Globe, World

Schools in the United States of America: Stages for murderers

40% of American homes have firearms. The lack of adequate legislation and control of them may be the main reason why some of the largest massacres in the world happen in schools across the country.


Benjamin Serra


The end of 2012 offered a news story that covered the front covers of newspapers and shook social network sites: a new massacre in a school in the United States of America. On this occasion, the location was Newtown, a small city with roughly 27,000 residents in the State of Connecticut, northeast of the country.

A 20 year old man, Adam Lanza, equipped with a bulletproof vest and weapons which his mother used to keep at home, killed his mother before going on to Sandy Hook School.

Adam Lanza

A Sig Sauer gun, a Glock gun and two military style semiautomatic rifles were the weapons that helped Adam to kill 28 people, twenty of whom were children that were at the school.

Unfortunately, this disaster is not the only one of its kind in America, the country with the largest index of citizens owning weapons in the world, mainly because in 40% of US homes there is at least one firearm.

Eric Harris y Dylan Klebold

Massacres similar to what happened in Newtown, unite with other macabre incidents that have shook the recent history of the US. The most famous is the Columbine school killing in Littleton (Colorado) in 1999, where two students from the school, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, 18 and 17 years old respectively, armed with revolver guns and homemade bombs, killed twelve students and a teacher before turning the gun on themselves.

In 2005, Jeff Weise, a 17 year old admirer of Hitler and excluded by his peers, decided to repeat the Columbine incident. He killed five students, a teacher and a security officer from Red Lake School, in the State of Minnesota. Jeff took a gun from his grandfather, a policeman of an Indian reservation and after killing him, Jeff and his partner went to the school to commit the crime before killing themselves.

Jeff Weise

But it is not only primary and secondary schools that have been the locations for these killings. In 2007, the largest killing in the history of the country took place in a centre of education. The massacre of Virginia Tech, carried out by Cho Seung Hui, a 23 year old student armed with two semiautomatic pistols killed 32 people.

One of the most notable concerns is that the majority of Adam Lanza’s victims were children aged between six and seven years old, something that has shaken the US public and politicians the most.

Looking within

What is so different about the United States for this type of tragedy to happen so often in the country?

Approximately ninety million Americans have almost 300 million weapons in total. Taking into account that the nation’s population is roughly 310 million, the United States is the most ‘armed’ country in the world.

This could be a clear indicator of the easy access to weapons in the country as you can acquire similar weapons from specialised shops as you can in supermarkets or other local shops.

However, the 1993 legislation: ‘The Brady Law’ requires buyers to have no criminal record or psychiatric record.

Hence, it claims to prohibit people with a criminal record or a history of mental illness from purchasing them. But in practise, the law cannot control the trade of weapons amongst individuals, through the Internet or in fairs.

Additionally, the law alone is not sufficient to regulate the trade of weapons and the fact the current legislation differs from state to state complicates the situation. Of the 50 states that constitute the country, only nine require tests to grant permission to own a weapon, and only the State of Illinois does not allow you to carry weapons.

In Connecticut, the location where the last massacre occurred, the State’s legislation in this respect does not require any type of official permission from rifle and gun owners.

The only requirement is to be older than 20 years old.

Disasters like this, have forced America’s policy concerning the control of weapons into the limelight. President Obama stated that it was necessary to undertake necessary measures in order to prevent more tragedies like this, leaving all political differences to one side.

Inevitably, the control of firearms is an unfinished legislative topic in the country; however it was ignored during the last election campaign. Although, various proposals have been suggested and several parties are in favour of controlling the free sale of firearms, no one has proposed a real draft bill.

The main reason for this lies in the power of the lobby related to this business and with the National Rifle Association (NRA), one of the largest financial contributors to electoral campaigns. Those that are in favour of firearms justify their opinion thanks to the second amendment of the North American Constitution, which guarantees the right to weapons.

Barack Obama

It is precisely this amendment, which prior to the establishment of the army led to many citizens taking responsibility for protecting themselves and their families by acquiring weapons. It is an amendment that has become obsolete, but one that defenders of firearms cling onto.

Nonetheless, the fact that access to weapons is so easy in the United States does not justify these killings.

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Profile and causes

Cho Seung Hui

What causes these people to commit these crimes?

There is no behavioural pattern that justifies this type of violent behaviour. While it can be said that the murderers in the crimes have been men aged between 15 and 25 years old, they can share some common characteristics, however these are not decisive in all cases.

Generally, they are people with a completely normal appearance who have experienced some type of problem in any aspect of their life; for example, school failure, a bad relationship, some kind of bullying or marginalisation.

Although shyness, introversion and isolation have been described as blameworthy factors, what’s certain is that these alone do not mean that someone will become a murderer.

Normally, a crime is planned in secret, although on some occasions the culprits have not hidden their sympathy towards certain ideologies on Internet forums.

Thus, some specialists suggest that, perhaps, the convictions of political and religious extremists are important reasons as to why some of them commit these killings.

Other motives can be revenge, the feeling of superiority, recognition, and fame or simply pleasure. These people can  differentiate between good and evil. However, they feel that they have been treated so badly that the suffering they cause seems reasonable and if they compare it with their suffering they feel no remorse.

Furthermore, violence in schools and universities is not a new concept in United States. In the past 20 years there have been 23 killings like this; and some of the most famous coincide, like the Virginia Tech and Columbine incidents.

In these massacres, the culprits were able to carry out their plans because they previously had easy access to the weapons they needed to commit them. In other circumstances that would not permit such easy access, these plans would have been stayed in the minds of the murderers forever.

(Translated by Emma O’Toole)

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