The Societal Factors that Lead to Mass School Shootings
Conner Koe - 1330997
Sociology 1A03 – T24 (Tyler Alderson)
Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
Although historically violence has always seemingly plagued education systems and their schools, the last 20 years has marked the emergence of a new form of violence occurring within these institutions, one which is far more deadly and cruel. The act of an individual or multiple individuals executing what is known as a rampage school shooting dates back to as early as the mid-1970s, but truly became a recognized phenomenon in the mid-1990s due to several unprecedented and shocking occurrences of these attacks (Rocque, 2012; Muschert, 2007; Wike & Fraser, 2009). Cataclysmic events such as the massacres in Columbine in 1999, Virginia Tech in 2007, and most recently Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 have further propelled mass school shootings into the public eye. The arbitrary nature and velocity of these acts has left the public with many questions in which researchers hope to answer. The most common question being, by what means is an individual compelled to commit such a horrendous and disassociating act? Many researchers initially examined these occurrences solely on a microanalytical level, accrediting the causes of these mass school shootings to purely psychological influences, or only attempting to explain the developmental factors that could lead an individual to such an act (Henry, 2009). But in doing so, the researchers failed to acknowledge a complete discourse on the subject, and numerous macro-analytical and other outside factors were neglected. Though recently, a more extensive amount of research has been conducted on the subject welcoming other possible influences. This essay will analyze five current research studies focused on revealing a broader range of societal factors which can lead an individual to perpetrate a mass shooting at an educational institution. Beginning by examining the effects of aggrieved entitlement and masculinity, the essay will then go on to address the influence of victimization over a shooter, and follow with a report on the impacts of firearm accessibility in relation to school shootings. Lastly, the essay will offer a succinct excerpt on the sociological relevance and future direction for research on the subject. The Effects of Masculinity and Aggrieved Entitlement
Research has brought to light the fact that mass school shootings are almost exclusively a male occurrence, with only a few rare exceptions of females ever being recorded (Henry, 2009; Kalish & Kimmel, 2010). As such, researchers have naturally attributed the masculinity of an individual, or the lack thereof, as being a factor of major influence in such occurrences. Studies into the phenomenon highlight significant commonalities between the treatment of individual shooters, mainly being that they are repeatedly subject to physical/mental bullying, severe humiliation, and homophobic slurs (Henry, 2009; Rocque, 2012). This kind of treatment invokes a sense of emasculation in which the shooters feel they must combat in order to restore their male status. “Humiliation is emasculation: humiliate someone and you take away his manhood” (Kalish & Kimmel, 2010, pg. 454). Unfortunately, these individuals resort to violence as their method of restoration. This is also known as hegemonic masculinity, victimized individuals feel the need to ‘restore the self’ by inflicting destruction on others (Kalish & Kimmel, 2010). Rocque (2012) further solidifies this, stating that school shooters use violence as a method of displaying their male dominance over others after their masculinity has been damaged or questioned. Through a sense of aggrieved entitlement, research also points out shooters feel justified in perpetrating these acts of violence (Henry, 2009; Kalish & Kimmel, 2010; Rocque, 2012). After years of constant bullying, torment, and...
References: Muschert, G. W. (2007). Research in school shootings. Sociology Compass, 1(1), 60-80.
Rocque, M. (2012). Exploring school rampage shootings: Research, theory, and policy. The Social Science Journal, 49(3), 304-313.
Wike, T. L., & Fraser, M. W. (2009). School shootings: Making sense of the senseless. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14(3), 162-169.
Kalish, R., & Kimmel, M. (2010). Suicide by mass murder: Masculinity, aggrieved entitlement, and rampage school shootings. Health Sociology Review, 19(4), 451- 464.
Henry, S. (2009). School violence beyond columbine: A complex problem in need of an interdisciplinary analysis. American Behavioral Scientist, 52(9), 1246-1265.
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