NOTE: This is a repost of an article I wrote. I originally wrote in back around 1998 or so. I'm transferring it here to keep it together with my recent writings.
The event at the Columbine High School has placed child violence back into the media. Since we are all pretty much aware of the details of the shooting, I will not bore you. This article is about how to stop this kind of thing from happening again (or at least too often.) Let's face it. Tragedy happens occasionally. However when similar tragedies happen in a short period of time it is in danger of becoming an epidemic.
Before we get scared and panicky, let's look at the facts. 14 high profile school shootings have happened in the last 24 months. 15 in the last three years. This is not exactly an epidemic but it is cause for alarm.
OK so how do we keep kids from becoming violent? In order to do this, there are a number of fallacies about this issue that we must squash as well as some facts that must be realized by US citizens as a whole for this problem to be taken care of. Let's go over the Fallacies first.
Fallacy 1: More gun control will solve this problem
I can understand how emotional people can jump to this conclusion but let's look at the facts. The two shooters at the Colombia school were using sawed off shotguns, a semiautomatic rifle, and pipe bombs and grenades! These things are already illegal on both the state and federal level. (Note: It was brought to my attention that the semi-autos are not illegal, but it changes nothing since their other weapons were truly illegal.) Making something more illegal isn't going to help.
In fact research of other countries (such as Israel, where almost everyone is armed at all times) and test towns in the USA have concluded that easy access to guns are NOT a defining factor for uncontrolled violence.
Fact: Gun Control does not solve this problem.
Fallacy 2: Violent TV/movies are to blame
This one I can not understand for the life of me. One of the most popular movies ever was the original Star Wars movie. This movie started off with a battle showing people getting shot and dying and continued through destroying entire planets. OK so they were using laser guns. Big deal. The point is that violence has been a part of almost every action movie ever made and it doesn't affect the masses like the scared blabbering fools try to make us believe. I (and many other people) grew up watching plenty of movies showing fighting, gun fights, even decapitation with blades. Does this mean that when we become angry that we are going to want to imitate that cool shooting scene we saw last weekend? I don't think so. If someone does decide to go around shooting people the only thing they could possibly get from a violent movie is inspiration for how. The why is already there. It is not how they express their violence we should worry about but why. In all reality would it made a huge difference if these kids would've gone to the local Wal-Mart or shopping mall on a busy Saturday and committed the violence? I think not.
Fact: Violent media is not a defining factor.
Fallacy 3: Violent video games are to blame
Yeah. This is a good one. How many of us have spent hours in front of our computers or at the arcade playing the latest "Martian blaster-kill 'em-street fight-guerrilla gun slinging-whatever" game? Are we violent? Nope. This is simply entertainment. Waitaminute?!?! Guns are entertaining? Yep, sure are. How many of us older folks remember playing cowboys and Indians and "shooting" our friends dead every weekend? (sounds pretty violent to me) How many played with GI Joe or Star Wars dolls and pretended that they were beating each other up? (omigosh! Lock up the action figures!) Did that make us grow up violent? I don't see any evidence of that happening.
I have read in many reputable news articles that claimed that these kids had "honed their shooting skills playing games such as Doom and others." This is utter nonsense. This is like saying that playing one of those "speedway" games will help you pass your drivers test, or playing one of those one-on-one fighting games and thinking that you are now a black belt in martial arts. Come on folks. if you even thought that you can get better at shooting guns by playing a video game, I suggest a trip to the reality zone.
(For more information about video games and violence, please check out this page at Skirmisher.com www.skirmisher.com/kill.htm.)
Fact: Violent video games are not to blame.
Fallacy 4: More laws and legislation will help
Let me ask you a question. If you are deciding to break the law, will the fact that you will now have to break two or three laws make a difference. I don't think so. These people have already determined that there is no reason to follow the law so why would we think that placing even more laws on the books will change their mind? This does not make sense. What we need to concentrate on is why they don't feel the laws matter and how to change that.
Fact: More laws will not help.
Fallacy 5: There affiliation with gothic was a defining reason for the violence
Over the years, I have watched Rock-n-Roll, Heavy Metal, Punk, Rap, and every other musical style get the blame for inciting violence in some angry youngster.
I have seen the same thing to sects and movements such as grunge and lesser known religions such as Wicca and others. It seems it was just Gothic's turn. These kinds of things just do nothing except help stereo type these things. (NOTE: these kids wearing black coats had nothing to do with the gothic movement just as baggy pants and a skateboard do not make a teenager into a criminal.)
Criminal behavior is not defined by the music they listen to, the religion they cherish the clothes they wear or anything else like this.
These things are nothing but Scapegoats.
Scapegoats are used in the moment of time between the event taking place and the truth coming out. During that time they need to find something resembling an answer to appease the mass of people who aren't patient enough to wait for the truth to come out. It's easier that way. (I didn't say better, I said easier.) The problem is that mass hysteria and damage can happen such as in the famous Salem Witch Hunt. Before you go yelling that we're smarter than that now, just look at the more recent examples of witch hunts such as blaming certain music or clothing style or lack of gun control for violence.
To make you feel better, even while this incident leaves the front pages of the news, people will be doing the research to find out exactly what happened and it will come out in special reports here and there. Just be patient and keep your eyes open.
(For more examples of the bad use of the "gothic" theme, please go to this article at Gothic.net www.gothic.net/~mayfair/trenchcoat.)
Fact: The clothing and/or musical taste does not make a killer.
Fallacy 6: Pushing more religion will stop the violence
This is not to start a religion war. Simply my outlook. While I am very familiar with the positive benefits of religious faith, I do not believe that this is the only way to get things straightened out. I grew up Jewish and became non-religious in my older years. I do not pray, go to church, believe in God(s) or Goddess(es) yet all my friends and family have described me as one of the most moral and nicest people they know. Does this mean I will still go to hell? On the other hand many thieves & crooks that I've met in my life are church going, Bible thumping, everyday folks. (obviously they can not follow their own advice.) Now this doesn't mean that all faithful people are bad, nor does it mean all faithful people are good. I have found no real correlation between religious faith and law abiding behavior. Again I believe that we might be barking up the wrong tree here.
Fact: Pushing religion alone will not stop the violence.
OK, so since I've spent all this time explaining why these aren't the answer to our problem what is? Here are my recommendations to curb child violence:
Recommendation 1: Stiffer conditions in the jails and the home
One of the main ways to curb violence is to make sure the consequences of their actions are not something they wish to deal with. I think much of today's punishments and jail facilities are much too soft. Many reports have been done on the almost "plush" conditions of many jail cells and I am appalled at this.
Interviews with repeat offenders have shown that one major factor for them continuing their crimes is that "they felt they could get away with it" either in not getting caught or getting off with a light sentence that would be a snap to endure, thanks in part to the nice facilities we've created.
If a person thinks there will be no punishment for their actions then what incentive is there to not do it? Look at it this way, if you KNEW that you could take $500 from your job and the boss didn't mind, your job was not in danger, no one cared and nothing bad would happen to you because of it what would you do? Come on be honest.
This situation starts with the children. Many parents, for one reason or another, do not punish their children severely enough when they do something really bad. Or worse. They punish them too severely for every little mistake on a daily basis. The punishment must fit the crime. Yelling at them doesn't do the job, especially when you are constantly stressed and tend to yell at them every day for the little things. This confuses the kids and they won't know the difference between a simple mistake and really wrong behavior. There needs to be defining actions taken by the parents when their child does something very wrong. If this begins early on and is not abused to the point where the child is punished for leaving the toilet seat up with the same fury as bringing home all F's, then the child will grow up knowing that the worse their actions the worse the punishment they face.
What if they were faced with spending long time periods under lousy conditions or some other serious punishment? Do you think they would be so willing to face this possibility?
What if they were fairly sure that they would get caught and prosecuted? Do you think the criminal-to-be would be willing to test their luck?
Recommendation 2: Make the parents responsible
This is the one I think will make the biggest dent in the problem.
When you talk about children you must also mention the parents. Above all else the parents are the most responsible for their children's actions. Too many parents have relied the excuses of "oh I'm too busy to watch my kids all the time" or "I can't just tell my children what to do. They just go and do what they want anyway." This is just an excuse. The real problem is that those parents obviously haven't learned how to teach their kids that there are repercussions for doing the wrong thing such as breaking the law. Does this make them bad parents. Yes it does. Many people are not willing to admit that there are bad parents or if they are, then they are poor and in the ghetto. There can't possibly be bad rich parents can there? Parents in nice neighborhoods and small towns couldn't possibly be bad parents could they? (notice the sarcasm) Of course they can. Where you live or how much money you make does not indicate how good you are at dealing with your kids. If you need help go get it. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Be afraid that next time it will be your kid that goes and shoots up a school. How would you feel then, huh?
I would like to propose that if a child under the age of 18 or still living with their parents commits any crimes, then they and their parents should all be held responsible, put on trail, and punished accordingly.
If parents knew that they could be taken to jail and fined heavily for their children's actions do you think that parents will take more of an interest in their children? I do. Do you think this is fair? I do. Parents are responsible for their children's actions and this should not change when they commit a crime.
Recommendation 3: Look for the warning signs and intervene.
As more and more of this situation comes to light, we are quickly finding signs that some people should've noticed and worried about. Contrary to popular belief, people do not suddenly become violent murderers. Often, troubled children show early signs not go ignored by friends and family. They go ignored by those around them. they go IGNORED by their parents and friends. Even worse are the warning signs that bad parenting is happening. (Constant yelling, no punishment when there kids break the rules, Ignoring the kids altogether etc.) Do not ignore these signs in your neighbors, friends and family. If you are seeing a rise in circumstances that might open the door to accepting violent behavior you need to talk to someone now.
Well that's it. I'm looking forward to see what other ideas you people can come up with to keep child violence down.