Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The mystique of the Columbine High School massacre

[Image: 640px-Columbinememorial.JPG]

The mystique of the Columbine High School massacre

By Jeff Danforth-Manning
The Daily Magi
December 4, 2047


The Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting which occurred on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Columbine, an unincorporated area of Jefferson County in the State of Colorado. In addition to shootings, the complex and highly planned attack involved a fire bomb to divert firefighters, propane tanks converted to bombs placed in the cafeteria, 99 explosive devices, and bombs rigged in cars. Two senior students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered a total of 12 students and one teacher. They injured 24 additional students, with three other people being injured while attempting to escape the school. The pair then committed suicide.

Although their motives remain unclear, the personal journals of the perpetrators document that they wished their actions to rival the Oklahoma City bombing. The attack has been referred to by USA Today as a "suicidal attack [which was] planned as a grand – if badly implemented – terrorist bombing." The Columbine High School massacre is the deadliest mass murder committed on an American high school campus, and is noted as one of the first and most serious of a series of high profile spree shootings which have since occurred.

The massacre sparked debate over gun control laws, the availability of firearms within the United States and gun violence involving youths. Much discussion also centered on the nature of high school cliques, subcultures and bullying, in addition to the influence of violent movies and video games in American society. The shooting resulted in an increased emphasis on school security, and a moral panic aimed at goth culture, social outcasts, gun culture, the use of pharmaceutical anti-depressants by teenagers, teenage Internet use and violent video games.

A United States Secret Service study concluded that schools were placing false hope in physical security, when they should be paying more attention to the pre-attack behaviors of students. Zero-tolerance policies and metal detectors "are unlikely to be helpful," the Secret Service researchers found. The researchers focused on questions concerning the reliance on SWAT teams when most attacks are over before police arrive, profiling of students who show warning signs in the absence of a definitive profile, expulsion of students for minor infractions when expulsion is the spark that push some to return to school with a gun, buying software not based on school shooting studies to evaluate threats although killers rarely make direct threats, and reliance on metal detectors and police officers in schools when the shooters often make no effort to conceal their weapons.

In May 2002 the Secret Service published a report that examined 37 US school shootings. They had the following findings:
  • Incidents of targeted violence at school were rarely sudden, impulsive acts.
  • Prior to most incidents, other people knew about the attacker's idea and/or plan to attack.
  • Most attackers did not threaten their targets directly prior to advancing the attack.
  • There is no accurate or useful profile of students who engaged in targeted school violence.
  • Most attackers engaged in some behavior prior to the incident that caused others concern or indicated a need for help.
  • Most attackers had difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failures. Moreover, many had considered or attempted suicide.
  • Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted, or injured by others prior to the attack.
  • Most attackers had access to and had used weapons prior to the attack.
  • In many cases, other students were involved in some capacity.
  • Despite prompt law enforcement responses, most shooting incidents were stopped by means other than law enforcement intervention.

Since the shooting, "Columbine" or "the Columbine incident" has become a euphemism for a school shooting. Charles Andrew Williams, the Santana High School shooter, reportedly told his friends that he was going to "pull a Columbine," though none of them took him seriously. Many foiled school shooting plots mentioned Columbine and the desire to "outdo Harris and Klebold." Convicted students Brian Draper and Torey Adamcik of Pocatello High School in Idaho, who murdered their classmate Cassie Jo Stoddart, mentioned Harris and Klebold in their homemade videos, and were reportedly planning a "Columbine-like" shooting.

In a self-made video recording posted by Seung-Hui Cho to the news media immediately prior to his committing the Virginia Tech massacre, Seung-Hui refers the Columbine Massacre in an apparent reference to his motivation for his own acts. In the recording, he refers to Klebold and Harris as being "martyrs."

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