The Virginia Tech Massacre changed the way people look at college campuses (CNN.com, 2007). It is no longer considered as a perpetually safe haven for young students who can go there and never think of anything else except classes, teachers, and classmates.
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The peace of mind that parents use to have when they drop their children to school was shattered. Parents now worry what will happen to their children the moment they step out of the house to go to school. It is unthinkable to imagine that murderers are present in the campuses.
But school shootings have become a common occurrence. There is a need to stop this deadly carnage. It is time to make schools safe once again. The appropriate response is effective gun control policies in college campuses. But there are still so many loopholes because this is a nation that considers it an individual right to carry firearms. The question therefore remains: How to study the evolution of gun control policies in college campuses in order to develop more effective gun control policies in the future?
This sociological question can be answered using the principles that can be gleaned from studying the sociological theories of Max Webber. For this particular study it would be helpful if the focus is on Webber’s idea regarding the utilization of historical data in order to predict what will happen in the future.
This is a good starting point because there is a desperate need to understand the way students think and behave. This is the only way that the community, the local government in tandem with parents and school officials can create an effective gun control policy in order to prevent students from bringing guns into school premises.
Webber’s framework of understanding human behavior can be understood by studying his methods and an overview of his methods will reveal that he is a student of history. It can therefore be argued that a careful analysis of what preceded the campus shootings in the past decades will give clues on what can be done to solve this dilemma.
It is important not only to study the events that transpired in the United States but even shootings that occurred in other countries. The information will be collated and then the researchers must determine if there is a pattern that links these various incidents involving students going berserk and using handguns to kill fellow students and teachers.
|The methodology can be simple at first and can be enhanced further as data come in and researchers are able to make sense of the quality of information that they are receiving. The basic requirement is to create some sort of a database that will gather all pertinent information.
The most crucial piece of information that researchers must focus on would be the age, gender, ethnic background, religion, and economic status. The next level of information that must be gathered is the social background of the students. The researchers must take a closer look at their parents, their siblings, and the community where they lived. The next level is to probe even deeper into the shooter’s personal history and no stone must be left unturned and this means gathering information even with regards to their grandparents and relatives.
The next step is to determine the social life of the shooter. There is a need to find out who are there friends, interests, hobbies, and if they belong to a particular group. It is important to know if they have membership in a particular gang. It is also important to know if they have mental problems and what type of drugs they are using. Finally, it is imperative to find out more about their health if they are sick and if they are taking medication that has known side effects.
The next step is to determine how they were able to acquire weapons. This comes in two stages. The first stage is the physical acquisition of the weapon meaning if they bought it then what are the pertinent information related to gun purchase, easy access to handguns, and how they are able to conceal when they bring it to school. If they stole it from their parents then it must be determined the level of negligence needed for a student to steal weapons or use it without the parents ever knowing.
In this regard it is also important to find out if they belong to family of gun enthusiasts. It would be of great help if researchers are able to find out if the parents exposed their children to firearms as a sport or if they taught them about how to handle firearms for safety purposes. It is also important to know if the parents or one of the parents have membership in a gun club. The purpose of this investigation is to find out why the student is adept at handling firearms and how was he able to learn how to do it.
The next type of information that must be collated is with regards to the level of mental and emotional distress that the shooter went through before they went past the point of no return and began shooting the students and teachers. There is a need to figure out what triggered the event.
There is also a need to know the kind of assistance and help that was made available to them. If they reached out to their parents then it must be determined what kind of response was given. If they reached out to school official or fellow students then it is also imperative to figure out what was the result of that interaction – if they brushed him off or if they pointed them to specialists who can help them cope with their problem.
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If at the end of the investigation the researchers are made aware of a pattern that the shooters were bullied or ridiculed by their classmates or even their teachers then there is a need to study the phenomenon of bullying in classrooms. It is important to understand how serious it was and why it has such an impact and convincing the student that there are is no other recourse but to kill.
This methodology will provide researchers needed information to predict the probability of an event happening. If Max Webber will be given the task to formulate an effective gun control policy then it is very possible that he would use the same techniques of gathering pertinent information in order for him to see the pattern of human behavior in any given area.
If these steps were applied to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University there will be several pieces of information that will be hard to miss. It will be discovered that in the state of Virginia American citizens can legally purchase firearms as long as they have proof of residency; if they can pass an immediate automated background check; answer a questionnaire; and if they are 13 years old and above (Burtinshaw, 2007, p.1).
A quick glance at these facts will suggest that it is relatively easy to purchase handguns. But there is more. If a college student from Virginia Tech desires to buy a second hand weapon at a gun show, there is no required waiting period, not even a background check (Burtinshaw, 2007, p.1). This means that the only thing needed is for a highly dysfunctional student to buy a handgun and mayhem will ensure because apparently, in Virginia it is easy to arm a madman.
In order to develop more effective gun control policies it is not enough to gather information and attempt to predict the tell-tale signs that a student or teacher is about to draw a gun and begin shooting people. It is also important to understand the institutions within the campus that can hinder or promote new policies that will come out from the sociological research.
If this principle is applied to Virginia Tech then it will be discovered that the university does not allow their students to carry firearms (Burtinshaw, 2007, p.1). Nevertheless, one former student, Seung-Hi Cho was able to carry handguns inside the campus and murdered in cold blood more than 30 people (Burtinshaw, 2007, p.1). There is a need to find out what kind of obstacles will be encountered if the university will install metal detectors. There is a need to understand how the university works.
The sociology principles espoused by Max Webber is a good framework to use in understanding human behavior. This is especially true when it comes to his idea that a historical approach will allow researchers to predict future behavior.
When applied to the question regarding how to improve current college gun control policies it was discovered that researchers must gather pertinent information regarding college campus shootings in recent history and collate with regards to the shooters as well as the circumstances surrounding the incident. In this way the researchers can have a fair idea on what to expect and they can in turn make suggestions on how to improve current policies.
Burtinshaw, Justin. College Shootings and Gun Control. Suite101.com. 24 Apr 2007. Web.
CNN.com. Massacre at Virginia Tech. 2007. CNN International. Web. <http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2007/virginiatech.shootings/>