On August 1st, 1966, Charles Whitman climbed to the top of the observation deck at The University of Texas in Austin. He was armed, and during a rampage which lasted 96 minutes, he killed 16 people and left 31 wounded. (Kingsbury.) Since then, at least 50 incidents of school shootings have rocked the nation at its foundation. ("Timeline.") Not all were so destructive at their ends as that of Charles Whitman. Some were more so. All have one thing in common: they have forever changed the face of the nation as we thought we knew it.
Who were these shooters? What caused them to massacre their respective schools? What had happened to them in their lives to cause them to be so distraught to be perceived as mentally unstable? How is our consistently ignorant response as a nation only hindering attempts to fix what we perceive to be the problem? What can we do to change this frightening national trend towards violence? This essay will dissect these questions, subtly and yet expressly, using the example freshest in the collective mind of America as a basis to elucidate points and calculate solutions.
The most recent of these tragedies occurred on April 16 of this year, 2007. At approximately 7:15 AM on that date, police received a 911 call regarding shots fired in West Ambler Johnston Hall dormitory on the campus of Virginia Tech University, in Blacksburg, VA. Upon investigation, they discovered that two people had been shot and killed, one male and one female, in their dormitory room. ("Virginia Tech.")
Over approximately the next two and a half hours, school police and other investigators would assess the situation and alert students of what was happening via e-mail and other methods of electronic communications. Students were urged to remain where they were and stay away from their windows, and were advised that a gunman was "loose on campus." Then, at approximately 9:45 AM, police received a second 911 call alerting them to a second shooting at Norris Hall, on the other side of the campus. Arriving officers broke open the doors (which had been chained from the inside) and quickly made their way to the second floor, where they heard gunshots. Upon arrival at the scene, they found that the gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, had shot and killed himself, after killing 32 other people and wounding several more. ("Virginia Tech".)
Before continuing, it is necessary to explain that the profiling of the Virginia Tech gunman is not intended to stand for all the profiles of every other gunman in every other incident of school violence. It is, however, necessary, in the course of writing this essay, that certain aspects of the profiles must be generalized, for the sake of preventing the essay from becoming too long or too repetitive. It is very important, then, that the reader keep in mind that when this essay talks about Virginia Tech in relation to all other school shootings, it is used simply as a foundation to build from, and does not by any means intend to take away the individuality and impact of each respective incident of school shootings across the nation.
Immediately following the massacre at Virginia Tech, a flood of media responses aired nationwide, alerting Americans to the incident at hand. Many of the same questions which have been posed in this essay, along with many others, were asked. Some were these: Who was the shooter? Why did he do what he did? Who should be held responsible? How could this have been allowed to happen?
A videotape, sent by Cho himself to NBC news between the two shootings on the Virginia Tech campus, seemed to offer at least a partial answer to the first question. In this video, (which can be found, among numerous other places, at http://mashable.com/2007/04/18/cho-seung-hui-video/) (Cashmore). Cho speaks with the air of a man who has accepted his destiny. He blames those whom he calls "rich kids", and seems to point the finger at American society as a whole for his actions. He states that he...
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