Typification of School Shootings
A recent school shooting in Winnenden, Germany by a 17 year old teen (Tim Kretschmer) left 15 people dead and many others shaken. Initial media reports focused on the teen’s psychological depression, use of violent computer games, and access to handguns as possible explanations. Investigators prematurely categorized Kretschmer as “a classic case of a conflicted young man who wreaked havoc in real life after savoring imaginary violence in the digital world.” The chief of police, Erwin Hetger of Baden-Württemberg, even goes as far as to say that “If we had known this in advance, we would have called him a prototype of a rampager.” As with all previous school shootings, this shooting renewed debates about tougher gun laws and banning violent video games for teens.
The framing of school shootings (most notably Rampage shootings) seems to be an extension of earlier public panics of increasing youth violence and delinquency in schools. These are inextricably linked to a notion of social failure and weakening values. The mass media plays an integral role in the framing of these events and over time, each subsequent event seems to be more akin to previous events; thus creating convenient and simple categories. Glenn W. Muschert discusses the Rashomon effect whereby observers of the same event construct differing and contradictory accounts. Muschert notes that the public perception of school shootings often diverge from sociological evidence. A more unified and multidisciplinary approach to understanding this phenomenon is very much warranted.