School violence prompts columnist to vie for more gun control, less bullying

by Kate Magill, ’13

“Gunshots have been fired. There are multiple victims.”

Harrowing words such as these should be rarities, troubling phrases hoped never to be heard in an individual’s lifetime. However in recent years, school violence tragedies, many related to or caused by bullying, have become all too common. Within even the last two months, there have been two shootings at schools in the United States—one on February 27 in Chardon, Ohio, and another on April 3 in Oakland, California. These tragedies have caused me to question not only what could have triggered such actions by individuals, but also perhaps the more complicated problem of how these criminals continue to so easily acquire the deadly weaponry needed to carry out such events.

School shooting tragedies are events that should never have happened. Often, they are a terrifying example of when people fail to act to help one another, and especially fail to help those suffering from bullying. According to the 2007 MSNBC article “High school classmates say gunman was bullied,” the gunman responsible for the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, Seung-Hui Cho, was bullied throughout high school. One Goh, the alleged gunman in the recent shooting at Oikos University in Oakland, California, also claims to be a victim of bullying. Even as adults, both of these men were still deeply disturbed over the taunting they suffered.

As speculation continues over the exact motive behind Goh’s alleged rampage, it is clear that he was resentful and viciously angry over the abuse he had endured and sought to take out his anger on others. Although the loss of those seven individuals can never be atoned, perhaps students can still learn something from this tragedy in order to stop such history from repeating itself. If we as students can make a greater effort to curb bullying and to seek out those who are often targeted, by accepting and welcoming them into the larger community rather than acting as bystanders, we can be better equipped to stop these tragedies from happening.

Amid the debate and discussion over the bullying crisis in America, the documentary Bully works to shed light on the threat millions of students face every day at school as they are tormented by their peers. The film tells the story of one student, Ja’Meya Jackson, who, after suffering at the hands of bullies for months, brings a loaded handgun to school to threaten her tormentors, according to the official website for the movie. It is events that threaten even further violence such as this that cause me to pause over perhaps the even more complicated portion of this problem which is why are students and citizens at large so easily able to obtain firearms?

As individuals still growing and learning, teenagers— especially those who are dealing with traumatization— are in no way fit to handle a gun in any situation. Weapons such as these should not be available to young people in any way, whether it be from a mother’s closet such as Jackson, or swiped from an unassuming uncle such as T.J. Lane, the shooter in the Chardon High School shooting.

With each of these increasingly common school shootings I believe there are two real tragedies: the deaths of innocent individuals, and the fact that an unauthorized person has once again gotten ahold of a firearm. It continues to baffle me that there are not more effective ways of keeping these weapons out of the wrong hands. In order to truly stop these events, lawmakers need to tighten gun control laws, especially in our own home state. In Ohio, gun owners are not required to have a permit in order to purchase a gun, nor are they required to have firearm registration or an owner’s license, according to the Ohio Attorney General Website. Licensing and registration are only required in order to obtain a conceal and carry license. The training time required for a gun owner is also limited in the state to twelve hours, which is not nearly enough time for a person to truly understand the weight and danger of owning a dangerous weapon.

If these laws were to be tightened, making it significantly more difficult to own a gun in the first place, then it would significantly lessen the risk of unfit individuals obtaining firearms. By placing more restrictions on who can own a gun, unstable individuals­— such as those who committed the recent school tragedies— would not have been able to purchase or obtain a gun. Our state government should put a minimum age limit of 25 on the eligibility of owning a handgun, as well as bar those with mental illness from owning a gun of any kind. This would mean that guns would stay in the responsibility of stable adults, and be much less likely to find their way into the possession of people like those who committed these monstrous acts.

Every time the terrible words scroll across my television informing me of yet another tragedy, I am reminded of the desperate need for Americans to step in and end the bullying problem, and to stop the tormenting the moment they witness it, rather than acting as helpless bystanders. Furthermore, I see the demand for tighter gun control laws, in order to keep these weapons away from the dangerous hands of unstable individuals. Only when these two acts are accomplished will we stop seeing school shootings as all too common occurrences.