ERIC Number: EJ764701
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-May-4
Good Policy, Not Stories, Can Reduce Violence
Goss, Kristin A.
Chronicle of Higher Education, v53 n35 pB10 May 2007
When news broke April 16 of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, the question many horrified Americans most wanted to answer was, "Who was the shooter?" It's an urgent and understandable question, but one that rests on a dangerous assumption: that if everyone only knew more about the killer, then what he did would make sense--and everyone would know what to do to prevent such a thing from happening again. The assumption that everyone can make policy based on individual stories is dangerous because, for a variety of reasons, individual stories call everyone's attention to factors that make those cases unique, not factors that tie them together. What ties these massacres together is guns. In the immediate aftermath of the Virginia Tech killings, before the gunman was publicly named, speculation swirled about his identity and motives. He was rumored to be, alternately, a lone gunman with no known ties to the university; a jealous boyfriend seeking revenge on his girlfriend; a disgruntled former student seeking revenge against the university; or a Chinese national possibly bent on harming America. The following day everyone learned that the gunman was a troubled 23-year-old South Korean national who was also a resident student at Virginia Tech. Important as that information may be to law-enforcement officers piecing together the crime, it's hard to see how these details can help everyone frame meaningful policy to prevent further shootings. Understanding an assailant's motives or place in the social order tells everyone very little about what to do next. In this article, the author points out that individual stories of school violence should lead to framing policies that respond not only to individual events such as school violence but also to broader patterns such as mass shootings or gun violence in general.
Descriptors: History, Gun Control, Violence, College Students, Psychological Patterns, Emotional Disturbances, Public Policy, Prevention, Individualism
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Virginia
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A