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Archive for March, 2018

THE “PROTECTED” MASS SHOOTING

Heru Susetyo

hsusetyo@ui.ac.id

Assistant Professor at Faculty of Law Universitas Indonesia/ Studied International Human Rights Law at Northwestern University, Chicago

While in Indonesia,  public is shocked by a student who unintentionally killed his teacher in Sampang, Madura on 1 February 2018 and  a school principal who was heavily injured by a student’s parent in Lolak, Bolaang Mongondow, North Sulawesi on 13 February 2018.  What had happened in US, violence at academic institution is much more dangerous.

Mass shooting took place again in USA on 14 February 2018.    Nikolas Cruz, 19,  brutally shot  students and teachers at his former school in Florida, Marjory  Stoneman Douglas High School,  in Parkland, Florida, resulted in 17 casualties.Cruz was subsequently apprehended and placed in custody.   The police later found that Cruz was previously expelled from that school due to unspecified disciplinary reasons.

The massive shooting in schools, universities, and other public premises have frequently taken place in the US. By definition,  according to US Congress,  mass killing  is defined as three or more homicides in a single incident, while Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as an event where at least four people are injured or killed in a single incident, at the same general time and location, not including the shooter (www.politifact.com/ 14/02/2018).  Under this definition,  there are 146 incidents of mass shooting from 1967 to 2017.

Everytown for Gun Safety Support Funduses a straightforward, fair, and comprehensive definition for a school shooting: any time a firearm discharges a live round inside or into a school building or on or onto a school campus or grounds, as documented by the press and, when necessary, confirmed through further inquiries with law enforcement or school officials.  By this definition,  since 2013, there have been nearly 300 school shootings in America — an average of about one a week (www.everytownresearch.org/ 15/02/2018).

Prior to Florida incident,  the latest mass shootings were  in Las Vegas on October 1st 2017 and in Sutherland Springs, Texas on 5 November 2017.  In Las Vegas,  a 64 year old Stephen Paddock rained gunfire on a crowd of 22.000  music festival from the 32nd floor the Mandalay Bay and Resort Casino. Killing 58 people and injuring almost 500; and  in Sutherland Springs, Devin Patrick Kelley brutally shot the worshippers  of the church.  26 people were killed and 20 seriously injured.

The mass shooting which take place in US academic institutions, prior to Parkland, Fl. Incident,  took place in Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut on 14 December 2012 (28 casualties), at  Northern Illinois University, De Kalb Illinois on 14 February 2008 (6 casualties incl. the perpetrator), at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon (9 casualties), October 1, 2015 (9 casualties),  at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia (32 casualties),   at Red Lake High School, Minnesota, on  21 March 2005 (10 casualties, incl. the perpetrator), at Columbine High School – Littleton, Colorado on 20 April 1999 (13 casualties).

Why people commit mass shooting?  There are a lot of contributing factors, namely : (1) higher accessibility of guns; (2) the copycat phenomenon; (3) desire for fame and  notoriety; (4) individualistic culture and a person’s lack of social bounds;  (5) mental illness; etc.

The theories of the French sociologist Emile Durkheim may give us a deeper understanding of how certain cultural factors contribute to mental illness. In a classical study he found that suicides were much more frequent in individualistic societies, which are characterized by a lower degree of social integration, compared to more collectivistic societies. A person who is poorly socially integrated has a high risk of becoming a lone wolf, which may be a more common problem attributable to individualistic societies. Mass murderers are often isolated individuals that over time have built up aggression towards to the society they feel disconnected from (Isaksen, popularsocialscience, 04/01/2013).

Mass shootings are more frequent in individualistic compared to collectivistic societies. The lower degree of social integration in an individualistic society may lead to a greater risk of social isolation. In extreme cases this may strengthen the mass murderers’ perception of being a loner “in a world full of enemies.” This bears resemblance with school shooters who often have low social skills, and are poorly socially integrated. Such vulnerable individuals, who are in a state of emotional chaos, may then use violence as an outlet for their built up anger toward society, which they feel has betrayed them (Isaksen, popularsocialscience, 04/01/2013).

However, lack of social bound alone, is not enough to render people making violent.  Sternheimer (in Isaksen, 2013) points out that violence is learned through social contexts, and personal life experiences. Her research concludes that the “meaning of violence” is made within particular social settings. Some people are more easily fascinated by destructive incidents, and may find inspiration from violence and other mass shootings. Each person also has a unique set of life experience that affects levels of aggression. Even if some people are more aggressive by nature, the learning factor is essential. Violence can be learned, and people often learn from the imitation of others (copycat phenomenon).

Higher accessibility of guns is among the main cause of mass shooting in US.  The Guardian (16/02/ 2018) mentioned that “ Most Americans can buy an AR-15 rifle before they can buy beer.”  The military-style gun, the weapon of choice for mass shootings, can be bought in most states starting at the age of 18.  Americans have to be 21 before they can legally buy alcohol. But in most states, they can buy an AR-15 military-style rifle starting at age 18.Federal law has stricter age requirements for buying handguns than for the military-style rifles that have become the weapon of choice for shootings. With some exceptions, Americans must be 21 to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer.Law enforcement officials said Nikolas Cruz, 19,  the perpetrator of Parkland, Florida was able legally to purchase an AR-15 about a year ago.

Gun control, therefore, is a very serious issue in US, legally and politically.  The right to keep and bear arms in the US is a fundamental right,  protected by the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, and by the constitutions of most U.S. states.  The second amendment (entry into force in 1791) mentioned that at “ a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

In other words,  by loosening gun control and resting on Second Amendment,  the State has actually ‘facilitated and protected’ the mass shooting which took place in the US.    Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund (15/02/2018) criticized this policy by writing :  How many more before our leaders pass common-sense laws to prevent gun violence and save lives? Communities all over the country live in fear of gun violence. That’s unacceptable. We should feel secure in sending our children to school — comforted by the knowledge that they’re safe.

 

 

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