“It’s my fault! Not my parents, not my brothers, not my friends, not my favorite bands, not computer games, not the media; it’s mine.”
Those words were taken from Eric Harris’ diary. In 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had an 18-year old friend purchase two shotguns and a carbine for them. They then killed 13 and injured 21 during their massacre at Columbine High School. Harris has been dead now for 18 years, but the ideas he embodies and the tragedy that it led to is still terribly relevant today.
It’s true that the nation already had too much experience with mass killings, with the likes of the Unabomber and the Oklahoma City bombing in the 20th century, but none scarred the nation quite like the Columbine High School massacre.
The perpetrators weren’t crazed idealists or disillusioned veterans; they were high school kids. Unfortunately, the 21st century has shown that these seemingly “normal” people are the ones to watch out for. All led normal lives; all committed heinous acts.
Similar events include a Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho, who legally bought two handguns online, shipped them to his dorm on campus and killed 32 people.
Adam Lanza stole guns from his mother before shooting her and heading to Sandy Hook Elementary, where 20 children were killed. Experts still continue to debate the motive.
These words are important because America has been the victim of another tragedy in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual. Almost 500 people were injured during the almost 10 minutes of shooting by Stephen Paddock.
Paddock is being described as a generous man, never violent, no run-ins with the law. However, it’s reported that Paddock was an alcoholic with a Valium prescription. Law enforcement is continuing to investigate for a possible motive, but with what little information is available now, it is clear that Paddock is another in a long line of mentally unstable individuals with the means to commit atrocities.
What’s more shocking than how easy it was for these shooters to obtain weapons is the warning signs that were ignored. Harris posted open threats of bombing his high school on his website, and Lanza became a recluse, obsessed with mass shootings in the final years of his life.
Nothing tops Seung-Hui Cho, however. Cho was hospitalized in 2005, with the physician stating that Cho was “an imminent danger to himself or others,” and was issued court-ordered mental health treatment, which he did not pursue. Despite this, under Virginia state laws he was still legally able to purchase two handguns and magazines.
There is over 300 million people living in the United States today. Coincidentally, there is also an estimated 300 million guns in the United States as well. That is one gun for every person. The majority of people in this world will not use these tools for evil. Hunting, firing ranges, self-defense are what most of these weapons will be used for. On the contrary, there is an unknown number of individuals battling depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental health issues.
The only way to end these acts is to take away the means and address the underlying issue. If America wants to see the end of these horrible tragedies, we first have to take away easy access to efficient killing machines and then as a nation, discuss mental illness and what may happen to the worst of those never treated.