Hey, What Happened to All the School Shootings?

by James A. Bacon

Anyone notice how we don’t hear about school shootings anymore? Ever since the nation became fixated on the COVID-19 epidemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, school shootings have dropped out of the headlines.

According to an ongoing list compiled by Wikipedia, there have been eight school shootings (four in Texas, two in California, and one each in Florida and Illinois) so far this year. Six occurred before Feb. 4. Since then, only two school or college shootings been reported. In 2019, there had been 40 shootings by this time of year. What’s going on?

Ask yourself, what happened in early February? The COVID-19 epidemic started spreading through the United States. After spring break, many schools switched to online classes. Summer came and went. This fall many schools are still teaching online. If fewer schools are open, it’s no no surprise that there are fewer shootings.

But there’s more to the story. The only incidents reported since February sound like  crimes arising from arguments between people who knew each other — disturbing, yes, but very different than mass slaughters like Columbine, Newtown or Virginia Tech where the killers set out to murder as many people as possible. 

Here’s an operating hypothesis of what’s going on: School shooters seek to go out in a blaze of glory. To be be memorialized in the pantheon of anti-heroes, a would-be school killer needs to garner lots of media attention. But the Trump-Biden election, the BLM protests, the Antifa riots, and the COVID-19 epidemic have sucked all the oxygen out of the room. What’s the point of inflicting mayhem if nobody’s going to notice? There was always a copycat element to the shootings — one massacre inspiring another among the mentally ill. With the media distracted by other storylines, there’s nothing to copycat.

The American Psychological Association has just published a report suggesting that America is experiencing a mental health crisis among the very young people most likely to engage in school shootings. Apparently, rising stress and depression are taking new forms. From a clinical perspective, it will be interesting to watch how mental illness expresses itself in the Age of COVID. Hopefully, it won’t be as violent. 

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14 responses to “Hey, What Happened to All the School Shootings?

  1. Here’s a thought: Schools are all closed. Duh.

  2. Schools haven’t been open.

  3. I’m sure a few people are tempted to shoot their Zoom call screens.

  4. They’re aiming higher. You know, governors.

    It’s entirely possible that shuttering schools for a year could just break the cycle. Who knows? But, I’m pretty sure they’ll begin again soon.

  5. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    There are casualties amongst our youth. Teen suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the age bracket of 10-24. Covid 19 has certainly heightened the suicide rate but in a silent and unreported way. With schools closed and virtual it is more difficult now more than ever to get professional help to our troubled youth.

    • Sadly, but that’s been true since we were kids. I knew one girl in high school who tried it. So, I told her, “Well, that was overreacting. I only asked if you’d like to go with me to the prom.”

      Actually, the first two sentences are true. Drugs were her problem. Heroin. No shit. 17 and hooked. But then, one of my daughter’s friends was hooked on oxycodone. Now, talk about a parent who feels guilty, it was her father who wrote the prescription. 10 pills for a torn ACL.

      • Wow. Addicted after 10 pills? People’s bodies have very different tolerances (or intolerances) for such things, apparently.

        • If their brains are wired that way, sure, addiction is reached very quickly.

        • One of many things in life that doesn’t seem fair, but this one appears to be biology.

          I’ve known many people over the years who were overcome with addiction to alcohol. I haven’t experienced that, but can’t say it’s because of my superior willpower.

      • I had some after my ACL surgery as well. I took one but it made me feel so weird, almost like I wasn’t in my own body. I was older, 27 when I blew my knee though. I didn’t take any more, just surviving on 800 mg ibuprofen. Couldn’t understand what about that feeling people enjoyed to want to experience it.

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