Mass murder here is defined as being committed by just one or two persons, as in the case of Columbine, Colorado, where 18 students were killed by two boys. It excludes such events as the Boston massacre and others. Primarily, the focus is on school shootings.
Most of these shootings occur in the United States, but they are found in Taiwan, Israel, Yemen, the Philippines, China, New Zealand and other countries. The first one occurred on October 19, 1923, at the Waikato School in New Zealand.
The attempts to stop the killings have included stricter gun laws, putting metal detectors at entrances to schools, putting armed officers inside the schools, arming the teachers, and in Colorado, Utah, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin college students with concealed carry permits are allowed to be armed on campus. And installing reinforced doors on classrooms is another proactive measure. Recently, several cases of students or parents hearing a boy making threats and reporting him has prevented an event. These measures are largely reactive, designed to stop a shooting in progress or about to happen. And, they are stop-gap measures like cold remedies that relieve the symptoms of colds but do not address the cause of the problem. Eliminating the cause or causes of the shootings is the best way to stop them.
The motives for school shootings are mental illness (24%), family dysfunction, lack of family supervision, bullying, persecution of, and threats to the shooter by other students (79%), and revenge (61%). They are an attempt to solve a problem 34 percent of the time, and they are an attempt to gain attention and recognition in 24 percent of the shootings. Multiple reasons are listed for 54 percent of the cases. Suicide is also listed as a primary reason. Overall, the shooter’s motivation is usually to correct perceived injustices committed against him. That is, in almost all cases the shooter has felt that he has been treated unfairly by other students and school employees, including teachers. The boy who was stopped from committing a shooting by a coach said he didn’t really want to hurt anyone, but nobody paid any attention to him.
The other students and teachers could have prevented the killings in most situations simply by treating the perpetrator kindly, by treating him decently and as an equal. And, Christian students are in the best position to prevent the shootings. Jesus almost always treated people fairly and with respect except in a few instances like His overturning the money changers’ tables at the temple. He said that it wasn’t the well people He came to help, but the sick. Healthy people, He said, do not need a doctor. And, this is true of teenagers today. They have more stress and emotional and psychological problems than in the past. If Christian highschool students would pay attention to those students who are ostracized by others it’s possible that they would prevent a tragedy without even knowing it. The Columbine shooters told students they liked to leave the building.
Listening to the outcasts and helping them overcome the problems they have that cause others to pick on them could possibly stop that person from becoming violent and also help the boys to become better persons. Anger is the primary emotion behind mass murder. It is a secondary emotion, a defense mechanism to cure other emotional problems. Treating others well and helping them removes the reason for the anger.
The Bible addresses anger in several places, such as never letting the sun go down on your anger. Anger is not in itself a sin. God becomes angry at mankind’s disobedience and obstinacy. God cannot sin, therefore the emotion itself is not sinful. It is the misdirection of anger that is sinful. Righteous anger at injustices has caused many people to start ministries and nonprofit organizations dedicated to correcting problems. That anger is not sinful. It is beneficial. Sinful anger is forbidden by God. Jesus said not to leave a gift at the temple alter without first reconciling yourself with anyone who was angry with you (Matthew 5:23). And we should not be unjustly angry with others: “You have heard it said by them of old time, you shall not commit murder; and whoever murders shall be in danger of the judgement. But I say to you, that whoever is angry with others without [ a righteous cause] is in danger of judgement. And whoever says to another, ‘You fool’ is in danger of judgement” Matthew 5:21-25).
Sinful anger is a characteristic of fools (Proverbs 12:16). Everyone-and certainly myself- is included here at one time or another. Paul wrote, “avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath, for it is written, ‘Vengence is Mine. I will repay’, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). We are to do good to those who despitefully use and mistreat us, because that heaps coals on their heads. It puts the injustice back on them and shows them up for what they are.
Forgiving others does not mean condoning wrongful actions. Forgiveness is not harboring resentment and anger at another. Holding on to our anger only hurts us both emotionally and physically in the form of high blood pressure, ulcers, and other physical and emotional ills. It is counterpro- ductive, helping those who dislike us.
The best way to stop school shootings, then, is for other students, teachers, and school employees to teach the down-trodden students how to redirect their feelings into positive actions. They can show the persecuted students how they can help those persecuting them to become better people, and thereby become better people themselves. And in doing so, Christian students and school employees may very well stop violence without even knowing it. Simple acts of kindness and paying attention to the less popular students can save lives.
Parents and school employees should set the examples, to be the standard of conduct God expects of His people. This isn’t easy because it goes against human nature. We all have a negative bias in our makeup. This is partly a self-preservation instinct that helps us notice danger. More often it is the fallen nature we inherited from Adam and Eve that the devil uses to misdirect us into making bad situations worse. Don’t give in to your old fallen nature, but rather nurture your new nature in Christ, and help others to do so as well.
Helping outcast students to constructively use their feelings to make themselves and others better people is the most effective way to lead them to Christ. It shows them how biblical living based on Christ’s teachings is the only method of living that works in all situations. And, the best time to start is right now.