School shootings are not a new-found issue in society, although they have increased within the last three decades. The majority of school shootings, or mass shootings, are happening within the high-school age bracket. Student’s that have been victims of school shootings are begging for a change and to be heard. After a shooting takes place, outside individuals spend little time breaking down the shooter’s reason behind the attack and assessing their mental health history, instead blaming the issue on guns and weapons completely. Post-millennials are attempting to act the epidemic head on by assessing mental health history, gun violence in general, home-life, socio-economic status, and childhood development. School violence is not only influenced by bad children with bad intentions, the school shooting may have been their final cry for help.
Gun Violence and The Second Amendment
According the Cornell Law Studies Institute, the second amendment states, “”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.”” The Second Amendment of the constitution is one of the most misunderstood and confusing sentences in the history of America. The 27-word sentence has a partial collectivist ora while still maintaining the individualistic right to keep and bear arms. Before discussing the reasons behind gun violence, one must first understand The Second Amendment in its entirety. In the first phrase, the Amendment states a well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of free State…, meaning that the government regulated military has the right to bear arms in order to protect the individualistic ideals of an American. By the same token, the second part of the sentence states, ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. The connection between the two parts is what makes the conclusion of the Second Amendment so difficult. The first part takes a collectivist approach while the second takes an individualistic approach. In June of 2008, The District of Columbia ruled that the right to have a gun in your home for personal defense is legal. The right to bear arms is an ongoing battle, and differentiating the meaning behind self-defense and potential racial, sexist, or any other form of hate crime is becoming more and more of an issue. Students who engage in school violence were most likely predisposed to gun violence during early childhood and had access to weapons from an early age.
Mental Health Related to School Violence
Individuals who have had interactions with school violence tend to be the outcasts in their class or even unaccepted by their own families. People often conclude that because someone does an extreme act such as follow through with a school shooting, they had the intention of simply killing everyone. Although it is not justified to open fire unless it is due to self-defense, there is much more research that needs to be done on the shooter to identify what characteristics to look for in future troubled children. In most scenarios, incidents such as the Parkland High School shooting start out as an idea, if the idea is not stopped or the individual is not given a different outlet, they continue. Unfortunately, parents and caretakers seem to be oblivious to the fact that their child is crying out for help. Parents often see the actions of violence as rebellion and a phase, when in all actuality, it is a sign of depression and severe need for help. There are many steps that take place before the shooter shoots. There are many characteristics that are often ignored, which cause the individuals to continue planning their scheme. Anxiety is the main mental illness, representing 32 percent of 13-18-year-olds (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018). Depression follows closely behind affecting 13 percent of adolescents (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018). Mental health is not the only contributing factor to violence, socioeconomic status (SES) also plays a part in how the adolescent behaves. Adolescents with lower SES have little to no access to counseling or someone to talk to when feeling anxious or depressed. Not only does SES affect the lack of access to counseling, but the adolescent may worry constantly about not getting nutritious meals, bills not being paid, not having a home, not having a ride to school, and getting minimal attention from parents. According to the New York Times (2018), 40-45 million Americans are living below the poverty line, giving adolescents and care takers little access to guidance and counseling for those in need.
Social Cognitive Development in Adolescents
During the adolescent period, it is also essential to acknowledge to the brain development. There is a part of the brain named the amygdala, which controls frustration and anger. This portion of the brain forms early, contrarily the portion of the brain, the frontal lobe, that regulates how an individual reacts to anger develops later (Teen Brain: Behavior, Problem Solving, and Decision Making, 2016). Adolescents are also going through hormonal changes which can cause impulse decisions and emotional decisions. For example, the average age for puberty in the United States is 12 years old, during this time, children go through physical changes which can impact their self-image, also bullying is very common in the adolescent age range. Myelin sheath also increases during adolescence, strengthening the connectivity between nerves. The prefrontal lobe develops mostly during adolescence, which houses decision making, thinking about the future and planning. The incomplete development of the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex often raises the question of minors being charged as adults when committing the same crime. Some may argue that the brain is developed enough to make important decisions, while psychologists will disagree. Another important cognitive development principle to acknowledge is synaptic pruning. Synaptic pruning is cutting connections between neurons that are used less frequently. This could support the idea that habits made during teenage years will influence their decisions for the rest of their lives.