Bang Bang

Arapahoe County High School

Arapahoe County High School

Karl Halverson Pierson. That’s the name of the 18-year old senior who opened fire yesterday in a high school in Centennial Colorado in Arapahoe County. Pierson reportedly was targeting his ex-debate team coach. However, he shot another student and then himself.

My intent is not to give anybody notoriety nor is my intent to add my voice to those who have so much to say about yet another shooting in locations that are supposed to serve the purpose of helping to build and develop our children into the adults they are to become.

My comments are most likely not going to be met with a lot of cheering and approval from my readers, so let me apologize in advance to any of my readers who may feel offended by anything I say. My intent is not to offend, just to observe and state what I believe based on what I observe.

I am going to try extra hard to pose questions to ponder rather than to make statements just to make sure it is not incorrectly interpreted that I am faulting anybody or making any accusations directed toward anybody.

Ironically, today is exactly one year that the horrific shooting in Newton Connecticut, killing 20 young children and six adults occurred in the Sandy Hook Elementary school.

Sandy Hook Elementary School

Sandy Hook Elementary School

20-year old Adam Lanza shot his way through the elementary school after killing his mother earlier that morning. Just recently, the findings on Lanza verified that he was somewhat obsessed with the 1999 Colubine school massacre in Littleton, Colorado in which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed a teacher and 12 students before shooting themselves.

We all know what they had and did in common when they died; but what about how they lived? That is the question that keeps going around in my head. What did these troubled boys have in common? What might we as adults look for, that can tell us how to possibly see the warning signs or potential warning signs and maybe prevent the next shooting from happening?

Age is clearly something the shooters had in common, ranging from the ages of 18 through 20. It makes one wonder if there isn’t a particular point and time in a young man’s life when he may be more prone to act out in violence like this? I know as a foster mom who ends up getting teenage boys, I am very aware that these ages seem to be the ones that keep reappearing.

Obsession with video games or other behaviors of violence is another common thread. We had a young man here in our home earlier this year. He was 15 years old and he was absolutely fascinated and obsessed with the details of the Boston Marathon shooting when it occurred. I couldn’t get on the phone and contact his caseworker fast enough, especially when he expressed intense anger over relatively small disturbances.

Anger issues are another warning sign. Many people get angry, but this type of anger is more of a ‘misplaced’ type of anger – where you can clearly see (even if the young man is not able to) that the degree of anger far outweighs the cause. Again, what I am suggesting here is that there be a very obvious imbalance between the amount of anger and the event that causes it.

In all the cases of the shootings listed above, there were previous outbursts of anger displayed – some disruptive behaviors and or some indication that the young man was living a troubled existence of some type even though they may not have looked like it to outsiders.

Yes, all cases report that the boys were ‘bullied’ or didn’t fit in however, that is so generic in today’s schools it is more than likely not a reliable common thread. However, if we look closer at the way the child processes the feelings brought on by being an outsider or by being bullied, we may be onto something.

Breakdown of the Family

Breakdown of the Family

In quite a few instances, families were split up by divorce or in cases where mom’s (almost always due to finances) had worked outside the home and the young man found other places to occupy himself; many times alone and isolated.

I remember talk about the break down of family and family values in the news years ago. Some people made jokes about it when politicians addressed it as a societal issue. However, here we are, watching children who don’t turn to their parents, parents who have too much else going on in their lives (sometimes, being purely overwhelmed with the need to survive and pay next month’s rent,) to connect with their children in a way where they can get to know what they are really thinking.

And the result? Well, who knows how many other names and victims will be added to this list next year?

Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!


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