School Shootings in Atlanta: Causes and Solutions

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5th Feb 2019 Social Policy Reference this

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Gun violence and gun control have become a highlighted issue within the United States. In recent years there has been a vast increase in young adults engaging in gun violence, or being caught up in such conflict, particularly within schools. The issue of school shootings has become a major problem within the city of Atlanta. However, with more lives being at potential risk, there has been controversy debates over what causes such incidences and what can we do as a society to solve the problem. It is evident that in order to decrease school shootings the law and community need to work together by limiting or monitoring the accessibility of firearms, identifying risks of violence and providing the correct resources to students that are a potential risk.

The spread of school shootings within the United States is at an all-time high. Granting they don’t make up a large percentage of youth violence overall, they are traumatic proceedings for society as a whole. Although the first shooting leads back to 1764, the Pontiacs rebellion school massacre, where 11 people were killed at a schoolhouse in Pennsylvania, the rise of statistics within the last 5 years have been drastic and show a growing trend to a problem within the US. Research states ‘‘Since 2013, there have been more than 300 school shootings in America — an average of about one a week’’ (Everytown). However, the appearance of guns alone or threats of violence is even higher. Statistics are only calculated for the recorded gunshots fired on school grounds or fired within a school during school hours. They do not include incidents where guns have been brought into school without being fired or shootings outside of school hours (Patel). With the ongoing rise in school shootings in the United States as a whole, Georgia ranks one of the highest states for such incidences.

Gun violence as a whole has become a major issue in the south, particularly Georgia. Judd states that’s ‘’Georgians are more than twice as likely as New Yorkers to be killed in a shooting. The death rate exceeds even that of Illinois.’’ With the 13th highest death rate, most of those deaths occurred in Atlanta (Judd). Since the sandy nook shooting in 2012, when a gunman shot and killed 20 children and 6 adults with a firearm, Georgia has been the second leading state for school/college shootings, behind Texas, with a total of 23 incidents resulting in either deaths or injuries. At least 5 of those incidences were in Atlanta alone (Karishnakumar). The reason for school shootings follows a controversial debate amongst society. However, it can not go unmentioned that easy gun access is one of the most influential causes.

Some will argue gun control is the sole factor in school shootings, others will argue it’s not the gun, but more so the individual that posses it. America’s love for guns dates back to the second amendment, which give the ‘right to bear arms’.  Originally implemented for the militia, the Supreme Court revitalized it allowing guns in homes for self-defense (Cornell law school). With this in mind, there are approx 300 million guns statewide. With a population of just over 300million, that is roughly an equal amount of guns to persons. However, only one-third of the population own guns, meaning that more than one is held in each of those households (BBC). Household gun ownership is high particularly in the south. Studies show that ‘‘Across the South, 38 percent of households have a gun — compared with 35 percent in the Midwest, 34 percent in the West and 27 percent in the Northeast’’ (Simonton). With this high rate, it makes it very easy for young adults to have access to guns, with or without an adults knowledge. Friedman states that ‘‘The American Medical Association reports that between 36 percent and 50 percent of male eleventh graders said they could easily get a gun if they wanted to’’ (90). Further reasearch also states that ‘‘over two-thirds of students who used guns in violent acts at school got those guns from their own home or that of a relative’ (Erwin). This is likely because the gun was not stored away and unloaded, not because the young adult has freely been given it. However, it shows that there are definite links between household gun ownership and gun violence.

Besides the fact that guns are easily accessible within homes, there are over 50,000 gun stores in America making a purchase of a gun an easy task. Within Georgia, the purchase of a gun is very simple. You do not need a permit to purchase a firearm, and you do not need to register the firearm once purchased. However, there are some laws on age restrictions. To buy a handgun statewide the consumer must be at least 18 years old, however in Georgia for an unlicensed person to sell a long gun there is no age restriction (Laws). This is a serious issue as it means that children of any age are able to obtain and have access to a gun without any consequences. With these statistics in mind its safe to say that the easy access to guns plays a huge role in gun violence within schools, however, they are not the only factor that contributes to such incidences.

With the many school shootings that have taken place over the years, we try to look at all specific causes and whether there are links between the causes. The media plays a huge role in trying to convince society that there is a specific cause of all school shootings. However, there is no specific profile that fits the motivation of a shooter. Often there does seem to be links between school shootings and a specific factor, but this is not in all cases. Friedman states ‘‘ 66% of shooters interviewed after the attack felt they had been bullied or threatened by classmates and said that was their main reason for shooting others’’ (90). However approx. 1 in 5 children report being bullied in a given year, yet show no signs of violence or such crime (De La O). Although bullying may worsen problems for youth, physically and emotionally, there is very little evidence that alone it is the cause of gun violence. Society often singles out an issue like mental health, revenge, the culture of violence, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as various social problems as the cause. However although many of these factors can be associated with a shooter, it is very hard to say that one alone fits that of every shooter. When we look at all these issues we see that many young adults experience at least one of them, yet don’t commit such a crime. On the other hand, a mix of these factors could be a possible cause and its important that society pays close attention to an individual that may encounter several of these issues to prevent anything further happening (Friedman 52).

It is important as a community that everyone works together, including the law, public health, schools, peers, parents, and teachers in order to prevent school shootings from happening. Such proactive procedures include watching for warning signs and identifying and reporting them. This will help a student early who is showing potential risk factors. In most cases, it is apparent that previous to a shooting someone is aware or shown signs that a shooter has plans of an attack. Duplechain and Morris states “In more than 80% of the cases [he studied], at least one person knew the attacker was planning something; two or more people knew in almost 60 percent of the cases” (146). Most shootings are premeditated and at some point, there is a chance that the shooter has either shown attack-related behavior or discussed the event with someone, whether something is said as a joke or said on a serious matter. In previous shootings, this has occurred. In the Columbine school shooting, the shooter prior to the event wrote a paper on a male who was planning a school shooting, as well as writings journals with all their plans in for the shooting (Gumbell). Nobody at the time thought anything of it, yet it was a significant sign as to what was going to be carried out. This being said, it is very important that students, teachers, parents and all listen and watch for signs and act accordingly. Reporting such suspicions could be crucial in preventing an attack.

As well as watching for signs a solution to prevent school shootings is to Work together to provide strategies and the correct resources for students. Sometimes for parents it can be hard to come to terms with the fact their child has a mental health issue or behavioral issues, however, it is important that they get their children the help needed. It is also important that schools provide resources. School counselors pay a pivot role in providing counseling groups to provide tools to deal with emotions, anger, grief, and loss as well and mental health problems. They help support a child in making changes in their life addressing the topics that most concern them (Paolini). With the correct support available and the communities willingness to watch and report suspicions, school incidents could be prevented in the future. However with this in mind, the role of the law is also very important.

Stricter gun laws are substantial in reducing gun violence. In the state of Georgia, there are very little restrictions on gun laws. As a state, they allow sales of a gun without a permit or without processing through the federal firearms license, Mentally ill individuals are also removed from the database after 5 years without a reassessment from doctors. This meaning that after a person passes the 5-year mark they are then illegible to purchase or sell a gun, even if they have not been assessed by a doctor to say they are now mentally stable (Cook). Unlike other states, Georgia also sticks with the federal age restriction of 18 to buy a gun, whereas many other states have reassessed age restrictions and moved it to 21.  These weak laws make it very easy for a young adult or mentally unstable individual to acquire a gun. 

Many will also argue stricter gun laws will not help reduce school shootings, however, research shows otherwise. When comparing the US to other rich countries with stricter gun laws, there is a huge difference in the homicide rate. Statistics show that ‘‘The number of gun murders per capita in the US in 2012 – the most recent year for comparable statistics – was nearly 30 times that in the UK, at 2.9 per 100,000 compared with just 0.1’’ (BBC). When looking at the US solely, research also shows that those states with stricter gun control have less gun related deaths. After a law passed in Connecticut in 1995 making it more difficult to buy a handgun the number of homicides reduced by 40%. This law included purchasers having to obtain a license from the police in person as well as passing a background check before being accepted for a sale (Lachman).  All of this research shows that stricter gun laws are a solution towards less gun violence and unless Congress and the government make some amendments, then school shootings are going to continue to occur.

It is evident that school shootings are a major issue within Atlanta and America as a whole. With a vast and continuous increase over the given years its important that both the law and community work together to help stop such incidents occurring. Research proves that there is no specific profile for a shooter, however, it is important as a community to watch out for any signs of potential risk, report them and provide students with the correct resources. This and stricter gun laws allowing students access to guns more difficult will help decrease gun violence. 

References

BBC. ‘‘Guns in the US: The statistics behind the violence.’’ BBC News, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34996604

Cook, Rhonda. ‘‘Georgia clears way for mentally ill to buy guns.’’ Myajc, 2018,

https://www.myajc.com/news/local/georgia-clears-way-for-mentally-ill-buy-guns/agHJKZW8LiqVI4mu1GQmLJ/

Cornell Law School. ‘‘Second Amendment.’’ LLI/Legal information Institute, https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/second_amendment

De La O, Maria. ‘‘School shootings are about more than bullying.’’ The Washington post, 2013,

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2013/10/25/school-shootings-are-about-more-than-bullying/?utm_term=.6be5672995ae

Dupllechain, Rosiland, and Robert Morris. ‘‘SCHOOL VIOLENCE: REPORTED SCHOOL SHOOTINGSAND MAKING SCHOOLS SAFER.’’ Galileo, Vol. 135, no. 2, pp.45-150.

Erwin, Nicole. ‘‘In wake of school shootings, a look at how kids get guns.’’ Ohio valley resource, 2018, http://ohiovalleyresource.org/2018/01/24/in-wake-of-school-shooting-a-look-at-how-kids-get-guns/

Everytown. ‘’The long shameful list of school shootings in America. ’’ 2018, https://everytownresearch.org/school-shootings/

Friedman, Lauri. School Shootings. Greenhaven ,2010.

Gumbell, Andrew. ‘‘The truth about columbine.’’ The guardian, 2009, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/apr/17/columbine-massacre-gun-crime-us

Judd, Alan. ‘‘Youre twice as likely to be shot to death in Georgia than New York (and other gun violence facts).’’ Myajc, 2017, https://www.myajc.com/blog/investigations/you-twice-likely-shot-death-georgia-than-new-york-and-other-gun-violence-facts/Kdk3MXsowc6ASzmd15o2QN/

Krishnakumar, Pray. ‘‘Since Sandy Nook, a gun has been fired on school grounds at least once a week.’’ www.Latimes.com, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-na-school-shootings-since-newtown/

Law. ‘‘Minimum age to purchase and possess.’’ Giffords law centre to prevent violence, http://lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/who-can-have-a-gun/minimum-age/#federal

Lachman, Samantha. ‘‘Conneticut gun control law sharply reduced gun-related violence, report says.’’ Huffpost UK, 2015,

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/12/connecticut-gun-control-_n_7570852.html

Paolini, Allison. ‘‘School Shootings and Student Mental Health: Role of the School Counselor in Mitigating Violence.’’ Councelling.org, 2015,

https://www.counseling.org/docs/default-source/vistas/school-shootings-and-student-mental-health.p

Patel, Jugal, K. ‘‘After Sandy Hook, More Than 400 People Have Been Shot in Over 200 School Shootings.’’ NYtimes.com, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/15/us/school-shootings-sandy-hook-parkland.html

Simonton, Stell. ‘‘Guns in school:Georgia has most shootings since Sandy Nook.’’ America.Aljazeera.com, 2015, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/1/29/gun-lax-georgia-has-most-school-shootings-since-sandy-hook-massacre.html

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