The Profile of a School Shooter
We have read about the school shootings and some of us have had members who died from these shootings and we all wonder why these senseless murders continue to happen. The frequency of these shootings is becoming alarming, and even countries with relatively low crime rates are experiencing more violence and shootings in the colleges and universities. Even the elementary and high schools are not spared these senseless acts of violence.
The problem with the youth of America and other countries of the world is that they are angry. They are lashing out at students and staff believing them to be the cause of their inability to socialize and adapt to their environment.
Psychological profile of a school shooter
There is no single profile for a school shooter, except perhaps to say that they are troubled youth.
According to Dewey G. Cornell, clinical psychologist at the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, there are three different categories of school shooters.
There are the mentally ill youths whose behavior is determined by delusions and hallucinations. These are the youths or adults if they are doing the shooting who hear voices in their head telling them to kill. These people are really tormented souls, but they are in the minority. Only about 5 percent of school shootings are actually committed by mentally ill individuals.
The second category of youth shooters are the antisocial youths and or adults and this is by far the largest group representing two thirds of all school shooters. The youths in this category have a have long history of disruptive behavior with evidence that this behavior began in early childhood. According to Dr. Cornell, they are, aggressive, impulsive, dishonest, and generally below average intelligence. Many of them are drug users and belong to some kind of juvenile gang. They are more than likely to come from a disadvantaged home and a dysfunctional family. He continues to say that these youth were the ones responsible for driving up the violent crime rates during the 1980’s and the 1990’s.
Dr. Cornell’s final category of youth shooters, are a perplexing group because these are youths that appear to be normal well adjusted kids who suddenly shoot and kill for what appears to be no reason. However, these kids are actually emotionally disturbed, socially alienated, troubled and conflicted, angry and depressed. They may be very intelligent and capable of many things but they are not satisfied with there own achievements and they are often victimized or treated unfairly in some way by their peers. They could have a few friends but they still feel alone and isolated from the rest of the world. They are sensitive to bullying and they often sit and think over and over again about what they feel have been injustices that others have done to them. The more depressed they become the more their judgment becomes impaired. These kids will plot revenge and they are involved in most of the school shootings.
Dr. Cornell states that we can learn from these youths because they do not fit our antisocial offender stereotypes. They are often Caucasian middle class youth who have all the social advantages. Many of them come from good homes and they were loved not abused. Their parents are often time well respected pillars of the community and these parents have been good role models for their children. In this situation it is not correct to blame the parents, although the parents may have failed to understand what was going on with their children before the shootings. They did not cause the shootings by bad parenting.
Dr. Cornell defends that weak parental supervision is a serious issue but it does not fully explain the behavior of these troubled youths. He maintains that youths are enculturated outside of the home as well as taught inside the home.
What makes these kids different?
Most kids are exposed to some kind of violent but they don’t engage in it. Most kids have a few of the risks factors cited above and yet they still do not become school shooters. So what makes a school shooter?
There must be a motive for students to act out violently. These kids are social outcasts. They have often been bullied themselves and go on to join fringe and counter-cultural groups. Some of these groups are destructive and these youths may be vulnerable for modeling aggressive behavior or they may be seeking revenge and have joined the groups to facilitate the process. Surprisingly, Dr. Cornell states that in his work, the some of youths have expressed how they actually talked about murder with their families and were told to go ahead and go through with it.
Youths of today live in a violent culture, exposed to aggression in movies, music, videos, and video games and magazines. They are so entrenched in these violent words and actions that the fine line between reality and fantasy disappears. These youths ingest all the violence. They learn ways of carrying out heinous acts and they lose the ability discern killing bad guys in the virtual world with killing innocent people in the real world. These kids do not plot a single murder they want to take out several people at once, John Rambo style. There has been much research to show the correlation between violence and TV viewing etc and yet Hollywood and the media continue to ignore the findings.
Parents may do there best to supervise what goes on in the house but they cannot tail their teenagers 24 hours day, they cannot sufficiently monitor what kids are doing outside of the home. With modern technology their kids are often more advanced in computer technology than their parents and a hide what they are viewing on the Internet as well.
Doctor Cornell goes on to say that firearms are responsible for most of the youth crimes, their availability makes it quick easy to act out these schools shootings. He states that without access to guns these crimes would never have been committed. Having a gun is a critical risk factor. The rate of homicide committed by youth has tripled in the last decade. He states that firearms are not the underlying cause of the violence, but they provide the means to carry it through.