Mass shootings could be contagious

Five people have been killed and more than 20 people have been injured in 17 school related shootings across America so far this year. This has scientists looking for a link between these acts of violence.

In a study conducted by the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, published in the Public Library of Science, the violent act of school shootings as it relates to mass killings may be contagious. It is considered a contagion that is released when the media “glorifies” these shootings by providing them with such extensive coverage. According to the study “it plants the seeds of ideation in at-risk individuals to commit similar acts.”

Elizabeth Llamas, marriage and family therapist at Skyline College, agrees.

“There were a lot of copycat suicides in Palo Alto on the train tracks,” Llamas said, referencing the four suicides that occurred at the Palo Alto Caltrain station in 2009. “It does not mean they were high risk before. It depends on a susceptible population.”

Mary Muscari a forensic nurse at Bingham University in New York corroborates that statement by saying “Especially some of the younger ones- they want attention”.

With the use of social media, the coverage of a school shooting can go worldwide in seconds. The accused will be a household name and go down in history. Nothing is ever deleted from the internet. All of this media coverage allows at-risk individuals to have their moment of fame. There has been a school shooting in the United States every month except June and July this year, with an average of two weeks between each shooting, some having as few as 24 hours between them. According to the FBI, most of these acts stem from individuals going through a crisis that leaves them feeling helpless. They commit a final act before taking their lives. Does this mean that social media is the potential carrier of this disease?

“I don’t think social media is making shootings contagious per say, but they are definitely giving people their chance at their 15 seconds of fame,” student Anthony Leon said.

The Coalition For Safe Schools and Communities in San Mateo County put out in 2014 “The Big Five.” The Big Five is a set of immediate action and response guidelines. They are response techniques that are designed to cover a variety of disasters that may occur.

“In the event of a Violent Intruder on campus, quick thinking is imperative for survival,” The guidelines say. The following protocol is to escape/get off campus, hide/lockdown/barricade and fight as a last resort. Some feel that The Big Five is a start, but is not clear on how to deal with the threat of an assailant on campus. Mona Ching, assistant office assistant to veterans, says that for The Big Five to work, those implementing it need to be more accessible and more visible.

“The president can hand a paper,” Ching said. “ It doesn’t mean it’s going to get done.”

“We should be armed,” Skyline student Anzac Houchen said. “You don’t see gunmen attacking police stations. If we are armed then the risk of a shooting basically disappears.”

However, California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. While it is possible to conceal carry, it requires a lot of work compared to a state with laws like Texas.

Despite these feelings, Ching says she feels secure on campus.

“On this campus I feel very safe,” Ching said. “On the other campuses, when I go to move to other campuses, the evening classes will be very frightening”.

It is possible that both of these viewpoints are the reason that there has not been more occurrences of shootings at the three sister schools. The most recent incident took place at Skyline College in 2009 where a student was shot in the buttocks.

In the two worst shootings in American history, the accused shooters took their own lives before being apprehended by police. In April 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold both took their own lives after the killing 13 people and injuring more than 20 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. In the shooting that took place at Sandy Hook in Newton, Connecticut, 20 students and six adults were killed. Adam Lanza, the accused, shot himself in the head.