/securing firearms in the house.

>> Mandatory federal rules dictating that all gun makers develop single-user technologies that are already in their infancies. These "smart-gun" technologies prevent users other than the gun's owner from firing the weapon, via fingerprint or voice activation. If the feds can dictate emissions regs to carmakers, why can't they force gunmakers to make their products safe?

Why haven't we instituted these two simple solutions? You know why.

posted by darren at 12:25 PM on March 5, 2001


Not quite the same district, dnash -- San Diego Unified (where the Spencer shooting took place) vs. Santana which is in the Grossmont School District. Near enough by, however.

Guy on TV (they're not clear who he is but he seems to be a boyfriend of this kid's best friend's mother, and possibly a substitute father figure) apparently spent a lot of time talking to him to make sure he wasn't serious, but didn't follow up with authorities. And apparently it had been talked up beforehand such that a LOT of students had heard he might do something. Shudder.
posted by dhartung at 12:32 PM on March 5, 2001


If the feds can dictate emissions regs to carmakers, why can't they force gunmakers to make their products safe?

Cuz our foundin fathers din't say nuthin bout no cars in the U.S. Consteetooshun, thas why!
posted by ratbastard at 12:34 PM on March 5, 2001


Gimli was a little off on guessing GW's initial sound bites, but here they are. They're pretty predictable :

"How saddened we are. ... Disgraceful act of cowardice ... What happens when we don't teach children right from wrong ... to respect life."

Here's a right-from-wrong hint GW: Allowing guns to flow freely into the hands of juveniles is WRONG!


posted by darren at 12:35 PM on March 5, 2001


Not quite the same district, dnash

Hm. Ok. I got that from a guy on another board who said he had a cousin that went to Santana. At first I thought he'd said it was the very same school, but he just said same district. Still kinda eerie though. It being Monday and all.
posted by dnash at 12:36 PM on March 5, 2001


By blaming lax gun laws for this are any of you suggesting that this child legally obtained the gun he shot those people with? I'm guessing he didn't go into a store a purchase one for this endeavor.

I am admittedly a little lax on my knowledge of gun laws, but how are guns legally permitted to flow freely into the hands of children?
posted by jennyb at 12:38 PM on March 5, 2001


Here's a right-from-wrong hint GW: Allowing guns to flow freely into the hands of juveniles is WRONG!

Same hint was given to Clinton, yet after 2 years since Columbine the Clinton White House did nothing. NOTHING!
posted by Sal Amander at 12:40 PM on March 5, 2001


Mandatory safety training before the kids' parent would be given a permit.

Hell, why not make the kids go too?

However the NRA does have a pamphlet about the parent's responsibility to educating their kids. Do they have a statement regarding single-user technologies?
posted by bkdelong at 12:43 PM on March 5, 2001


California already has 700 gun laws on the books, darren. Some of the toughest in the US as a whole.
posted by frednorman at 12:45 PM on March 5, 2001


Please, let's use our head, before it's shot off -before any more of our childern are shot, dead. DISARM our children FIRST! THEN, we can argue about parents, schools, movies, vidio games, teachers, and who should, and who shouldn't...

Disarm our children first! If that means 50 million adults will have to do without a handgun, SO BE IT.

DISARM THE CHILDREN FIRST.
It's our responsibility. It's our society. It's not safe for children here. We have to change that.
posted by jerrym at 12:58 PM on March 5, 2001


Are either of the two laws I mentioned among them, frednorman?
posted by darren at 12:58 PM on March 5, 2001


Wow. It's a good thing I frequent metafilter. The posters know everything. And can solve all our problems with pithy remarks and homilies.

I think the issue is going to be a bit more complicated to fix.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:02 PM on March 5, 2001


California already has 700 gun laws on the books

Well, the problem isn't lack of gun laws, but the failure of scientists and lawmakers to develop an all-encompassing Grand Unifying Gun Law. Once instituted, this GUGL will prevent all future gun crimes. But scientists are unsure of how soon they will be able to finalize such a law. There are multiple approaches currently in the works, including the Law of Micro-dimensional Storage, in which all guns would be securely bound with string and placed in storage in any of the twenty-three micro-dimensions, which Stanford scientists are currently locating. Other promising possibilities for a GUGL include the Wave Theory of Guns and a new variation of the Quantum Safety Lock Theory.
posted by daveadams at 1:05 PM on March 5, 2001


Disarm our children first! If that means 50 million adults will have to do without a handgun, SO BE IT.

Jerrym, how exactly do we do that?
posted by daveadams at 1:07 PM on March 5, 2001


Quantum Safety Lock Theory.
In which it is impossible to determine whether the gun is locked or not until the trigger is pulled :)
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:07 PM on March 5, 2001


jennyb: I am admittedly a little lax on my knowledge of gun laws, but how are guns legally permitted to flow freely into the hands of children?

In CA, it depends on the type of gun. I'm not sure what the gunman was using.
posted by iceberg273 at 1:10 PM on March 5, 2001


Oh well. The networks have decided "chest discomfort" of the Vice President is more interesting than the school shooting, death of multiple kids, and 1900 distraught kids and their parents.

Grrr.
posted by bkdelong at 1:22 PM on March 5, 2001


Wow. It's a good thing I frequent metafilter. The posters know everything. And can solve all our problems with pithy remarks and homilies.

Choose one:

a) light a single candle
b) curse the darkness
posted by anapestic at 1:23 PM on March 5, 2001


Why do these kids bother with guns? It would be a lot easier to just use a car. They're much more accessible -- barely any laws at all. And they're just as good for killing indiscrimately.
posted by smackfu at 1:28 PM on March 5, 2001


Thought we had some whacked-out director's kids try that out in SoCal last week or so....
posted by darren at 1:42 PM on March 5, 2001


smackfu: or, as George Carlin suggested; they could use their bare hands. Until they are outlawed too, of course. Then they'd be down to their feet. And so on...

Then perhaps someone will realize, after all, that the tools are not to blame.
posted by frednorman at 1:51 PM on March 5, 2001


At least the presence of an armed police officer on the school grounds will mean that the NRA line "If only there had been someone with a legal gun ..." can't be used. (When there was a workplace shooting in Chicago recently, one guy said on camera that "...if Illinois law let me carry a gun, maybe I could have done something". Uh, yeah, and you expect your workplace to have a positive point of view on you bringing a gun to work? At a lot of companies that's worth instant termination.)

What's wrong here, as much as anything, is that people knew he was going to do this, and said nothing. I hope every one of those people -- mostly kids -- has a nice long talk with God tonight.
posted by dhartung at 1:58 PM on March 5, 2001


I think we can all agree that tools are not to blame. But we can't keep letting these things happen and then blame the media, guns, parents, etc. Actions need to be taken. And we need the media's help on this.
posted by emoeby at 1:59 PM on March 5, 2001


Disarm our children first! If that means 50 million adults will have to do without a handgun, SO BE IT.

I guess if 1 person was assaulted (murdered, raped, robbed) because they did not have a weapon to defend themselves with that would be OK too? When would it not be OK: 10, 15, 100, 50 million?

After all, we must THINK OF THE CHILDREN even if that means restricting my ability to defend myself.

Blaming the gun is an easy way of sidestepping any effective approach to stopping this from happening.


posted by Mick at 2:07 PM on March 5, 2001


Easy access to guns IS the issue. Those of us who went to high school decades ago didn't have to live in fear that some whacko who got hazed by jocks was going to go home, get a cheap handgun out of dad's desk, and blow people away.

In fact, most of the students who fit into this crazed, upset looney category used to commit suicide. Now, with cheap, easy-to-find guns and a culture that promotes their use, they see getting even as a better solution than just taking themselves out.

If this kid today couldn't have gotten his hands on his dad's guns, what would he have done? Cut one person with a knife? Hit him with a stick? HE NEEDED A GUN. And thanks to our lax attitudes toward guns, and our pathetic Baal-like worship of "gun-owner's rights and liberties," we gave it to him.

Guns are the great equalizer, and as long as we stamp them out faster than Chicken McNuggets, we'll continue to see more and more violence in schools, restaurants, shopping malls, you name it.

posted by darren at 2:19 PM on March 5, 2001


You're kidding, right? You couldn't have got a gun 'decades ago?'
I'm glad I didn't go to your school. I'd hate to have to hang out with the other crazed, upset, loonies in the category of those who got hazed by jocks.
Besides, if you can't find a gun, it would be just as easy to make a bomb, and I seriously doubt the school would take or even be able to take any effective measures to stop you.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:24 PM on March 5, 2001


It's the bunkers not the guns. Seige the bunkers.
posted by mblandi at 2:31 PM on March 5, 2001


Of course, it's only because it was a 15-year-old doing this that it's getting the whomping press attention. Never mind that this is just something that's going to happen every now and then--a statistical bump where a young kid goes off his nut and kills some people--and that adults all around him are killing each other every single day with a minimum of media attention. After all, now we can work ourselves into another lather about how all of our fucked-up kids got that way (as long as it isn't our fault). Sadly, we're probably in for more of it as we approach the Columbine anniversary. (And in case I'm sounding a little callous, let me say--of course--that I have nothing but sympathy for the folks in question.)

And so the firestorm of media attention will make it seem like kids are going apeshit at an exponential rate--Columbine! Kip Kinkel!--when, of course, they're not. Conveniently allowing us to cloud the issue with all sorts of hand-wringing about video games 'n rock music 'n to-hell-with-the-little-bastards instead of just trying to answer the question: Do we really need ALL these fucking guns? Is it really the end of the world to just admit that maybe we've been a little dick-in-hand about the utter laxity of our gun laws? I'm not a knee-jerk NRA hater; I grew up with guns, I like to shoot them, but Jesus. The elephant in the living room doesn't seem to be getting any smaller.
posted by Skot at 2:43 PM on March 5, 2001


I'm not sure it's possible to prevent this kind of thing. This comes from something deep. Guns make it worse but guns don't cause it.

I have a book called How the Mind Works and it's quite fascinating. It applies evolutionary principles to various aspects of behavior and much of what he says rings true.

One thing he talks about is why it is that people, when goaded to a certain point, blow up, lose control and become terribly violent. I'll use my words to describe his concept: this is equivalent to using a nuke. The point of it is deterrence. Adults know that anyone can lose it this way, and as such they are more careful about pushing those around them, because there's always the danger of pushing too far leading to someone going postal.

Pinker says this is an evolutionary advantage because it protects an individual from society and the tyranny of the tribe. Knowing that this is possible restrains people. And I think he may be correct.

In any case, most of us won't reach that point but the potential exists in us all. A news article I just read said that the kid who did this was a "class goat", and having been one myself I know how bad that can get.

This kid was pushed too far, and now two people are dead, many others may never recover, and he's behind bars and probably will never go free. But if others hear about this, they might think twice before picking on their own victims, for fear that it might happen again.

No, that doesn't make it right. I'm not justifying here, just explaining.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:44 PM on March 5, 2001


Those of us who went to high school decades ago didn't have to live in fear [...]

But the reason for this isn't that there was an absence of guns back then. Heck, a kid could literally bring a shotgun to school, and nobody would raise an eyebrow. Hunting existed back then too, you know, and if you think the NRA are "gun nuts" today, you should have talked to our grandparents about gun laws back then!

The real difference between decades ago and today, is that people used to have parents who took care of them, raised them and even taught them things, such as respect for the equal individual rights of others. But today, not even the government seems to respect any of those. And the government, of course, is to an ever larger extent raising kids itself...
posted by frednorman at 3:07 PM on March 5, 2001


darren -

Decades ago, it was possible to get a gun through mail-order, only having to sign your order form as being over 18. Before 1964, I think the date was, you could order a gen-u-ine, for real, Thompson submachine gun from Sears, Roebuck, & Co. Guns have been readily available to the public since our country's beginnings. The part of your post that really addresses the issue is where you mention "the culture that promotes their use." However ineffective and unconstitutional it is, gun control is a much easier (and therefore more popular) solution than advocating parental and media responsibility.

I must have been a crazed, upset, loonie as well, cause I was hazed by jocks. Lucky for me, my parents helped me see that I was a valuable person, giving me self-respect and self-esteem, so I didn't have to kill myself or my tormentors. I didn't have access to firearms as a child, but even if I did, I would never have even been tempted to go on a killing spree. My parents managed to teach me something about right and wrong, too.

I agree with Skot, that we are a little lax about guns today, but I don't think that we need any new laws. The laws on California's books for the most part are good, but their enforcement leaves a lot to be desired. The only thing I'd add is more education before being allowed to purchase a firearm.

It looks like once again, I took to long for my thoghts to congeal, and somebody beat me to what I was going to say. Thanks frednorman.
posted by OneBallJay at 3:09 PM on March 5, 2001


Mass schooling kills.

I will homeschool my daughter.
I will homeschool my daughter.
I will homeschool my daughter.
I will homeschool my daughter.

This also calls to my mind echoes of Cialdini's book: Influence: the Power of Persuasion.

In this book he cites evidence that after big public suicides, there is a statistically significant spike in suicides, and also, creepily enough, in the likelihood of plane crashes.

The more that kids see repeated media coverage of the form: "Berzerk mistreated teen shoots dozens at high school", the more likely they are to see that as the natural result of being a mistreated teen. That is, they are more likely to put themselves in that role.

This is a very slight increase in probability indeed, and certainly doesn't affect most kids, but for the one-in-a-million kid who is seething and angry and feeling like there is no way out of their situation, at least a couple times a year, this is enough to make them go off. Or rather, it suggests a particular direction for them to go off in.

It's a very twisted manner of transmission of culture. What they see reflected around them is that this is how kids react when people treat them like shit: they get a gun, and they go to school and start shooting.

As much as the idea that disseminating the truth is somehow dangerous is something that I find distasteful, I think there's something to this... but I'm not sure how to combat it effectively.

Except perhaps with homeschooling, which tends to prevent the caustic social environment which is so hurtful for so many, not just the ones who take up arms as a result.

p.s. I think Pinker's missing the point.
posted by beth at 3:15 PM on March 5, 2001


But if others hear about this, they might think twice before picking on their own victims, for fear that it might happen again.

Hah. Fat chance. Obviously this kid's tormentors were barely deterred by Columbine. Not that the "postal" reflex didn't have survival advantages when we lived in tribes, but it's worse than useless now.
posted by kindall at 3:18 PM on March 5, 2001


beth beat me to it: guns don't kill people, schools kill people. Ban the schools. Ban children. Ban bad thoughts. Elect Charlatan Heston as Pope. Joy springeth in abundance.
posted by holgate at 3:31 PM on March 5, 2001


As much as we talk about gun control, probably the more important question is kid-knowledge. I was surprised to read somewhere (here?) that more than a few kids heard this one joking about shooting people up over the weekend...
It's a hard call to know when to take somebody seriously (I should know, I'm a perennial smart ass), but I think we need to start having a culture where we set the bar higher for school kids who say they're going to shoot other school kids.
Maybe it's not quite the same, but I sure as hell don't make any Bomb jokes in the airport. Time to stat doing the same things in school.
I also read that one kid who had heard the shooter say he was going to do it didn't report him because he (kid, not shooter) "didn't want to get in trouble". Ouch. Gotta fix that.
posted by daver at 3:33 PM on March 5, 2001


"Oh well. The networks have decided "chest discomfort" of the Vice President is more interesting than the school shooting, death of multiple kids, and 1900 distraught kids and their parents."

Good. The less media attention these kids get, IMHO, the less it'll happen. Remember how much media attention Columbine got? Remember how often we had school shootings before then? Remember after?
posted by CrayDrygu at 3:53 PM on March 5, 2001


I've always heard that school is a place to learn social interaction and all of the required knowledge and etiquette that become useful as you prepare to face the world alone (at least that was the original intention back in the day). The blame itself doesn't rest anywhere else than the failure to nurture that particular development with our children. Instead what usually happens is that someone ends up using children as test subjects in mock-reality solutions which we really couldn't adopt for ourselves as adults. (violence in schools? kid brings plastic G.I. Joe gun to class...kid gets expelled...problem solved) or even on top of that, they end up using school as a vehicle of altruistic answer-giving in which the pressures to memorize associations outweigh the reasoning out of a meaningful question, why? You get kids who become easily bored of this and frustrated that begin to target the child who seems most likely to not fight back... we as adults, act surprised that he gets pushed to his limits and retaliates. Yet somehow, this is tolerated in schools, not in the workplace...you get fired for harassment in the workplace and the harassment poster is usually mandated by state law to be put up where everyone can see. As daver puts it, you would know well enough not to even mention the word bomb in an airport. When I was in middle school, the extent of support I got from the Gym teacher was, "you kids want to fight?? just take it off school property." The very next day weapons were brought in which I had part....not because I was ultimately pissed, but rather because I feared for my life and felt I had no one to go other than those that were obviously on my side. Nothing happened, of course, as the administration was tipped off by then, but it could have been terrible. Now that I'm much older, I understand that I could have handled that very differently by going to another adult who would have taken more responsibility in straightening out the mess...but you're really not told that as a kid and no one wants to acknowledge that it exists...it's the same mentality when putting up "we are a drug free school zone" signs when it's obvious to the students that it's a lie to them and their parents. They feel betrayed. And thus depend on themselves.At least consider that you can't blame anything that can't really own up to it. In this case, I've always felt that the educational system is way out of tune, and the parents and school administrators are usually and honestly un-aware of how bad it can get on a day-to-day basis. We really need to educate kids early on about the consequences of this type of harassment...which I admit is a daunting task. Anyone believe differently?
posted by samsara at 4:01 PM on March 5, 2001


It's amazing how many people knew about this beforehand and didn't do anything. According to this story, he told approximately 20 people what he was going to do, but no one took him seriously.

Regarding jerrym's hysterical statement "Disarm our children first! If that means 50 million adults will have to do without a handgun, SO BE IT." Well, what about those incidents where people use guns in self defense? Try telling any of them "so be it". Let's not remove people's ability to defend themselves.

dhartung, where did you read that there was an "armed police officer" on the school grounds? All I see mentioned in any of the news stories is a security guard (not a policeman). And since all California schools are "gun free zones" (read: defenseless zones), I doubt that he was armed. CNN reported that he and another student went into the bathroom, saw the gunman, and turned and ran. The gunman shot him in the back as he was running away.

Besides, whether you like it or not, the so-called gun nuts have a point. At a school shooting in Mississippi in 1997, Vice Principal Joel Myrick went to his car, got a gun, and held the shooter at bay until the police arrived. After his arrest, it was discovered the gunman had more ammunition still on him. I suppose you would rather he had a chance to use that ammunition? And let's not forget that recent school shooting in Scotland -- the incident ended when the shooter was confronted by a local merchant with a shotgun. Would you rather he had been able to just go on shooting?
posted by Potsy at 4:18 PM on March 5, 2001


It's the job of Politicians and the like to blame something. Or at least that's what they think. Violence in schools is actually decreasing and then one kid goes nuts and we are back to square one.

So we are asking for a zero tolerance on language. Just like you can be arresting at most airports for joking about a bomb.

So it happens agains, but the kid doesn't tell anyone. What now?

The parameters for an individual to snap are incalculable. No one is going to be able to make everyone completely safe. Not everyone can homeschool.

Frank Miller has this great picture of someone putting bandaids over a child's ears, eyes, and holding one just over her mouth with a dialog ballon "Just one more and you'll be safe."
posted by john at 4:22 PM on March 5, 2001


We need to start looking at our current, terribly failed school-system, and replace the modern guess-work mock-o-mathics of exploring, conjecturing, guessing and checking with the good ol' strict rules of multiplication and division to figure out the answers precisely, to name one thing.

You see, kids' cognitive capacities have been stunted for a long time now, and unable to deal with words or with numbers -- and thus having no means of knowing, but only of guessing -- they lose confidence in their minds, and in their ability to deal rationally with reality. Then they go crazy, of course, like we've seen today.

Now, I'll probably get flamed for linking to these op-eds, but I'll give it a go nevertheless. Give them a chance, folks. They've got a lot of it right.
posted by frednorman at 4:26 PM on March 5, 2001


Fred, that was ridiculous. Do you have any evidence to support your idea that “kids’ cognitive capacities have been stunted for a long time” or that they cannot “deal rationally with reality”? Any at all?

Give our nation’s youth a bit more credit.


Everybody, school violence is decreasing as youth violence is, generally. Just because the media decided to cover this particular issue lots of people get stirred up into a ferver over a supposed trend in school shootings. Less than one percent of kids are killed in school, but most do die from gunfire. The only trend is the coverage of the shootings, possibly egged on by the fact that more white kids are involved in the last few years.

Some twenty or thirty posts ago, somebody said that there are too many laws regarding gun ownership. I agree, there are too many dumb laws about guns. I’d prefer to see a nation-wide one gun a month law, which, after Virginia and Maryland passed it, is generally credited with decreasing youth violence in D.C. by 60%. After Massachusetts passed the same “one gun a month” no child was killed by gunfire for two and a half years there.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 4:41 PM on March 5, 2001


I think this kid's just gonna be pissed that he didn't match the high score of Dylan and Eric's Excellent Adventure.

Trot out the press frenzy, trot out the pictures of kids crying, trot out the prepared statements from officials on high, trot out the pundits screeching on who to blame, trot out the theater of public opinion where the usual suspects are blamed rather than understanding that life just isn't safe, never was and never will be. Lather, rinse, repeat.
posted by solistrato at 4:42 PM on March 5, 2001


guns don't kill people, schools kill people

Or the usual Guns Don't Kill People, It's the Bullets that do.
posted by bkdelong at 5:00 PM on March 5, 2001


“If that means 50 million adults will have to do without a handgun, SO BE IT.”

Um, no. A gun is an instrument used to carry out death. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. If you outlaw guns, outlaw every single substance that can be made into a weapon. Do you have any idea how easy it is to make napalm or a bomb? Hell, a kid that used to live on my floor had a small jar of napalm (not for any nefarious purposes, though he was a strange boy).
posted by gleemax at 6:33 PM on March 5, 2001


Well, the problem isn't lack of gun laws, but the failure of scientists and lawmakers to develop an all-encompassing Grand Unifying Gun Law. Once instituted, this GUGL will prevent all future gun crimes. But scientists are unsure of how soon they will be able to finalize such a law.

These scientists and lawmakers must not be very smart if they haven't realized that the easy way to solve this problem is to outlaw guns, plain and simple. Without any legal access to guns, you'll find a lot less kids able to get their hands on them.
posted by rklawler at 7:51 PM on March 5, 2001


Without any legal access to guns, you'll find a lot less kids able to get their hands on them.

Oh, I quite agree. It's worked so well for drugs, hasn't it?
posted by kindall at 7:53 PM on March 5, 2001


To add sarcasm to sarcasm kindall, today's kids are found getting high off of guns....consuming bullets to escape the mundane pressures of an unrealized mortality. I think guns and drugs are two totally different motivators with kids in this case. Most of the drugs are from peers (most)...we've been noticing tho that guns are usually owned by mom'n'pop. I don't know if this is a valid assumption, but I would say that at least 80% of deaths by guns intended to protect "yer turf" are either accidental or are not used for their purpose. On the other hand (playing devil's advocate), guns are so darn nifty.
posted by samsara at 8:16 PM on March 5, 2001


Crappy parents + Crappy teachers + Crappy concept that people should own guns = more and more dead kids
posted by owillis at 10:28 PM on March 5, 2001


Let me guess. gleemax did you report the kid who had the napalm?
posted by Sqwerty at 11:10 PM on March 5, 2001


It's worked so well for drugs, hasn't it? I'm no fan of "the war on drugs", but I'd be interested to see statistics comparing the number of illegal drug vs. firearm fatalities annually in the US. Intuition tells me the legal method of death is going to be much more prevalent.
posted by jess at 11:22 PM on March 5, 2001


The only way to stop this is to teach and enforce respect for every human life in the classroom. No school should tolerate the absolutely ridiculous level of abuse many "outsider" kids bear without complaint. All through my school years I was routinely spat upon, tripped, struck, and verbally abused by my so-called peers. No matter what I did, it was always wrong, always subject to derision, scorn, and ridicule. I literally spent eight years in fear and dread. It rarely let up, except of course when the other kids wanted something from me.

("You were such an outgoing kid, right up until about five or six," my parents told me. "We always wondered what happened." Somehow they never put two and two together. Go figure.)

It's not really any huge mystery to me that some kids snap under the pressure. Even if you could magically ensure no kid ever gets a gun, you're addressing only the symptom, not the cause. Make it impossible for angry misfits to get guns, and the pain and frustration will merely continue to fester until something even worse than a random school shooting happens, if you can imagine that. Horrible as it sounds, spending years incarcerated for a heinous crime is more appealing to some of these kids than spending even one more day in school. They feel trapped and are, like a cornered animal, willing to undertake extreme measures to get out. To these kids, shooting up their school isn't entirely about revenge. It's also, perhaps primarily, about escape. Only by understanding this can we end the violence.

As a student, I often engaged in private grisly revenge fantasies. Who knows; maybe if I'd been pushed a little harder, or been just a little less willing to bear my particular cross, I could have snapped too. The fact that I bore the daily abuse still feels naggingly like weakness to me, to be honest.

The only true solution is to expect kids to act like human beings to one another, and to remove the ones who can't from the classroom. Let those fight it out on a deserted island for all I care. Only when the personal safety of all students is established can learning and socialization proceed.
posted by kindall at 11:44 PM on March 5, 2001


I'd be interested to see statistics comparing the number of illegal drug vs. firearm fatalities annually in the US. Intuition tells me the legal method of death is going to be much more prevalent.

My comment was not about comparitive fatality rates between drugs and firearms, but about the futility of trying to ban something that the public wants. The correct comparison is how much the "war on drugs" has reduced drug consumption. The answer is "not much." And I'd think you could expect a similar (lack of) reduction in firearm ownership if you ban guns.

In any case, to fish after your red herring, it's my understanding that drug-related deaths may be greatly exaggerated -- any death that even peripherally involves illegal drugs is counted. So while the two probably are not directly comparable, I think you'd find drug-related deaths by that yardstick are higher than gun-related deaths.
posted by kindall at 11:54 PM on March 5, 2001


Oh well. The networks have decided "chest discomfort" of the Vice President is more interesting than the school shooting, death of multiple kids, and 1900 distraught kids and their parents.

Yes, they did. After FOUR UNINTERRUPTED HOURS of coverage, and a good 90 minutes past the point of hope that any new information would be forthcoming. When there's nothing left to say, there's nothing left to say.

Let's not forget the fact that in San Diego itself, where the school, dead kids and distraught kids and parents are actually located, the local stations continued their coverage long into the night.

And yes, the potentially serious health crisis of one of the top two officials in the United States Government will beat out most other stories. Even ones involving The Children.

As for all the kneejerking above that's substituting for a rational "debate" about guns, it would take several hours just to point out all the factual inaccuracies that have been strewn about. So I'll just leave one overriding tidbit for tonight: There is not going to be any meaningful increase in gun control in the United States. It's gone about as far as it's gonna go, so you might as well get used to it and start trying to find some rational solutions to the problem of gun misuse. Why are there not going to be any further clampdowns? Because of the American citizens that voted in November, 48% of them personally owned at least one gun. FORTY-EIGHT PERCENT. Any politician that wants to keep his/her job is not going to go anywhere near this hot potato. (Except in socialist nuthuts like Maryland and Massachusetts, where the gun control laws are already so Draconian that there's practically nowhere further their politicians can take them. And yet those states still have shitloads of gun crimes.)

It's ironic, but Columbine is probably what led to the end of serious attempts at further gun control. When Democrat-front organizations like the "Million Mom March" went agitation-crazy and started using Columbine to push their agenda, it forced millions of previously unconcerned gun owners to start becoming politically savvy. NRA membership skyrocketed, Congress and the Bush and Gore campaigns were deluged with warnings from constituents that they would automatically lose up to half their potential votes over this one issue if they tried anything, and they all shut up REAL quick-like, as we say back in West Virginnie.

posted by aaron at 12:02 AM on March 6, 2001



“Let me guess. gleemax did you report the kid who had the napalm?”

No, of course not. He had maybe 6 ounces of the stuff, and I hardly knew him. He moved to the floor above us at the beginning of the semester. I didn’t see it as a danger to myself or anyone else, and while I wouldn’t lie if someone asked me about it, I saw absolutely no need to report him.
posted by gleemax at 1:44 AM on March 6, 2001


There is not going to be any meaningful increase in gun control in the United States. It's gone about as far as it's gonna go...

Agreed. Though my "rational" solution to the problem of gun misuse would be to leave the country. Herself and I are already agreed on the Madonna option: when it's time to educate the kids, move to the UK.

There was a period in the mid-1960s where the British government had the guts to push through a shitload of civil rights legislation that even now often represents a minority view: the abolition of the death penalty, the legalisation of abortion and homosexual sex. I can't see a government on either side of the Atlantic having the guts to carry out "unpopular" legislation now. Of course, there's the standard argument that governments are there to satisfy the will of the majority; but as Alexander Pope said, "The public Voice is Odd: It is, and it is not, the Voice of GOD."
posted by holgate at 3:13 AM on March 6, 2001


Kindall: The only true solution is to expect kids to act like human beings to one another, and to remove the ones who can't from the classroom. Let those fight it out on a deserted island for all I care.

Right on. Screw Lord of the Flies -- Japanese cinema is where the latest and best disciplinary models are being enacted. (Plot in English.)
posted by redfoxtail at 5:28 AM on March 6, 2001


I don't fault you for not reporting him for the napalm possession, but it does highlight the reality that there is no way to know if a person who jokes fantasizes about violence as a solution is likely to act upon it.

I don't know that teaching kindness or encouraging tattling is really likely to help with the problems for isolated individuals coping with a low ranking on a social pecking order.

I used to think that it would be possible to teach tolerance and proper behavior, but my opinion has changed. I am beginning to think that a better solution to restructure the schools to keep the kids together as intact communities instead of putting the kids through the upheaval of beginning again in a new group for middle school and again for high school. If you think about it, the kids only begin to feel a sense of mastery over their environment and they are shuttled off to a new school and social situation at the points when they need stability the most.

In parochial schools the students only switch once in their school careers and are most likely to see a large percentage of familiar faces when they arrive in high school. If the kids can not count on their parents for support, they should at least feel at home during their waking hours. I don't think that kids really need counselors and values based curriculum as much as a stable environment somewhere in their lives.

posted by Sqwerty at 6:48 AM on March 6, 2001


If you think about it, the kids only begin to feel a sense of mastery over their environment and they are shuttled off to a new school and social situation at the points when they need stability the most.

Stability isn't necessarily a good thing if you've always been at the low end of the totem pole. My small-town school district combined all the students from three elementary schools into one junior high and high school. While classes of students moved from one to the next at different times, you were stuck with a sizeable group of same-grade srudents throughout the entire process. The same bullies who started their harrassment in first grade were largely still there for my final year; their techniques may have changed during that period, but never their attitudes.
posted by harmful at 7:04 AM on March 6, 2001


There is no way to guarantee that there will not be a bottom of the social pecking order, but stability does give many the sense of mastery that is lacking at many overcrowded schools.

If you look at these shooting situations they occur at urban, suburban, and even rural schools. But as far as I can tell they don't occur at schools where the kids can not get lost in a crowd. No one is owed a comfortable school experience, but there are schools that do not force the kids to contend on their own with brutality. Better teacher-student ratios is probably one of the keys to school safety.

Bullies exist both in school and even adult workplaces, what is important is learning how to deal effectively with their cruelty instead of hoping for an idealized community that disallows bad behavior. People who lash out violently probably learned early that brutality does work as a short term solution.

This will sound strange, but I believe caregivers and bullies often share the same experience of feeling victimized as a child. The difference is that caregivers met someone in their life who showed them that they do not have to perpetuate the violence and discomfort that was heaped upon them as children. They learned alternatives that helped them master their social environment; while bullies believe nothing works better than hurting those who distress or annoy them. All kids need the social skills to survive stress and crisis. Those skills can not be found in an indifferent environment.
posted by Sqwerty at 7:39 AM on March 6, 2001


There is not going to be any meaningful increase in gun control in the United States. It's gone about as far as it's gonna go...

The only true solution is to expect kids to act like human beings to one another, and to remove the ones who can't from the classroom. Let those fight it out on a deserted island for all I care.

You see, kids' cognitive capacities have been stunted for a long time now, and unable to deal with words or with numbers . . .

Mass schooling kills.

Ahhhhh . . . now I see the light. MeFi has spoken; nothing can be done, the little bastards are hopeless, schools are terrifying gulags. Quick, everyone: give up.
posted by Skot at 8:30 AM on March 6, 2001


One thing he talks about is why it is that people, when goaded to a certain point, blow up, lose control and become terribly violent. I'll use my words to describe his concept: this is equivalent to using a nuke. The point of it is deterrence. Adults know that anyone can lose it this way, and as such they are more careful about pushing those around them, because there's always the danger of pushing too far leading to someone going postal.


Long before "going postal" entered the parlance, the Malays had a word for it. It's called running amok, some guy loses it and starts taking a knife or a machete to the other villagers. Fortunately, its not too hard to take down a guy with a blade and the number of injuries/fatalities never got high.

The easy access to guns simply makes that old and familiar situation much, much worse.
posted by lagado at 3:12 PM on March 6, 2001


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