Just like you know why Parkland happened, and why Sandy Hook happened, and Virginia Tech and Columbine. There is a pattern to all of these shootings and no one else will acknowledge it. They’re all young, they’re all men, and they all show up at school with a gun and unleash hell. This is how it happens.
Start with a young man who isn’t doing well in school, either socially or academically. Schools expect boys to learn the way girls do. Boys fall behind because the system is designed that way. But nobody talks about it, so you take the kid to the doctor, who prescribes something. The drug may or may not actually fix any underlying problem, but it’ll tranquilize the boy enough to get him through a school day. Some kids really do have conditions like ADHD. They get the right medication, and they become success stories.
Other kids get pumped full of pills they don’t need beginning at a very young age. Here are 36 instances of violence in schools committed by people taking mental health drugs. This means they saw a doctor, and the doctor gave them something that made their mental health worse instead of better.
If the kid continues to struggle with his peers, you might address the root cause, or you might excuse it. “Well, his grades are improving.” “Well, he’s just a loner.” “He’s getting bullied.” Maybe you’re right! But you don’t want to admit to yourself that this is more than just an awkward spell. He’ll grow out of it, right? Maybe.
When the boy reaches the early teen years, he’ll start acting out. You’ll write off as many red flags as you can, because “at the core, he’s a good kid.” No, he has the potential to be a good kid. But he’s not acting like one. You control the problem as best you can with discipline, but you’re only treating the symptoms and not the illness.
His teachers know something’s up. But what can they do? No teacher can flag something to a parent or the school without risking the ire of both. The teacher’s job is on the line, and plus, she doesn’t have any concrete proof besides a gut feeling and a few strange behaviors. The teacher sees 125 kids every day, and purely based on numbers, some of them are going to be weirdos.
So, this kid gets ready to graduate into a world where he has no skills. A high school diploma used to actually mean something – now, it means you showed up and took the tests. This kid hates school, so why bother with college? The kid has no hope, and maybe he’s tried to medicate that pain away with more drugs, legal or not. The goal of every opioid addict is to dull the pain – to numb themselves from physical or emotional suffering. (I’m no doctor, but ask any addict you know – and it’s an epidemic, so the odds are good that you know one.) When he hasn’t felt good in forever, blames the outside world, and sees no chance at a happy future, he starts planning.
The kid does the most masculine thing he can think of, because nobody taught him how to be a man. He decides that his last act on earth will be loading a gun and inflicting his pain on where most of it originated – in school. He thinks this is masculinity, but it’s just pure hatred. School never had room for healthy aggression, so this kid has no clue what it means to fight like a man or challenge something like a man. Sit quietly. Make peace. No pushing and shoving. If someone hits you, you can’t hit back. He never had any interest in sports (not that that’s necessarily wrong, but he’s been robbed of the chance to be physical and compete – another way he might have learned healthy masculinity). So all those years of pent-up aggression come out in the least healthy way possible: Through the barrel of a gun.
So how does he get the gun? Maybe he has turned 18 and has no criminal record. Remember, this is a good kid at the core! Despite all the evidence to the contrary! Maybe he buys it illegally. Maybe he steals it from a parent so ignorant they leave their guns accessible to their deeply disturbed son. That’s the final, lethal mistake. The shooting is the last and worst symptom of a deeply ill young man who feels lost, and then inflicts his sense of hatred and confusion on other families by killing their kids.
These shooters are the symptom of an epidemic. Millions more boys are being mistreated by a system that is destroying American men, and even though they would never consider mass murder, they also never get a chance to really thrive. Take this pill. Take this test. Then in 13 years, we’ll hand you a diploma and at that moment we expect you to magically become an adult man (because we’re sure as hell not teaching you how to be one).
Most kids who go through this won’t end up committing murder. There is a tiny, deadly minority of these boys who have, and who will continue unless something changes. One of these shooters is too many. And that’s why we need to talk about it.