Indiana Debates Gun Policies After School Shooting

Police say a boy opened fire with two handguns in a science classroom, wounding a teacher and another student. Gov. Eric Holcomb has begun to address the question that will almost certainly dominate next year’s legislative session: How do we prevent something like this from happening again?

The shooting at a middle school in Noblesville, In., last Friday rocked Indiana this week and will likely have lasting political ramifications, reports the Indianapolis Star. Police say a boy opened fire with two handguns in a science classroom, wounding a teacher and another student. During a press conference  that was supposed to highlight Indianapolis’ new direct flight to Paris and kick off the Indianapolis 500 weekend, Gov. Eric Holcomb instead began to address the question that will almost certainly dominate next year’s legislative session: How do we prevent something like this from happening again?

Holcomb argued that the state’s focus on school safety plans and resources is working. He said it played a key role in preventing additional carnage in Noblesville, though he declined to provide details. Democrats are clamoring for stronger laws to restrict access to guns. “Legislators must admit and take seriously that we have to keep guns out of our schools, and restrict access to deadly weapons by dangerous individuals. No child should go through something this traumatizing and it’s our job to stop it,” Indiana Senate Democrats said in a statement after the shooting. This month, Indiana’s Republican-dominated General Assembly held a one-day special session, and approved an additional $5 million in safety improvements grants and made $35 million available for school safety loans. The bill also required school safety audits and allowed schools to barricade doors for three minutes during a fire alarm to investigate an active shooter situation. Lawmakers have loosened gun restrictions in recent years, including a 2014 law that allowed guns in locked cars in school parking lots. After school shootings in Kentucky and Florida, lawmakers took a pass earlier this year on  jettisoning Indiana’s handgun carry licensing requirement.

from https://thecrimereport.org

How Columbine ‘Contagion’ Attracts Other School Shooters

The school-shooting copycat syndrome has steadily escalated in recent years. Young men, many of them depressed, alienated or mentally disturbed, are drawn to the Columbine subculture because they see it as a way to get the attention of a society that they believe bullies, ignores or misunderstands them.

The reasons why a teenage gunman shot his fellow students and teachers at Santa Fe, Tx., High School remain a mystery, but his model for carrying it out is clearer, reports the New York Times. The 17-year-old junior wore a black trench coat and fired a sawed-off shotgun, the same attire and weaponry used by the two gunmen who killed a dozen students and a teacher in 1999 at Colorado’s Columbine High School. He wore a T-shirt with the phrase “Born to Kill” on it in bold, similar to those worn by the Columbine attackers, which read “Wrath” and “Natural Selection.” His arsenal included canisters of carbon-dioxide gas and Molotov cocktails, two types of explosives used by the Columbine gunmen.

The school-shooting copycat syndrome has steadily escalated in recent years. Young men, many of them depressed, alienated or mentally disturbed, are drawn to the Columbine subculture because they see it as a way to get the attention of a society that they believe bullies, ignores or misunderstands them. “The phenomenon is feeding on itself,” said Peter Langman, a psychologist who runs the website SchoolShooters.info. “It’s gaining momentum, and the more there are, the more there will be.” Sue Klebold, the mother of a teenage gunman in Columbine, says, “I do believe there is a contagion.” The motivations that culminate in school shootings are more complex than simple copycat crimes. “Maybe he got the trench coat idea from Columbine, but not the will to kill,” said criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University. “Seeing someone else do something won’t take a perfectly happy individual and make him decide to pick up a gun and go shoot students.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Father of TX School Shooter Says He Was Bullied

Half of mass school shooters since 1990 had a history of being bullied, says the Wall Street Journal, but experts differ about whether bullying is a cause of school shootings.

As Santa Fe, Tx., searches for answers about a mass shooting by a 17-year-old student, an emotional debate has emerged over bullying at the high school where the rampage took place, reports the Wall Street Journal. The alleged shooter’s father, Antonios Pagourtzis, said his son—a quiet former football player known for wearing a trench coat—faced bullying and said he believed that was part of the trigger for the May 18 attack, which left 10 dead and 13 wounded. With students returning to school Tuesday for the first time since the shooting, some say bullying has long been a problem at this rural Texas town’s lone high school. Others don’t recall suspected shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis being picked on by his peers.

Grace Johnson, an 18-year-old senior who sat next to Pagourtzis each day, recalled him as always joking and “a pretty normal student.” Johnson doesn’t think bullying is pervasive at Santa Fe High School. In many mass school-shooting cases in which the accused is a student, allegations have surfaced that the shooter was bullied, but whether there is a clear link between the two issues is the subject of contention. An analysis by the Journal found that in 17 of 33 school-shooting cases since 1990 that resulted in at least three victims dead or injured, the accused shooters had a history of being bullied. Dr. Nadine Connell of the Center for Crime and Justice Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas said her research hasn’t shown a connection between bullying and mass school shootings. Some experts noted that kids are bullied without resorting to extreme violence like a mass shooting. John Nicoletti, a police psychologist who also works with schools, said  school shooters often feel a “perceived injustice” or feel victimized in some way.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Why Mass Shootings Happen Mostly in Small Towns

Of the 10 deadliest school shootings in the U.S., all but one took place in a town with fewer than 75,000 residents and the vast majority were in cities with fewer than 50,000 people. The pressures of living in small downs make it harder for disgruntled teens to adjust.

Mass school shootings are most likely to occur in small towns and suburbs, the Associated Press reports. The massacre that killed 10 people at a Texas high school last week was just the latest in a small or suburban city. Of the 10 deadliest school shootings in the U.S., all but one took place in a town with fewer than 75,000 residents and the vast majority were in cities with fewer than 50,000 people. These are places with low crime rates, good schools and a sense of community where everyone seems to know your name. It’s exactly those attributes that are why small rural and suburban towns are a breeding ground for school shooters. “Ironically it’s people in small towns and suburbia who think it can’t happen here. And that is exactly the type of place where it does happen,” said Peter Langman, a psychologist who maintains a database of school gun violence. “People tend to think of violence associated with cities, not violence associated with small-town America, but this type of violence is the one associated with small-town America.”

Factors include easy access to guns and the copycat effect of disturbed suburban and small-town teenagers emulating each other. There also are pressures of living in small towns that make it harder for disgruntled teenagers to adjust. “In small-town America, it’s said everybody knows everybody, and that’s well and good except when you don’t want everybody to know what’s going on with you,” said criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University. “If things are going downhill for you, you did something wrong or someone did something wrong to you and some girl dumps you, everybody knows. So it’s much harder to get away from it. Whereas in the big city, where no one knows your name, that can be a good thing … Being in a small town has its advantages in terms of a network and a sense of community but sometimes that can be a double-edged sword.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Focus on School Safety, Not Guns, in Santa Fe

No one in the Texas city where 10 died in a school shooting last Friday agree to meet with a gun control advocate. Gov. Greg Abbott holds a roundtable Tuesday on school security.

Days after a gunman killed 17 people in Parkland, Fl., gun control advocate Sandy Phillips traveled to the city and was encouraged when student survivors wanted to discuss the shooting and push measures to prevent similar incidents. The scene in Santa Fe, Tx., has been far different since she arrived Friday, reports USA Today. Phillips, whose daughter Jessica was killed in the Aurora, Co., theater shooting six years ago, said no one has agreed to meet with her. Few want to talk about the deadly rampage inside the Texas school that left 10 people dead and 13 injured, much less discuss ways to prevent shootings. “This has been starkly different from Parkland in so many ways,” said Phillips, who has visited nine mass shooting scenes in six years, offering support to survivors and victims’ families. “It’s almost jarring.”

The Santa Fe shooting has delivered a much more muted response to the gun debate. Gov. Greg Abbott will host roundtable discussions, beginning Tuesday, to find solutions to improve security at Texas schools, which will include parents, teachers, mass shooting survivors, legislators and groups that advocate for and against further gun regulations. “What law can you pass that stops someone who ignores the law?” said Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, the county’s top administrator. “We need to focus a lot more attention on mental health.” Police said shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, used a pump-action shotgun and a .38-caliber revolver that he got from his father. The fact that the guns were commonly owned weapons in Texas has made it trickier for gun control advocates to point to stricter gun laws to prevent shootings. Texas has some of the nation’s most gun-friendly laws, including the right to openly carry handguns in some places for law-abiding residents and no background checks required for private firearms sales.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Experts Don’t See Door Control as School Shooting Remedy

After the Santa Fe school shooting, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said there are too many entrances and exits at schools. Security experts say it would be too expensive and impractical to secure every door, and that focusing on earlier identification of potential shooters is more important.

Could doors be the culprit in school shootings? Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a gun-rights proponent, said after the Santa Fe High School shooting that “there are too many entrances and too many exits to our more than 8,000 campuses in Texas.” The remark became a talking point for supporters of gun control, a punchline about how Republicans would rather restrict doors than guns, the Washington Post reports. “Guns don’t kill people, doors do,” went the sarcastic recap of the implicit assumptions in Patrick’s comment. Three security experts discussed whether Patrick’s proposal had any merit. Scott Zimmerman of K17 Security in Rockville, Md., called redesigning buildings to be more secure a potential hurdle for budget-stretched public schools in aging buildings. “A lot of these doors are not built for security,” he said. “Weak locks and weak doors. If you’re going to compensate for that, that adds up very quickly.”

Ed Hinman of Gavin de Becker & Associates, a security consulting firm based in Los Angeles, was more supportive of limiting building entrances, but said “the biggest thing missing in active shooting training or physical security is it’s too reactive. There’s not a lot of focus on the early identification of someone  … who’s disgruntled, talking about firearms, making threats. And so much of the evidence shows that with these school shooters, there’s a lot of warning signs.” Arnette Heintze of Hillard Heinze in Chicago,  said of Santa Fe High School, “You can’t have one exit and entrance for 1,400 people. Then you create a killing field for someone.” He added, “I’d hate for America to … get distracted by feeling there is a failure in school security design … You can’t put armed guards at every school entrance in America; it’s not going to happen. It’s educating our society about those behaviors.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Texas School Shooter’s ‘Dark, Violent Fantasies’

Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a shaggy-haired, 17-year-old junior, was charged with killing 10 people and injuring many others at his high school in Santa Fe, a working class suburb 35 miles south of Houston. He posted a photo on Facebook of a “born to kill” T-shirt and wrote in a journal about shooting people and committing suicide.

The signs of dark, violent fantasies were ubiquitous in the social persona and private ramblings of Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a shaggy-haired, 17-year-old junior charged with killing nine classmates and a teacher’s aide and injuring many others at his high school in Santa Fe, a working class suburb 35 miles south of Houston, the Houston Chronicle reports. He posted a photo on Facebook of a “born to kill” T-shirt and wrote in a journal about shooting people and committing suicide. His Facebook cover photo comes from an album called “Dangerous Days” by a dystopian cyberpunk band called Pertubator with a track that took on a haunting quality: “Humans Are Such Easy Prey.”

The pathology behind his rampage may be studied for years. In the grim aftermath of another gruesome mass shooting, his rage-filled impulses could have signaled serious trouble, if only someone knew to take them seriously or pay attention in a social media world full of vitriolic impulses. In the clarity of hindsight, the clues seem to be there in every school massacre, said Ron Avi Astor, a school shooting expert at the University of Southern California. “On the whole, there are a series of things, it’s not just one thing. Things written on social media or diaries. Sometimes there are things written for classes. And almost always the student talks to other students or a teacher — and the group doesn’t quite know what to do with it.” Pagourtzis’ followed sites like daily.gunz, which features glamour shots of people holding firearms, on Instagram. He also posted a photo of a long, military-style “duster” on his now-defunct Facebook page. Pinned on the duster’s collar: the same red star medallion worn by Dylan Klebold, a shooter at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Eight Dead in Texas High School School Shooting

Eight people were killed by a gunman at Santa Fe High School south of Houston on Friday morning. The shooter was arrested.

A shooting at Santa Fe High School 30 minutes south of Houston on Friday morning has left eight people dead, the Houston Chronicle reports. A source said the gunman was a male. The shooter has been “arrested and secured,” said assistant principal Dr. Cris Richardson. One student told TV station KTRK she was inside the school at about 7:45 a.m. when fire alarms began sounding and students began leaving their classes. As they departed, she believed she heard shots being fired.

Officers in tactical gear have been deployed into the school. Richardson said he could not confirm whether there was more than one shooter. “We hope the worst is over,” he said.

from https://thecrimereport.org

IL School Resource Officer Disables Ex-Student Shooter

A police school resource officer is being lauded as a hero for intervening when a former student at Dixon, Il., High School opened fire Wednesday morning near the school gym where students were gathered for a graduation rehearsal. Officer Mark Dallas shot and injured the gunman.

A police school resource officer is being lauded as a hero for intervening when a former student at Dixon, Il., High School opened fire Wednesday morning near the school gym where students were gathered for a graduation rehearsal, the Chicago Tribune reports. Fifteen-year police veteran Mark Dallas shot and injured the gunman after the suspect fired at the officer while trying to flee, police said. The suspect, 19-year-old former student Matthew Milby, was taken into custody and no one else was injured in the gunfire exchange.

Authorities said the incident began about 8 a.m. when the suspect “fired several shots” near the gym. Dallas, who has worked as a school resource officer for five years, rushed to the area. He confronted the suspect, who then fled and with the officer in pursuit, fired several shots at Dallas but did not strike him, police Chief Steven Howell said. The officer returned fire and struck the suspect, who was then taken into custody, Howell said. “A lot of things went right today when a great many of them could have (gone) wrong,” Dixon Mayor Liandro Arellano Jr. said. “Things could have gone much worse.” A woman who identified herself as the gunman’s mother told reporters, “My son has been very, very sad for a long time.” She said her son was bullied and ostracized at school, and was beaten up in October.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Oregon Court Denies Appeal for School Shooter Kip Kinkel, Upholds 112-Year Term

With one dissent, the Oregon Supreme Court rejected Kip Kinkel’s argument that his sentence, amounting to life without parole, is unconstitutional because he committed his crimes as a juvenile. Kinkel, then 15, killed his parents and two high school classmates, wounding 25 others. The case could head to the Supreme Court.

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that a nearly 112-year prison sentence for high school shooter Kip Kinkel isn’t cruel and unusual punishment given the breadth and severity of his crimes, The Oregonian reports.

Kinkel was 15 when he killed his parents in their  home in 1998, then showed up the next day at Thurston High School in Springfield, Or., with three guns hidden in his trench coat. He killed two classmates and wounded 25 others, in what was considered the worst school shooting until the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

Kinkel, now 35, argued that his sentence amounts to a life term without parole and violates the Eighth Amendment because he committed his crimes when he was a juvenile. He argues that his sentence falls under the 2012 Supreme Court Miller v. Alabama  ruling that mandatory life sentences for two 14-year-old murder defendants were cruel and unusual punishment because of their age.

The 2012 decision has led to a re-evaluation of juvenile murder sentences across the nation. The Oregon Supreme Court was unpersuaded. The court said that Kinkel’s crimes reflected “irreparable corruption” rather than youthful immaturity that could change over time. It noted that Kinkel’s sentencing judge found that he had an incurable illness, either paranoid schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

The court couldn’t say Kinkel’s sentence was “constitutionally disproportionate,” given the number of people he killed and injured. Dissenting Justice James Egan said, “It is difficult to comprehend how petitioner’s youth at the time of his crimes, in combination with his mental disorder, did not affect the nature and gravity of his crimes.”

The Oregon Justice Resource Center, an advocacy group, agreed. Its director, Bobbin Singh, said, “The scientific evidence is clear: all young people have inherent potential to grow and change including those who have committed the most serious crimes.”

The case may now head to the Supreme Court, according to his lawyer, Portland attorney Andy Shimrin.

from https://thecrimereport.org