Weapons and Violence in Schools
Caleb Bowman and Ryan Wells
Poverty & Prejudice: Gangs of All Colors

Everyday guns are responsible for killing and destroying lives across America. The killings vary from self-defense, accidents, to murders. Now guns are becoming a large problem in the schools of America. In the last three years gun control has become a more important issue due to obtaining guns and bringing them to school. The first incident to cause commotion about children and guns in schools was in 1996, when Barry Loutkaitis, a fourteen-year-old student from Moses Lake, Washington killed one teacher, two students, and wounded another student. His murder weapon was a.30-30. Cal. Rifle which he got from home. Following this incident was eight more children from ages of eleven to eighteen that committed murders in various schools across the country. The most recent gun violence in school was by a boy in Georgia who came into school with a.22 cal. Rifle. He was unsuccessful in killing anyone, but six students were wounded. This was only a month after one of the worst school massacres ever, which occurred in Littleton, Colorado. This incident resulted in thirteen deaths and twenty-three wounded. The weapons obtained by all nine of these young men in the eight incidents were obtained from someone that they knew. In four incidents the guns were stolen from home, one incident the guns were bought for them, one incident the guns were stolen from a neighbor, and in the other incident the weapon was stolen from relatives. The concern of society is how to stop guns from getting into the hands of children and then entering schools. Guns are sold in various places and are very easy to obtain. Recently, the first modest gun-control law in five years was passed. "A Democrat-backed measure to impose restrictions on firearm sales at gun shows had been given new momentum by news of another school shooting that morning..."1 This quote shows that the recent gun violence in schools, most notably Littleton are responsible for the concern for gun-control. The law calls for backgrounds searches of the customer buying the gun; but is this the way to stop guns from getting into the hands of children? The most ideal solution is to teach the dangers of guns, because it is a very difficult to prevent anyone from getting a gun in today's society if they really want one. For years guns and problems with them entering schools were seen as problems of the inner-city schools. For years inner city schools have benefited from their fear of gun violence in their schools.

"We are paying for our prosperity in ways difficult to quantify. Inner cities have actually learned better how to prevent violence at schools, if only out of fear. The Los Angeles district has not had to deal with a serious shooting incident since 1984. In the entire city of San Francisco, which has half a dozen programs designed to identify students early who may be prone to violence, only two kids brought guns to school last year."2


Since the urban schools are becoming statistics in the murders by students with guns, people are starting to recognize that the gun control methods need to be modified. Schools of America seem to have the attitude or hope that the gun problem does not enter their school. While hoping for the problem to not enter their school, they ignore the possibility that they are just as capable of becoming the next school to become a victim of gun violence. Is gun control a problem for the police, a problem of the government and lawmakers, or a problem of U.S. families? No one can seem to pinpoint a solution--but as we as a society keep searching--children are getting guns and committing violent acts. For this problem to be dealt with effectively it will take all of these groups working together. In the remaining portion of the paper there will be a discussion of methods to stop the guns from entering schools. Also personal experiences of gun control in schools, current ways that people are trying to control gun selling and buying, and also proposals to stop guns from being used for the wrong purposes. All of this research is in an attempt to reach a possible conclusion for the abolition of gun violence in schools.

In Middletown High School, in Middletown, Ohio, gun control is not a big concern. This is problematic because no schools are immune to gun violence. For example, there was an incident in 1995 that caused some consideration for gun control. In 1995 there was a fight that escalated into a riot. Concluding the riot a student pulled out a gun and waved it in the air. Following the incident school officials took measures to prevent other weapons from entering the school. Such measures were: forcing students to enter school through one entrance and leave through one exit, no backpacks, no coats, and there was hall security on each floor that roamed the halls to prevent students from entering and exiting with leisure. Also cameras were installed in the parking lot as a form of intimidation for students trying to sneak in and out of school, and also to catch those that successfully exit and enter school at the prohibited times. Another form of intimidation was the large repercussions that come with violating rules, such as expulsion or long-term suspension. The preventive measures taken to keep guns out of school were effective. Months after the riot these preventive measures were stopped, leaving ample opportunity for guns and violence

Sandpoint, Idaho is a small town with a population of six to seven thousand people. There is only one public high school in our school district and there is no private high school. Due to the fact that there was only one high school there was a wide variety of people that attended the school. The people in school ranged from lower class families to high-class families. There was also not much variation in race with the large majority or the people in the community being Caucasian.

In elementary school there was never a threat of violence besides the typical fistfight. We never had to worry about guns or bombs at school; in fact we were quite unaware of the threat. This is very typical for elementary schools in the United States. It is very unusual for there to be a bomb threat or to have an elementary school student bring a gun to school.

In middle school the threat of weapons in school had grown somewhat. There was also only one middle school in our school district. This meant that we all were around new people and in a new environment. In middle school there were a few threats to the safety of my classmates and myself. The most common weapons that were brought to school were knives. There was never a bomb or gun brought to school while I was enrolled there. In the few instances where knives were brought to school there was never an injury or even near injury. The weapon was luckily always found before an incident could take place. A student would usually bring the knife to school and end up showing people that he had it. Others around that individual would usually notify a teacher or principle. This would result in the weapon being taken away and the parents of the individual would be called into the school. I believe that the reason that students brought knives into the middle school was so they could get attention. They probably were making an effort to look cool or to find a way to be noticed. When I was in the eighth grade I was involved in an incident involving a knife at school. I showed up one morning and was hanging out at my locker before the bell rang to go to class. A kid with a locker next to me showed me a knife that he had brought to school that day. I can remember thinking how scary it was to know that someone with a locker right next to me could bring a knife into school without any problem. I didn't want to tell a teacher that he had the knife because then people would think that they could not trust me. Later that day someone else must have told the authorities about the knife. The kid that brought the knife was suspended for a week and put on probation. This incident that I just described was the typical threat that we faced in middle school. At the time I believed that the punishment that these kids received was quiet sufficient. Now looking back I realize that I do not feel the same. I think that the penalties for bringing weapons to should have been mush stricter and less forgiving.

In high school the threat of having weapons on school grounds was much higher. As I went through high school I never really felt threatened personally but I always knew that there was a possibility that someone could get hurt badly. There were numerous times when knives were found and confiscated from school. In my four years in high school there were only one or two bomb threats. I do not think that these threats were ever taken seriously. The students were never released from school or evacuated ~m the school. The threats were more than likely simply students that were trying to get out of school for a day. Bombs were never a problem at school while I was in attendance. However, there were a few instances when guns were brought to school. None of these instances ended up as a tragedy. Most of the guns that were brought to school were brought with no purpose to cause harm. Many guys would bring their hunting rifles to school with them during hunting season. Eventhough, the guns were not brought to school in an effort to shoot someone they still should not have been there. It is a scary thought that someone could just go out to their car and get a gun if they wanted to. Although the school had a no tolerance policy toward guns this would still go on. The school had a parking lot attendant that was employed to enforce the policies of the school. He would need probable cause to search cars for guns and as a result he never really had an effect of students bringing guns to school. There were a couple instances when guns were brought into the school. Both the times this happened the guns were found while left in lockers. Someone else had seen the gun and notified the authorities. When this happened the people that had brought the guns were expelled immediately. Even though there were some weapons being brought to school I feel that the school system that I went through was safer than most schools.

In the last month my school has experienced the biggest threat to the safety of the students then it has ever faced. This threat took place shortly after the tragic event that took place in Columbine High School. About two weeks after the tragic events at Columbine, bomb threats began being made on my school. The threats were taken seriously and the students were out of school for a week. The police investigated the bomb threats and found them to be real. Three freshmen from the school were involved in the bomb threats. The police found homemade bombs in one of the kids' house. All three of the kids involved were expelled from the school immediately. They are still awaiting their sentence from the county court system. This threat to my school along with the rash of violence in other schools throughout the United States led to changes in my school. My school has made most of the changes that we discuss later in the paper.

The rash of violence that is going through the schools all around the country has left everyone looking for answers. It is obvious that this problem can not be solved by one group or by passing one law. This problem is one that can only be dealt with if everyone is willing to make an effort. This means that parents, lawmakers, communities and the schools all need to take action in order to remedy the problem. Right now there are changes being made all around the country in an effort to avoid the same tragic events that schools such as Columbine and Heritage High have experienced over the last couple of months.

Most schools are making changes in an effort to avoid violence. Schools are looking for ways to make it more difficult for students to bring weapons onto school grounds. In an effort to discourage weapons in schools metal detectors are being installed in schools thoughout the country. The majority of schools are also adopting policies such as locking all entrances to the school except one. The idea behind this is that to bring a weapon into the school one would need to go through metal detectors and security.

Another action that many schools are taking is to go to a closed campus setting. By doing this the schools do not allow students to leave school grounds after arriving until school is over. This would make it so students could not leave school grounds to acquire a weapon during school.

The next policy that many schools are considering is that of dress codes. Many schools are afraid that students that resemble the "Trench Coat Moffia" of Columbine High will strike in their schools. Students that wear long coats or baggy clothing have an opportunity to conceal weapons without anyone knowing. Many schools are looking into the possibility of required uniforms in their schools. There is also the possibility of schools letting students choose their dress but at the same time making them meet set guidelines. These guidelines would eliminate baggy clothing and would require students to tuck their shirts into their pants. By doing this it would be much more difficult to bring a gun into a school unnoticed.

Backpacks are causing a problem to school security as well. They make it much easier for students to bring weapons onto school grounds undetected. In many schools backpacks are being banned. Banning backpacks does cause a problem to students when they need to take materials home for homework. Schools are countering this problem by giving all students a set of textbooks for home and a set of textbooks for at school. By doing this students no longer have a need to take things to and from school. This is a good idea~ it makes it harder for students to bring weapons to school.

Another measure that schools are looking into is the banning of locker use in schools. This would make it impossible for a student to hide a weapon brought to school. Eliminating the use of lockers would deter students from bring weapons into the school.

A major change in most schools is the increase in security. Many schools that had never had security guards are getting them now, in the wake of the recent shootings in schools. Schools that have had security guards are also adding additional guards. The government is helping schools to increase their security.

Today I'm pleased to announce the first of the grants funding these community police will be awarded to 336 schools and communities to help hire more than 600 police officers. Like their counterparts on the streets, these school officers will work closely with the citizens they serve -- with students, teachers and parents -- to improve campus security, to counsel troubled youth, to mediate conflicts before they escalate into violence. (Al Gore).

These security guards that the government is funding along with the security guards that individual school districts are hiring should have a positive impact on schools. The increased security should discourage students from trying to bring weapons to school. If students know that there are people looking for weapons they will think to themselves that they might get caught. This will help to discourage students from making the potentially tragic decision of bring a weapon to school.

It is key that parents and the communities put forth an effort along with the efforts that the schools are making to ensure student safety. Parents need to let their children know what the difference is between right and wrong. They need to make it an issue to teach their children not to lash out at others. Communities can also help prevent violence in schools. Communities need to provide safe activities to students as an alternative to other activities. By having these new opportunities students who feel left out will be able to make friends more easily. The combination of parents, communities and schools making an effort to provide a safe environment in schools should make a positive difference.

There are many measures being taken in order to prevent guns from entering the wrong hands. There was recently a law passed, ordering background checks in order for a gun to be purchased. This law can be effective to prevent guns from entering into the hands of psychopaths or people with criminal backgrounds. But this law will help keep guns out of the hands of children and from entering schools. People with good backgrounds like parents or neighbors can get guns--consequently making them available for their children-which are the sources that provided weapons for recent gun violence in schools like Pearl, Mississippi and Georgia. Another concern of the American society is if automatic weapons should be sold. I am against the selling of automatic weapons. The second amendment states that man has the right to bear arms. This amendment was most likely written under the assumption that man has to possess a firearm either for the purpose of hunting or the purpose of protection. What purpose can an automatic weapon serve? A deer shot with an automatic weapon would not be very good to eat. Also what level of protection would one need an automatic weapon that a nine-millimeter would not be sufficient for. Along with automatic weapons there is a concern with the selling of armor piercing bullets and other ammunition capable of mass destruction. What need does someone have for armor piercing bullets? Ordinarily, a robber is not going to attempt to rob your house wearing an armor suit. The availability and possession of these kind of ammunition and weapons give the average man equal or more power than most police weapons. Which is obviously dangerous to society, considering those who are supposed to protect and serve are overpowered.

Aside from the gun control and other measures being taken to prevent gun violence in schools, the problems exist in the home.

The story always ends up back at home: we're looking across the

table at our kids, at their friends, at the kids down the street, and in

their class at school, and wondering which ones are in pain and what can be done to help them, which ones think their lives are falling apart and are capable of tearing ours up as well. I'm so scared said the boy with gun, and so are we.3

The pain of many children is going unnoticed, and they are resulting to gun violence to receive attention. Consequently, the gun-violence they result to earns them the attention they yearn for. For example, T.J. Solomon of Georgia shot at the ground attempting to kill no one. He also chose to use a much less powerful gun than he had accessed to. These are two reasons supporting that he did not want to commit a massacre, he just wanted attention. What is the cause for children resorting to gun violence? In the eight cases discussed earlier they all possess a few things in common. All children had some kind of mental disorder. From depression, hyperactivity and aggressiveness, to extreme sensitivity, but there is no ideal type of person who committed the crimes. For example T.J. Solomon of Georgia was a pleasant fifteen-year old boy scout, which is completely different from the demented mind of Eric Harris of Littleton, Colorado.

There are also many sources of entertainment being blamed for the influencing the murders. Music such as Tupac Shakur and Marilyn Manson, are being blamed because of their explicit lyrics discussing murder and violence. Movies such as Basketball Diaries, which actually show a student shooting up his classroom, are also being blamed. This movie is what Michael Carneal from West Paducah, Kentucky, mocked his school killing after.

When the movie Money Train came out a few years ago, with a scene of flammable liquid being squirted into a New York City token booth and set on fire, real-life robbers duplicated the act and badly burned a token clerk. After the movie The Burning Bed aired in 1984, with Farrah Fawcett playing a battered wife who set her ex-husband on fire, a viewer in Milwaukee poured gasoline on his wife and burned her to death.4

These movies are more examples of the influences children are receiving to murder or commit violence. Another source of entertainment being contributed to children and gun violence is video games. Some examples of video games being blamed are Duke Nukem and Doom. These are very violent, graphic, and are capable of desensitizing the minds of children from the exposure to reckless, rapid gunfire and mass bloodshed. The media is also a possible influence for children to commit gun violence. The media can not resist the resting they receive from an incident such as Littleton. "A survey last week by the Pew Charitable Trust found that the Littleton shooting is one of the most closely followed stories of the decade,"(Special Report). Also we as society yearn to hear new such as the Littleton. Because of the large amount of coverage of the gun violence issue in schools students are attempting to copycat the incidents to demand the attention they yearn for. The gun violence children are developing in a routine way of escaping their problems.

When did children start wanting to kill over relationship problems? Childhood is a time where children should enjoying life and concentrate on school, it should not filled with deep depression, whether it is due to family or personal problems. Parents need to become more involved in the lives of children of today.

There is surely a connection between the fact that parents spend 40% less time with their kids now than thirty years ago, and the violence that some of them commit, (Routine).

Parents need to be aware of their children's' psychological state. They should become alarmed if their children have bomb recipes or paraphernalia in their rooms. Is the solution of gun control and violence in the hands of the families of today's society? The government constructing laws and police and schools and collaborating to keep schools safe can all be steps toward stopping gun violence from entering schools, but if a child is determined enough he/she will succeed. It can only be a combination of efforts from parents, schools, law enforcement and lawmakers that will solve the problem of weapons and violence in schools.



1 James Carney and John F. Dickerson. Time May 31, 1999. Poiftical Gunplay.

2 John Cloud. Time May 31, 1999. Just A Routine School Shooting. Subsequently cited as Routine.

3 Nancy Gibbs. Time May 31, 1999. Special Report. Subsequently cited as Special Report.

4 Adam Cohen. Time May 31, 1999. Criminals as Copycats.

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