By Geoff Swenson
by Geoff Swenson
The Havre Daily News
Friday, May 14
Last months tragic school shooting was one of those unique events that shakes the conscience of the entire nation. Almost immediately after the event Americans began to search for why something like this could occur and in many cases something to blame. In reality, it is not as simple as stating the killers watched some violent images from the media, had access to guns, got picked on at school, or even the premiere blanket excuse that society is morally bankrupt. While a number of factors played a part, it all boils down to one simple fact: the boys that committed those heinous murders were evil people. It is time that society begins to place accountability where it belongs, on the people who actually commit the crimes.
Undoubtedly, the temptation to blame the media is great, but it is not the answer and doing so would set a dangerous precedent. First, the US has a constitutionally ordained free press, so the makers of questionable materials have a right to produce their goods. Censoring movies, music or whatever material is determined to incite violence only opens the door to a slippery slope loss of free press and speech. If such censorship was tolerated, interest groups would be free to censor anything that doesnt portray life in the manner the government, school, or the authority figures wish to portray it. In addition, if an individual is determined to cause harm to someone or is deranged enough to want to take innocent lives, he/she will do so regardless of whether they play violent video games or not. Basically, everyday millions of Americans are exposed to violent images and the only ones who ever act upon them are those who are predisposed to violent activity.
Access to guns is also often implicated as a major factor in commission of violent crimes. Granted it necessary to have a firearm in order to shoot someone. Unfortunately, there is no way (without an incredible loss of individual freedom) to prevent someone who is determined to acquire a gun from acquiring one. If the US were to enact stricter gun control policies, it would not eliminate a juveniles access to weapons. If someone was as determined, as these two boys were to killing large numbers of people, he/she would be able to find weapons on the black market, steal them or have someone who is over 18 purchase the guns for them. That is not to say gun control is completely meaningless, however, it would certainly not be a concrete solution to enact further gun control legislation. In addition, access to guns should not be viewed as legitimate cause for the Columbine shootings.
The fact that students were outcasts at school undoubtedly played a role in instigating the shooting, however, people that simply blame the fact that students were picked on miss a number of key points. First, help exists for those students that feel ostracized within the school and community. If someone really desires to get help there is ample opportunity. Second, in most cases people who commit violent acts have no desire to get help and reject those individuals who attempt to help them. Finally, since high school is not a homogeneous population, there is inevitably going to be tension between people who identify themselves with certain groups and there always has been. However, school shootings are a fairly recent occurrence casting a large shadow of doubt on the possibility of a casual relationship between the two occurrences. Furthermore, there is very little the government or anyone else can do to minimize teasing in schools. It is simply one of the many facets of school and as long as there is individualism, there will be tension.
While all these rationales are very popular, the idea of blaming the lack of morality in society is perhaps the most popular. Granted that blaming society provides an excellent chance to talk about the non-existent good old days and an excellent excuse to attempt to limit everyones freedoms, the rationale is flawed for several reasons. First, getting angry at that big, vague concept of society does nothing. The only thing anyone can really control is him/herself. If each individual lived his/her life well, and didnt perpetuate the culture of death, then it couldnt continue forever. Its not about America its about Americans, each individual person. Second, everyone should not be punished for the actions of a few. If you believe that Americans are basically good then society at large must also be seen as basically good. The gunmen in the Colorado shooting were the aberration in this society, not the rule.
In conclusion, there were a number of reasons that Columbine High School killing occurred, however, there are no easy solutions or scapegoats. It is certainly time that people begin to take accountability for their own accounts. However, the key is to take well thought-out, practical steps so the chances of crisis be mitigated. The Columbine High School shooting should not be used as an excuse to deprive Americans of their civil liberties (as many groups have sought to do) under the vaporous all-encompassing concept of increased security. In short, every American has a choice about what sort of society we are going to live in. The choices are clear, we can either choose to live in a society that promotes individual responsibility, freedom and restraint or one that dictates what everyone can and cannot do because as a society, we refuse to accept accountability for our actions. Pardon my bias, but I sincerely hope we choose the former.