No more Thoughts and Prayers: Change needed to stop school shootings


Staff Editorial

Three people were injured in a shooting at Olathe East High School on Friday, Mar. 4, a school mere 30 minutes from Piper. It happened around 10:30 AM, and news quickly spread. 

Reactions were mixed. Some people were scared, some thought it was a joke. But, this situation was very real, and it served as a reminder: We still aren’t safe in our schools. Whether it’s close to home, three doors down from us, or across the country, gun violence is and will continue to be an issue in public schools unless something is done to stop them.

Students deserve more than just “thoughts and prayers.” We need policy and change to fix this issue. Gun control needs to be strengthened, mental health needs to be prioritized, and when a shooting does happen, the media needs to know when to stop.

The most important factor in stopping school shootings is gun control. Guns are used as weapons just as often as they are tools, and they are lethal with or without intent. However, most states in the U.S. still have them readily available for purchase, with little to no restrictions on the buying or selling of them.

The first thing that the U.S. needs to do on this is enact stricter restrictions on who can own a gun, and what it takes to get one. Teenagers should not be able to own firearms, nor should people with a history of violent crimes. There should be a process including proper education, training, and a mental health screening prior to signing paperwork on any firearm. 

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, knowing the warning signs of gun violence can help reverse that trend. Taking that a step further, a solid screening policy can ensure those who wish to harm others do not even get ahold of a firearm in the first place. 

On top of restrictions, there needs to be renewed focus in congress on closing gun show loopholes, which allow weapons to be sold without any restriction since they are privatized sales. Guns sold at gun shows, online, and private dealings have no way to be tracked and would undermine any new restrictions in place. With these loopholes around, those with the intent to harm people will still be able to legally obtain firearms.

The shooter in the Oxford High School shooting on Nov. 30, 2021, was given the gun he used only days before the shooting. It was bought online by his parents during a Black Friday sale. Since it was done online, there was no way to even confirm the identity of the purchaser, let alone ensure they are free of any violent crimes or other cautionary details. 

Finally, the US government needs to stop taking money from interest groups and lobbyists. Politicians in congress and the white house cannot clearly see the bloodshed when their eyes are covered by hundred-dollar bills. It is sickening that material wealth lining the pockets of politicians is more important than the lives of children. The point of the Government is to protect its people, not its conglomerates. 

It is important to note that none of these restrictions affect law-abiding citizens. Proponents of Pro-gun lobbies claim that gun control only takes the gun away from the “good guy” or a person acting in self-defense. Nothing in these regulations would affect adults who are in good standing with the law and mentally able to handle the responsibility of owning a weapon. 

However, gun control is not the only thing necessary to prevent school shootings. Even with tighter restrictions and strong gun laws, there will still be cases where people obtain firearms illegally. While it will help prevent shootings, gun laws are not the end all be all to stop this bloodshed.

Collectively, mental health also needs to take much higher precedence in schools today. Research shows that the majority of school shootings happen around the most stressful months of the school year. December, February, and May are some of the most stressful times for high schoolers. They are also some of the worst months in terms of gun violence during school. 

A lot of schools are struggling with counseling services. Especially in a rapidly-growing district like Piper, it’s difficult for counselors to ensure that every students’ needs are being met. Especially in times of crisis, there must be someone there to talk and get students the help they need.    

Having people there to talk to students will alert adults to potential problems before they escalate. In most school shootings, there are visible warning signs present. students are withdrawn, they do not get along well with peers, and are often outcasts in the school.

This is not to say every student who is an outcast will become a school shooter. Plenty of students are simply introverted but those who have ideations about committing a mass shooting do behave differently. They have a fascination with things like fear, or death. Often, they are social outcasts because of how they behave or treat other students. 

Something heard a lot after shootings are people, mostly adults who do not work in the schools, talking about how the perpetrator probably lashed out due to emotions from being bullied. While no one is claiming that this never happens, if you talk to students, especially high schoolers, you will hear a different story.

A lot of the time a high schooler with aspirations to shoot up a school will be the bully. They pick on other kids and often make people feel unsafe or uncomfortable. To claim that the issue presented is bullying not only disenfranchises the kids actually being bullied but also paints the shooter as a tragic victim instead of what they really are: a mass murderer.  

In fact most of the time, bullying happens to what is sociologically defined as the “other”. These are the kids who do not fit into the norm, mostly because they are the minority. Bullying most often happens to queer kids, disabled kids, black kids and kids of color, and other minority groups. However, research shows that the vast majority of school shooters are straight, white men. 

Many kids in school get bullied and they don’t idolize killing their peers. Even if bullying was the issue, it would be something the counselors take care of. But being bullied is never a justification to take multiple students’ lives. School shootings happen because of much deeper, complex issues that need to be faced head-on by a team of doctors, not students. 

This is why counseling is so important. Students who behave this way need to be sent to the counselors, not the principal. While they might not be able to get a full read on the student, it is evident that something is wrong and that they are making others feel unsafe. Once that is recognized, the counselors can work with whoever is needed to get the student help before they do something atrocious. 

Even outside of the scope of in-school terrorism, this is beneficial. It allows for “problem students” to receive the resources they need to get back on track so they may become successful later in life. It saves the other students in the classroom from having to worry as much. Both children benefit from this. It is unfair to force any student to have to sit in a classroom with someone who they feel mortally threatened by and it is equally unfair to watch a student terrorize their peers without getting them the help they need. 

Lastly, to stop school shootings, we need to stop idolizing shooters. Society, and often the mass media, treat people who commit atrocities like little troubled celebrities. There are people on social media who think that the Columbine shooters were hot, and fantasize about dating them. Many others do the same for serial murderers and rapists. 

But that isn’t the only way these killers get the spotlight. We as a society are infatuated with knowing everything about them. In Nov. 2021, when there was a shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan, the whole nation knew the name “Ethan Crumbly”. This murderer had his name on a silver spotlight for months as he was arrested, tried, and now serves his sentence. This is not okay. 

The publicity we give shootings is wholly insensitive to victims trying to heal. Not only that, it gives potential shooters another motive: Fame and Attention. Because the world knows the name and face of Nikolas Cruz. The world knows who Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are. 

When you google a shooting, on the sidebar, there is an informational graphic. It includes pictures, a brief summary, and then statistics about the weapon used and how many people died. But the first statistic tab lists out the perpetrator. It’s one of the first things you see- who killed these people. But it shouldn’t be. 

While obviously, names will be on court documents and police files, they don’t need to be plastered everywhere. There is a very noticeable ripple effect when it comes to shootings.

A major shooting happens, it’s publicized nationwide. The next week, all over there are attempted shootings, lockdowns, and threats all over the nation. Following what happened at Oxford in Nov. 2021, Piper High School was on soft lockdown for half a school day because a suspended student had made threats. 

Giving those who commit atrocities the spotlight for their actions inspires other, equally sick people to do the same. If we want to prevent school shootings, we should keep the news of the event local, controlled, and factual. The statistics can still be registered and the record kept so that the public is in the know about how many school shootings happen, but there is no need to paint a murderer in any light- good or bad. 

Because at the end of the day, regardless of how troubled they were at home, or who hurt them, these perpetrators still killed children. They still took families apart, scarred peers for life, and destroyed futures. And that is completely abhorrent, regardless of what they were going through. 

School shootings are something students have learned to live with. We have become jaded, the words “thoughts and prayers” etched into our minds with one violent event after another. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If we work for real, feasible change, then someday we won’t need bulletproof backpacks. With a change of policy, philosophy, and media involvement, we can help prevent school shootings and make a safer world for us, our children, and future generations beyond.