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School Shootings and the Construction of a Cultural Discourse of Emergency

It’s in the United States that the tragic occurrence of ‘mass shooting’ most commonly takes place. With the nation surpassing 200 mass killings, including instances of school shootings, the US has recorded the highest number of such tragedies in the world. Moreover, such instances have occurred worldwide, but the United States is known to have the vastest history of school shootings. It is depressing to know that 27 school shootings have taken place in the States in the ongoing year 2022, a fact that calls for immediate action.

There is no specific consensus on how to define mass shootings, so the most common words to define it would be “an incident with a minimum of 3 or 4 victims of gun violence”. It’s in the United States that these incidents most commonly take place. The Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act in the United States defines a mass killing as “3 or more killings in a single incident”. However, they haven’t given any specific definition for mass shootings. School shootings can be defined as “an attack on an educational institution such as a primary, secondary, or a high school or university, with the use of arms”. Many school shootings have been categorized as “mass shootings” since multiple casualties occur. This phenomenon is widely spread in the United States, with the nation recording the highest number of such attacks in the world.

It is depressing to discover that 27 school shootings have occurred in the US during the ongoing year 2022. The country has surpassed 200 instances of mass killings, including school shootings. The individuals involved in these attacks have been found to have high levels of depression, anxiety, dysfunctional families or have been subject to bullying, mental illnesses, or any other forms of psychological issues. Their sources of motivation can vary, but when tried to cover under a broad umbrella, it mostly comes from different forms of depression, suicidal thoughts, built-up stress, or even the desire to be known or recognized. This has been taking place across the world, but the United States has the vastest history of school shootings.

The earliest and the most widely publicized school shooting that occurred in the US was back in 1999 at the Columbine High School in Littleton. The incident involved two students who opened fire at the school, killing about 13 people, including 12 children and one teacher, leaving around 20 other people injured, and ultimately committing suicide. Gun violence, in particular, has been observed to be an epidemic of sorts in the United States over the years. While people advocate that gun-bearing measures should be made stronger in order to curb firearm violence, on the contrary, any such restriction could also violate the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which gives the right to keep or bear firearms.

There are many other countries where school shootings have been taking place, but contradictory methods of reporting school shootings, especially where no fatalities occur, differ from place to place; only the ones that are covered by recognized media outlets are usually considered.

More than 3,000,000 children in the US have been exposed to armed violence. The most recent case in the States took place at Rob Elementary School, which is a primary school specifically for children between the age of seven and ten, located in Uvalde in South Texas. Salvador Rolando Ramos, a teenager, was said to be a high school student from the same area. The 18-year-old opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, killing 19 children and two teachers and injuring many. This horrific killing of innocent children reignited the debate over guns in America, and President Joe Biden has called for gun control.

School shootings have involved despair, anger, suicidal thoughts, and most importantly, the availability of guns. Hence, school is the best place to discover the irregular behavior of children. Often there are signs that such children possess which reveal that they may be suffering from a psychological problem. Building a supportive, friendly, and cohesive school environment can help prevent such heinous actions. The administrative bodies should focus on creating an environment where children feel safe to talk to each other or the staff about any trauma they are going through. Life skills classes should be arranged for children to open up and talk about their experiences, whether good or bad so that they can be explained the positive ways to deal with their traumatic experiences.

There should be proper health care; the administration could use behavioral screening tools to analyze students’ mental health better. Teachers should address the risks of violence and its aftermath. Issues of mental health and bullying should be addressed, and the educators should employ more friendly behavior so that the students can get confidence and know that they can approach somebody when in need.

Families should be careful if they own some arms or weapons to keep them away from the sight of children and not discuss any such thing before them because ultimately, it’s the availability of guns that leads to such heinous acts. Lastly, our focus should be on building an environment where school shootings cannot take place. As so aptly demonstrated in the Ted Talk, “I was almost a school shooter,” by Aaron Stark, making someone feel that they have value and that they matter can go a long way toward altering that individual’s life and, consequently, the lives of others.

Samreen Khan is a student pursuing a English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Diptarka Chatterjee

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Written by Samreen Khan

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