Columbine – the breaking point of public awareness?

Professor Ramos has stated during lecture that shootings have been occurring on American soil even before the United States existed as a nation similar to how slavery was practiced during the “New World’s” colonization. Shootings prove to be one of America’s leading issues because, every day, one happens in the country. According to CBS News in an article published in the beginning of the month, “As of September 1, which was the 244th day of the year, there have been 283 mass shootings in the U.S.”(Silverstein). If there is a tragic event that occurs on a daily basis, then something needs to be done. Obviously, there are more than just school shootings – there have been shootings at almost any place one can imagine from a Walmart or a movie theater to a garlic festival or a concert. However, it seems as if the American public did not consider the effects of gun violence to be of paramount importance until after the Columbine High School massacre. The reason why this may be is because the shooting happened at a high school, a place of education for minors that is meant to feel safe but after fifteen people have been killed, who would feel this way?

There can be multiple reasons that can contribute as to why mass shootings keep happening in America. A bullied victim can seek revenge by grabbing a parent’s gun and proceed to shoot up his school or maybe the affected person is inspired to act out the violent content that is from his favorite movie or video game. These two scenarios may be possible but mental illness seems to be the most prevalent connection to different shootings throughout the country. An article by the American Journal for Public Health gives different examples: “Holmes “was seeing a psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia” before he opened fire in a crowded theater… “Rodger suffered from Asperger’s disorder and took psychotropic medications” (MacLeish, Metzel). I am not saying that people with a mental illness are most likely to commit a shooting but rather mental illness has proven itself to be a legitimate factor to think about when details of a shooter’s public life is revealed. The cases of shooters like James Holmes and Elliot Rodger give particularly good instances on the three motives I have provided for shooters: Holmes had mental illness and used Heath Ledger’s version of the Joker as inspiration for killing people while Rodger was filled with rage because he believed himself to be a victim of the “Chads” of the world who kept stealing attractive women, “Stacys” – terms used by the online incel community made popular by Rodger.

The connection between particular movies and mass shootings is being talked about in the news even while I am writing this story. Todd Phillips’ new movie, Joker, based on the popular character created by DC Comics, has been receiving extensive backlash by some who fear that it may inspire a future act of violence:  “Critics who saw Joker… have called it “dangerous”, “deeply troubling” and “a toxic rallying cry for self-pitying incels” (Gajanhan). The LAPD and the U.S. military have even warned people to be aware of their surroundings during the weekend it comes out (which is next weekend) in the case that a shooting situation does happen. This topic has been debated throughout the entirety of the 21st century and longer – entertainment is being used to glorify violence and encourage people to commit acts of violence. The other side of the argument claims that people have a constitutional right to watch whatever they choose. Sound familiar? This type of entertainment serves as an interesting parallel to the exact same topic that I am talking about – mass shootings.

A shooting not only affects the families of those who have died but also greatly affects the survivors of the shooting. Dr. David Austern, being interviewed by ABC News states in an article: “People who are wounded during a shooting incident and those who are at the scene of one are most likely to develop PTSD” (Best). If people do not receive the proper help, this itself can end in tragedy: by Parkland’s first anniversary, two survivors had committed suicide. This is exactly why certain issues like suicide must be talked about in families and among friends – the “see something, say something” method can be applied in this situation. Suicide Awareness Week just happened recently from September 8-14. When a shooting happens, obviously there is remorse and sadness in the community where it happened but a light can be shed on the situation – Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was founded after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and Never Again MSD was founded after Parkland.

            After such tragedies have transpired, demand for action will always follow – this especially happened with Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland because if children’s lives are mercilessly taken, public outcry for change will always happen. So what can be done to stop future attacks on innocent people? Different measures can be taken such as prohibiting the American public from gaining access to certain guns; having more background checks and giving better efforts to educate the people on gun safety. The first solution I have proposed has already been mentioned by a 2020 presidential candidate – “Beto O’Rourke willing to consider ‘getting rid’ of all semi-automatic firearms”, the title of an article published by the Washington Examiner. In response to the article title, O’Rourke is considering a possibility that could do well for the country – the American public does not need military grade guns like a semiautomatic to defend their homes or to hunt – there are other types of guns or even other weapons that can serve the exact same purpose.

            As to the issue of background checks, The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, a scholarly journal, mentions a new form of the background check called a GVRO (Gun violence restraining order). This order is explained as follows: “By targeting high-risk individuals on the basis of behavior indicating they are a danger to themselves or others, regardless of a mental illness diagnosis, the GVRO can reduce gun violence” (Vernick et al.). This statement alone proves that background checks are necessary for anyone who wishes to buy a gun. Some people love their guns and would claim that what I’m writing is nonsense because the Second Amendment guarantees that anyone can buy: “ the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. Unless this amendment is repealed (which it will most assuredly be not), this guarantees that guns will never be banned to the public. The Founding Fathers, though, probably did not deal with as much mental illness or mass shootings from citizens at the time, so, with this in mind, it did not occur to them to incorporate such situations in the Constitution. Guns are not bad but they can be used as weapons of death in the wrong hands so background checks is not an invasion of privacy but a matter of public security.

I conclude this story with the message of gun safety. The government could have the most strict policies on gun control but it would be no good if the person who does gain access to a gun has no knowledge of how to use it properly. This is why gun safety is so important and necessary for America. The official website for the Marine Corps. has five gun safety rules: “1. Always Keep The Muzzle Pointed In A Safe Direction; 2. Firearms Should Be Unloaded When Not Actually In Use; 3. Don’t Rely on your gun’s safety; 4. Be Sure of your target and what is beyond it and 5. Use the Correct Ammunition” (“Gun Safety”). These same rules can be applied for the public to use in everyday life. Just like how there is fire prevention, there can be gun violence prevention throughout the nation in an effort to save more lives. Parents must educate their children on the issue of gun safety so as not to harm themselves or anyone else. If more people are educated on something, they will have more knowledge and if there is knowledge, knowledge will (hopefully) be applied. Through these three proposals, America could greatly benefit the lives of the many people who live in the country and in the process, prevent fantasy from becoming reality.

Don’t be a Joker!

Works Cited

Best, Tiffany. “Trauma, anxiety and PTSD: How mass shootings affect mental health.” ABC News, 5 June 2019, Accessed 21 Sept. 2019.

                  This article reveals how a person’s mental health can be affected after experiencing a tragic event. Dr. Austern, the person quoted, is a psychologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. I am using this article to show how shootings greatly affect those long after they have already occurred.

Gajanhan, Mahita. “What to Know About the Controversy Surrounding the Movie Joker.” Time, 26 Sept. 2019, controversy/. Accessed 28 Sept. 2019.

This article explains how the new movie Joker could be greatly interpreted the wrong way by people who feel sympathy for Joaquin Phoenix’s version of the Joker. The article was written by Time, a legitimate news source, tominform the public on the controversy surrounding the new film. I am using this article to show how some perceive the possibility that the movie may motivate future shooters due to its portrayal of the main character.

“Gun Safety.” Marine Corps Installations Command, MCICOM, Accessed 28 Sept. 2019.

This page is posted on the Marine Corps website to educate the public on gun safety. This article was written by the United States Marine Corps. I am using this page to show the importance of gun safety for each person.

Kenneth, MacLeish T., and Metzl M. Jonathan. “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms.” American Journal of  Public Health, vol. 105, no. 2, 1 Feb. 2015, p. 240, EBSCO Academic  Search Complete. =4&sid=1c67597e-7590-4608-9e50-58c410957589%40sessionmgr102. Accessed 21 Sept. 2019.

This scholarly journal explores the psychology of mass shooters, giving a focus on their mental health before they committed murder. The article was written by a scholarly journal, American Journal of Public Health, a component of the American Public Health Association. I am using this article to provide examples on how mental illness was a contributing factor to different shootings.

Silverstein, Jason. “There Have Been More Mass Shootings than Days This Year.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 1 Sept. 2019,

This article informs the reader about how many mass shootings have happened in America so far in 2019. CBS News  gets their information from a group called the Gun Violence Archive, an organization that records every shooting that occurs in America. I am using this article to convey the message that shootings are a major component in the many problems that exist in American society.

Vernick, Jon S., et al. “Background Checks for all Gun Buyers and Gun Violence Restraining Orders: State Efforts to Keep Guns from High-Risk Persons.” The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, vol. 45, 2 Mar. 2017, p. 101, EBSCO Academic Search Complete. /pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=11&sid=fbf03049-7ae6-4366a011-7d17a338a 583%40sdc-v-sessmgr03. Accessed 28 Sept. 2019.

This scholarly journal explain why and how background checks and GVROs can be used to reduce the gun violence that plagues America. The journal is written by the American Society of Law,  Medicine and Ethics, an organization comprised of legal and medical professionals. I am using this article to show why background checks and/or GVROs are necessary for America.