In many fields, mass shooting is defined as any incident in which more than four people are killed through the use of a firearm. According to Congress, a mass shooting is any incident that involves three or more cases of homicide. Mass shootings are common occurrences in many countries around the world. However, the US leads in the world for the highest number of mass shootings. Recently, 26 worshippers at a rural church in the state of Texas were killed in a case of mass shooting. After each tragedy, discussions on issues critical to the incident involve topics that range from mental health to gun violence. The high prevalence in the US makes mass shootings a serious social problem that needs hasty mitigation. Mass shootings have severe consequences in the United States because they affect both families and communities.
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Mass shootings are a serious problem in the united Sates and have raised debates on the never-ending discussion on gun control. Mass shootings are at the center of debates on gun laws in the US. As mentioned earlier, the United States leads the world in the prevalence of mass shootings, making them a serious social issue. Mass shootings have a serious effect on education as many of them have taken place in institutions of learning including high schools and colleges. A report released by the United States Department of Education showed that between 2013 and 2015, an average of two shootings took place in public schools across the country (Sarteschi 54). In 2007, 32 people were killed in the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia mass shooting, and five years later, 26 people were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting (Sarteschi 61). Education has been affected immensely by these mass shootings because of their effects on students, teachers, and support staff. Politically shootings are aimed at eliciting fear among citizens and destabilizing the government.
Mass shootings are a social problem because of their adverse effects on students, families, communities, and society in general. They have a negative effect on education as schools and colleges have become unsafe places for both teachers and students (Sarteschi 63). Some experts claim that they are as a result of mental illnesses while others argue that the perpetrators are fame seekers who aim to capitalize on the attention they receive from the media. Many of the perpetrators of mass shootings are victims of mental illness who have not received professional help (Gabor 45). In schools some perpetrators are usually mentally ill or victims of bullying. The ease of access to guns has been attributed as a potential cause of the widespread shootings.
Estimates show that there are more than 250,000 million guns in America against a population of about 320 million, which implies that there is almost one forearm for each American (Gabor 47). In many cases of school shootings, students said that they got the guns from their homes or their friends’ homes. Gun control has been a controversial issue because many policymakers argue that the current rise in mass shooting is largely due to the ease of access to guns by young people (Gaborn62). They argue that there is need for more stringent gun control laws in order to curb the high cases of mass shootings the US is experiencing. The desire for fame has been cited as another potential cause (Gabor 67). Cases of mass shooting are usually given a lot of attention by the media, and so, perpetrators try to outdo each other in subsequent incidents.
Effects on Education
Mass shootings affect the welfare of students, teachers and other staff members in ways that can have short-term and long-term consequences. Witnessing mass shooting inside a school can have severe emotional, psychological, and physical ramifications especially for children. Examples of psychological effects include nightmares, sleeping problems, and inability to concentrate.
Effects on Students
According to the American Psychological Association, witnessing a massacre can lower school performance, cause anxiety in children, and impact the quality of relationships among students and teachers. Some students might refrain from going to school and others might lose interest in activities they once found interesting (Beland and Kim 113). A survey conducted by Fox and Levin showed that grade nine enrolments and scores in English and mathematics declined in schools that were locations of shootings (76). A common effect of mass shootings among students is the development of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder primarily because many students decline to seek professional help after witnessing homicide. Moreover, the anxiety that is caused by the feeling of insecurity contributes to decreased school performance and lack of concentration in class (Beland and Kim 114). When children and adolescents are exposed to gun violence, they develop several problems that include feelings of anger, insomnia, and dissociation (Sarteschi 83). The incidence of mental health conditions increases. Research has shown that even secondhand experiences of gun violence can cause the aforementioned problems in children.
The trauma of experiencing mass murder alters the brain chemistry and development of children. Children are affected negatively by the gun-related crimes they experience in their communities and schools. Altering the optimal development of a child lowers performance and affects career aspirations negatively (Turner 42). Adolescents who feel unsafe due to mass shootings in their neighborhood spend a lot of their time finding safe routes to and from school than on their homework. Moreover, students whose family members have been victims of a mass shooting live in fear that the same might happen to them (Beland and Kim 116). In areas where mental health assistance is unavailable, victims of mass shootings are likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to numb their pain (Turner 53). Psychologists argue that declined school performance results from the effect of constant fear that affects creativity, curiosity, confidence, and decision-making.
Effects on Teachers and Support Staff
Teachers and school support staff are also victims of mass shootings and can also develop psychological problems such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. The feeling of insecurity elicits anxious reactions in teachers, and as a result, they become less productive. Cases of absenteeism, emotional instability, and seclusion are common effects of witnessing mass shootings among teachers (Fox and Levin 64). Teachers live in constant fear because they feel responsible for the safety of their students. In case of an incident, their students would look up to them for guidance and protection, and they would not have solutions to the problem.
In that regard, they are under pressure because of the responsibility of being their students’ protectors. Teachers also have to deal with the fear that one of their students could be a potential gunman. Instructors are supposed to protect and teach their students. However, the fear that engulfs them whenever they envision a mass shooting happening in their schools makes the fulfillment of these duties difficult. Moreover, teachers fear their students because many incidents of school shootings have been carried out by students. Many states are proposing laws that will arm teachers in order to enhance safety in schools. This proposal has been rejected by educators who argue that receiving tactical training will be viewed as a component of the teaching job. Teachers and support staff are dealing with the risk of dealing with students who have increased access to guns at home.
The conflict perspective is a sociological framework that views conflict as a normal component of social life. Adherents of this perspective argue that conflict is critical in the distribution of power and the progression of social change (Turner 57). It is a model that is sued to explain some of the occurrences that take place in society. The conflict perspective would look at mass shootings as a problem between the rich and the poor (Turner 57). In this case, the rich are the people who possess the resources that can offer assistance to individuals with mental disorders. The rich decide not to offer assistance. On the other hand, the poor are represented by people who are mentally ill and who cannot afford to seek professional mental health assistance. As a result, they seek help from the rich, who are unwilling to help them solve their problems. A conflict theorist would argue that the imbalance that emanates from the interaction between the rich and the poor is the major cause of mass shootings.
The functionalist perspective is a sociological framework that suggests that all aspects of a society work together to contribute to the stability and the proper functioning of the society. With regard to mass shootings, the functionalist perspective analyzes how such crimes provide functions that contribute toward the functioning of society (Turner 63). In that regard, mass shootings strengthen group cohesion, inspire social change, and reiterate the boundaries of right and wrong through the punishment awarded to criminals (Turner 64). In many societies, people usually come together to find solutions to social problems.
For instance, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, teachers, students, and other stakeholders in education came together to find solutions to the problem (Gabor 73). The country came together to mourn and commence the gun control discussion. Mass shootings have inspired social change because they have brought the public’s attention to issues such as gun control and mental health. Citizens have proposed changes such as background checks when purchasing guns, improved police training, and public sensitization regarding mental health (Gabor 95). Other changes that have been proposed include illegalization of assault weapons, tighter background checks, and reduction of the size of magazines. Bills aiming to enhance mental health have been proposed by senators in various states.
Mass shootings are a social problem in the United States because of the adverse effects they have on society: children, teachers, parents, and communities. The education system has been negatively affected as mass shootings in schools increase. Students who are victims and witnesses of massacre incidents experience anxiety, depression, and sleep problems. Teachers also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and ear students because many cases of shootings have been conducted by students. Schools have become unsafe places and performance among students has declined significantly. Students and teachers live in constant fear of a shooting incident happening in their schools. Witnessing mass shootings can have long-term psychological effects that can hinder the optimal development of children into healthy and responsible adults.
Beland, Louis-Philippe, and Dongwoo Kim. “The Effect of High School Shootings on Schools and Student Performance.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, vol. 38, no. 1, 2016, pp. 113-126.
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Fox, James A, and Jack Levin. Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder. SAGE Publications, 2014.
Gabor, Thomas. Confronting Gun Violence in America. Springer, 2016.
Sarteschi, Christine M. Mass and Serial Murder in America. Springer, 2016.
Turner, Jonathan H. Theoretical Sociology: A Concise Introduction to Twelve Sociological Theories. SAGE publications, 2013.