Preventing School Shootings is Everybody's Business

Earlier this week, we reported on two separate incidents in which police in California arrested four teens—three in the first case, one in the second—possibly preventing two school shootings. You want to know another great way to prevent active killers in schools? Stop glorifying those atrocities and the sick murderers who commit them.

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Earlier this week, we reported on two separate incidents in which police in California arrested four teens—three in the first case, one in the second—possibly preventing two school shootings.

In the first instance, officers with the Desert Hot Springs (CA) Police Department arrested three 14-year-old teenagers—two boys and a girl—after "troubling social media posts" were reported to the police by a Desert Hot Springs Unified School District staffer.

Two handguns and a very real looking replica rifle were recovered at the scenes of the three arrests. The three minors are in custody at juvenile hall and have been charged with terrorist threats.

In the second incident, officers with the Fresno (CA) Police Department arrested a 16-year-old boy who reportedly threatened in a post on social media to "shoot up" his high school.

The boy—who has not been identified because he is a juvenile—posted an image of a student with a caption that stated, "felt cute, might shoot up a school later."

Officers responded to the school before classes started, located the juvenile in question, and detained him without incident. The student was booked into juvenile hall for making criminal threats.

This was great work by both agencies in potentially preventing two tragedies from occurring.

You want to know another great way to prevent active killers in schools?

Stop glorifying these atrocities and the sick murderers who commit them.

In Other News

Another news item I chose to not run on this website involves something so reprehensible that I hesitate to even bring it up, but law enforcement—and civilian parents of kids with access to money and the internet—need to know about it.

A clothing manufacturer—whose name merits no mention in this space—unveiled a new line of hooded sweatshirts emblazoned with the names of a variety of schools that fell victim to these tragic events.

The company posted photos of the line on Instagram, depicting teens wearing garments bearing the names Sandy Hook, Stoneman Douglas, Virginia Tech, and Columbine.

Further, the sweatshirts are "distressed"—meaning they are meant to look used, old, and faded—and come with holes in the material intended to give the appearance of gunshot wounds.

Using these terrible events for profit is utterly disgraceful, shameful, appalling, and some other words my professionalism prevents me from using.

We should remember the 26 people who died at Sandy Hook, the 17 who perished at Stoneman Douglas, the 33 who were murdered at Virginia Tech, and the 13 who died at Columbine. We should honor them, not desecrate their memory with a clothing line that disrespects them.

This ugly money grab not only disrespects the victims—which is an undeniable fact—but also family members and the first responders who were directly impacted by the horror of the events. It affronts the dozens who were wounded and have to live with the memory of the horror they survived. It offends those affected by dozens of other school shootings.

It insults civil society in general.

Naturally, there was an almost immediate backlash.

Frank Guttenberg—the father of a Parkland, Florida, shooting victim—said on Twitter, "Under what scenario could somebody think this was a good idea? This has me so upset."

The Vicki Soto Memorial Fund—an organization dedicated to a teacher who died at Sandy Hook—said on Instagram, "As a Sandy Hook family, what you are doing here is absolutely disgusting, hurtful, wrong and disrespectful. You'll never know what our family went through after Vicki died protecting her students. Our pain is not to be used for your fashion."

My friend Mitch Brouillette—an SRO at a school not terribly far from where I live—may have said it best: "Here we have someone wanting to glorify horrific events that have happened at our schools. I teach active shooter response to the school districts in our community. During that training, we discuss lessons learned from past events. We also discuss the fact that one thing that drives these killers is the glorification of the crimes they commit. Why in the world would someone want to glorify these events?"

Well said, my friend.

Don't Name Them

You may have taken note that I refused to name the company. This was with purpose and intent, and is in line with how I never name the perpetrators of mass school shootings in news reports.

Back when I first started in this business of writing on law enforcement, it was commonplace to name the killers—it was standard to delve deeply into their past, dig up any evidence that would "explain" why they did what they did.

Then I came upon the Don't Name Them Project. They correctly contend that repeatedly giving "air time" to the murderers gives them precisely what they want: fame, notoriety, and/or recognition. Further, they make the argument that sensationalizing the killers with wall-to-wall media coverage increased the contagion effect—that it increases the likelihood of more tragedy.

They say that police and the press should identify the individual(s) once for public record, and never say their name again.

One law enforcement leader took that idea a step further a few years ago. Douglas County (OR) Sheriff John Hanlin refused to name the killer who attacked the Umpqua Community College, killing nine people in October 2015.

"I will not name the shooter. I will not give him the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and cowardly act," Hanlin said.

I submit that this should be standard operating procedure.

Desensitization to Violence

In addition to—or perhaps a component of—the desire for notoriety, many if not most of these individuals are looking for the next "high score" of victims. They see the glorification of the killers in the news and the fixation on the part of the mainstream media on the sheer volume of people killed and wounded, and not the humanity of the individuals affected.

Many experts liken it to the fierce competition in online multiplayer video games that awards the player with the highest number of "kills" as the winner of the contest.

Those same experts point to the realism of these games—the titles of which will not be named here—and say it desensitizes a certain number of at-risk personalities to violence.

In fact, it may even cause the violence in mentally unstable people who have a hard time understanding the distinction between imagination and reality—the online world and the real one. Some argue that the violence in some games creates in some individuals the desire to "find out what it's like" to kill people.

Another source of desensitization comes from violence in television and movies.

Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman—probably the world's foremost expert on human aggression and school violence—said in his book Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill, "Children are bombarded with thousands of violent acts on television at a young, vulnerable age when they literally cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy. As violence is played for laughs and cheers on TV and in the movies, our kids eat their favorite snacks and giggle as the body count rises. We are raising generations of children who learn at a very early age to associate horrific violence with pleasure and excitement—a dangerous association for a civilized society."

It's not as simple as just turning these devices off or disallowing companies from making games, movies, TV shows, and other entertainment forms portraying violence. However, it is the responsibility of parents and guardians to monitor their children, provide context, and ensure that they are mentally capable of understanding what they're seeing is fictional and not to be imitated.

Those individuals who walk into a school and unleash hell are probably mentally unstable in the first place, but the prolonged exposure to these stimuli almost surely has an adverse effect, so minimizing consumption of this stuff may pay dividends in peace.

Final Words

The work of those two agencies in California to prevent what may have been two more senseless tragedies was excellent and should be commended.

Law enforcement officers across the country have recently accomplished similar acts of heroism in the prevention of school attacks.

However, the police are the very last line of defense. Preventing school shootings is everybody's business—it first falls on parents, siblings, teachers, school administrators, students, and others. It's certainly not good business to profit off of these events like this clothing company aims to do.

Many of you reading this have attended at least one seminar presented by Dave Grossman, so what you're about to read is not new—however, it is important enough to be repeated.

During his talks, Grossman says, "The enemy is denial"—the belief that "It'll never happen here."

This mentality has—for the most part—been stamped out in law enforcement. The education process continues for those parents, siblings, teachers, school administrators, students, and private enterprises.


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