Dismissing False Narratives of School Shootings

Hayley C. Stefan

In his 2013 essay, "Guns," veteran horror fiction writer Stephen King tackled the real fear of mass shootings in US schools. "Guns" enumerates public reaction to school shootings in 22 steps, from the initial “Breaking News” reports to final attempts at gun regulation in victims’ names. Media compare perpetrators, weapons, and events, eventually returning to but never answering the repeated question, “How could we have prevented this?” While politicians reach stalemates trying to regulate gun violence legally, the public uses the growing history of previous shootings to make a case for mental illness as a cause. But, as numerous studies indicate, mental distress and violence are not directly linked, and adolescents who report mental distress—nearly one-quarter of all adolescents in the United States—are overwhelmingly unlikely to be violent. Rather than thinking of all mass shooters as mentally ill, we should analyze what has led us to pathologize so many of our children as potential school shooters and think differently about how to protect them and ourselves from gun violence in the United States.

Premium Content For:
  • Current ABA Member
  • Young Lawyers Division
Join - Now