While we as a nation are again grieving over the senseless carnage of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, we are beset by pundits from all persuasions telling us who is to blame, what we should be doing and how bad we have become as a people. Looking back over the trail of bodies since Columbine, I have noticed something truly frightening: our kids are killing us.
Set aside the terrorist who strikes from an ideology or a disgruntled employee seeking revenge, many of those accounting for the body account are in their teens or twenties. Especially chilling are the school shooters who prey upon their peers.
There are obviously things we can do to deter or limit the amount of carnage from prohibiting assault rifles to ammunition but even the best gun-control advocate realizes that would not stop the determined killer.
Peter Langman is an expert on the mind of the younger shooter and paints a picture that is both enlightening and dark. He warns, “I think too often people are looking for the one thing that they can blame it on and there’s never just one thing.”
He details in this book ‘Why Kids Kill’ how there are three types of shooters for this age class. There are the psychopaths, the psychotics and the traumatized.
The traumatized we could at least understand. When Evan Ramsey walked into the Bethel Regional High School and shot two of his classmates with a 12-gauge shotgun, the only explanation he could offer was to “get people to leave me alone”.
Evan’s family was defined as highly unstable. His mother was a binge drinker and his first foster parent beat him with a bungee cord on a regular basis. He drifted from foster home to foster home till February of 2017 when he ‘decided to stand up for himself’. He chose to kill.
These children who kill can be predicted and even helped before they reach that critical decision. They usually come from the lower socioeconomic spectrum and between the financial distresses and family dysfunction, they reach a breaking point.
Most middle and high school counselors and principals can easily cite those in their enrollment that would fit in those categories. Dealing with those in need is another story. It will require interagency and governmental engagement to provide the resources to keep these kids from killing.
But it is not that dilemma that haunts me. These shooters account for 40% of the shootings but not the remaining 60%. The lion’s share is still out there going undetected and the frightening things is they are smart enough, rich enough and have the resources to execute the plans that may be years in the making.
Seun-Hi Cho was psychotic. He was 23 years old when he armed himself with two semi-automatic pistols and killed 32 people at the Virginia State University. He came from a successful family who had moved themselves from a basement apartment in Seoul to an upper-class neighborhood in Fairfax County, Virginia.
His parents made all the efforts to help him when he showed signs of distress even seeking professional help. Intellectually he was a capable student, but it was obvious that he was not adjusting well and showed flattened emotion.
Seun-Hi could have been seen if we had been looking but he was clinically functional and too easily dismissed as shy or introverted even by those closest to him.
Then there is Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of the infamous Columbine shooting that left 13 dead and 24 wounded. These were two psychopaths who came from ‘intact, well-functioning families’ who were a blend of narcissism, sadism, deception and the rejection of all morality and law. Eric wrote in his diary, ‘Morals are just another word’.
The only warning his classmates received prior to the shooting were the words ‘Ich bin Gott’ he penned in their class yearbooks. They translated, “I Am God”.
What is most damning for our society is that these children now have the internet and social media to connect to similar minds and resources which are more than willing to support and even encourage them.
We are caught in a perfect storm. In an age where individualism is supreme and a collective morality is suspect, we are giving birth to children who are destined to kill us. Consider the description of what happens to the young mind playing their favorite gangster game.
“As far as the media and the exposure to tremendously graphic violence, what we’re discovering is neuroscience is that we have mirror neurons and our brain literally thinks it’s in the screen. This desensitizes a person to life – not necessarily to violence but just the respect of life.”
Yes, we need parents to be parents and we can take measures to recognize the 40% whose trauma we can address but what escapes me is how we can protect ourselves from that bent young mind that is smart enough to plan, patient enough to wait and sick enough to exchange his twisted life for as many as he can.
What chills me is that they move below the radar. I cannot help but recall the scriptural warning of the apostle Peter.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)
Our enemy has chosen to kill us, and he is using the most diabolical means. Our children.
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