School Shootings and Gun Culture in the United States: Promoting Awareness and Theories for Change

School Shootings and Gun Culture in the United States: Promoting Awareness and Theories for Change
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  Running header: SCHOOL SHOOTINGS AND GUN CULTURE IN THE U.S. 1 School Shootings and Gun Culture in the United States: Promoting Awareness and Theories for Change Andrea Montgomery Di Marco Steven Mitchell  November, 2016 Author’s Note  Andrea Montgomery Di Marco and Steven Mitchell, PhD Students, California Institute of Integral Studies. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Andrea Montgomery Di Marco/ Steven Mitchell California Institute of Integral Studies 1453 Mission Street San Francisco, CA 94103 Contact: (Andrea Montgomery Di Marco) (Steven Mitchell)  SCHOOL SHOOTINGS AND GUN CULTURE IN THE U.S. 2 Abstract The school shooting on October 1, 2015, at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, ended with ten people dead, including the shooter. As the President of the United States has said repeatedly, these types of tragedies do not happen in other industrialized countries. Because of the lack of political and social leadership on these matters, the onus falls on researchers, activists, and concerned citizens to speak up for change.   The authors of this paper hope to bring attention to the issues of school shooting and gun control. Utilizing existing philosophical and sociological resources, the authors of this paper will show how school shootings have become an epidemic in the United States of America. This paper will also show relevant data and initiatives which could  provide for a reduction in numbers of these types of tragedies. Keywords: School shootings, epidemic, gun control legislation   SCHOOL SHOOTINGS AND GUN CULTURE IN THE U.S. 3 School Shootings and Gun Culture in the United States: Promoting Awareness and Theories for Change On October 1, 2015, a shooter killed himself and nine others at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The people who died that day were Lucero Alcaraz of Roseburg (19), Rebecka Ann Carnes of Myrtle Creek (18), Treven Ansbach of Sutherlin (20), Quinn Cooper of Roseburg (18), Kim Dietz of Roseburg (59), Lucas Eibel of Roseburg (18), Jason Dale Johnson of Winston (34), Serena Dawn Moore of Myrtle Creek (44), Professor Lawrence Levine of Glide (67), and the shooter, Christopher Harper-Mercer; ten children and adults with families, dreams, and unspent futures. When a situation like this happens, many affected by these types of tragedies are left asking themse lves, “why?” . Five days following the tragedy, the shooter’s mother, Laurel Harper, told the New York Times, “I keep two full mags (magazines) in my Glock case. And the ARs (AR  -15  –   civilian version of the military M-16 Assault Rifle) and AKs (AK-47, another assault rifle) all have loaded mags… No one will be ‘dropping’ by my house uninvited without acknowledgement” (“Oregon killer’s mother,” 2015). If Christopher Harper  -Mercer was predisposed to committing these acts because of a mental health issue, if Harper-Mercer was motivated by political or religious ideologies, or if these weapons were just too accessible to Harper-Mercer, then what can society do, so that similar tragedies do not occur again in the future. The carnage caused by Christopher Harper-Mercer on October 1, 2015 was not a unique experience, nor was it the first school shooting of its kind. The earliest school shooting in the U.S. happened prior to independence; Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1764 resulted in a schoolmaster and ten children being killed (Cort, 1902). While this was the only known U.S. school shooting in the eighteenth century, the nineteenth century  SCHOOL SHOOTINGS AND GUN CULTURE IN THE U.S. 4 endured twelve of these tragedies. During the years 1900-1960, there were more than 45 school shootings in the United States alone. Between the years of 1960 and 2000, there were over 140 school shootings. From the year 2000 to the time of writing (2016), there have been nearly 200 school shootings in the U.S. (Roberts, 2015). Similar to the above noted case regarding Harper-Mercer, these other shootings may have been the result of easy access to weapons, mental health  problems, political/ religious ideologies, or otherwise. It is the aim of this paper to gain understanding of the dynamics that create a society with high numbers of school shootings, understand the narrative at work, and conceptualize a way that the United States could mitigate or eliminate school shootings. Rationality, Regulation, and Prevalence of Weaponry  Proponents of gun rights continue to cite the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Their American freedom to protect themselves against radical government and police interference is vehemently maintained, and the  political and financial war that quietly brews throughout the nation appears to be unstoppable. From the NRAs perspective, research appears meaningless in the face of challenges to gun owners’  personal freedoms, and yet research continues to report correlations between gun ownership and bullying, and gun ownership and homicide (Cunningham et al, 2000). Youth who own guns for  sport-hunting   score slightly higher on antisocial behaviours than youth who do not own any guns, and the considerable majority (83%) of non-sport-hunting   gun owners engage in “high rates of criminal and antisocial behaviors, and moderate to high rates of bullying” (Cunningham et al, 2000, p. 440). Owning guns for the purposes of intimidation (hereafter referred to as high-risk) shows strong correlation with antisocial behaviour (Cunningham et al,  SCHOOL SHOOTINGS AND GUN CULTURE IN THE U.S. 5 2000). Undeniably, access and availability to weapons is a major risk in youth suicide and violence. C ontrols on gun ownership, similar to those found in Great Britain and Canada, “likely would have dramatic effec ts on these problems” ( Ajdacic-Gross, V.U., 2006; Boyd, 2003; Cookie, C. E., 2000; Cunningham et al, 2000, p. 440; Lester & Leenaars, 1994). Consistent with research from the previous decade, high-risk ownership by family and peers is “ a powerful  predictor of high- risk ownership by these middle school students” (Cunningham et al, 2000, p. 440). So what are the results of the public safety research on guns? The National Rifle Association of America (NRA), staunch supporters of the Second Amendment “right of the  people to keep and bear arms” (,   has been shockingly successful in suppressing or denying any such research (Scientific American, 2013). Since 1992, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have funded investigation and reported findings “that having a gun in the home tripled the chance that a family member woul d get shot” (Sci entific American, 2013, p. 10). The rebuttal on the NRA home website has consistently upheld the opinion that “the belief that support for the Second Amendment equates with a callous disregard for human life appears to be very meaningful for the ignorant minority that holds it. Hopefully most Americans are better informed than that” (NRA, 2015).  The CDC has been gathering and analyzing data on School-Associated Violent Death (SAVD) since 1992 (CDC, 2008). According to the published findings of 2008, the CDC reports that “firearms used in school -associated homicides and suicides came primarily from the  perpetrator's home or from fri ends or relatives” (CDC, 2008).  The CDC 2010 report indicates a decrease in the rates of school-associated student homicides between the overall period of 1992 to 2006, but “stabilized during July 1999 --June 2006, when 116 students were killed in 109
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