Copy-Cat Killers

  Last Wednesday, March 7, Charles Andrew Williams, fifteen, was arraigned after witnesses claimed he killed two people and wounded thirteen others in the Santee, California, school shooting. Then, within two days, eight new cases erupted in schools nationwide! Gunfire erupted in the lunchroom of Bishop Neumann High School, a Catholic school in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and a girl was arrested. In Twentynine Palms, California, police arrested two students and seized a rifle. Later, police arrested a seventeen-year-old junior at Western High School in Las Vegas for carrying a high- powered handgun. At Elmhurst High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a sixteen-year-old was taken into custody after police found a semi-automatic in his school locker. And police arrested two teens in Perris, California, for threatening violence. In city after city, school violence is sending shock waves through the nation. Police made students open lockers and walk through metal detectors after they discovered a threatening note in a teacher's mailbox at Bryant High School, in Arkansas. A student carrying a gun was arrested at Kentwood High School in Covington, Washington. And teachers found a threatening message on a restroom wall in Slidell, Louisiana. Many students stayed home the following day. "[W]hat we're beginning to see is what we call a contagion effect related to the school shooting in California," says Jim Copple of the National Crime Prevention Council. What we're looking at, he suggests, is a string of copy-cat killers! But how is this possible? Since the Columbine shooting in April 1991, there have been twenty-two shootings in America's schools! In just two years, thirty-nine kids have died! Jim Axelrod of CBN News reports, "Children are increasingly the victims and perpetrators in America's highest-profile shootings." And Jim Copple adds, "The culture is beginning to normalize around this. And we dare not accept it." He's right. But I have to ask: Doesn't anyone see that this is precisely where today's value-neutral schools and culture have brought us? Amidst the cries for tougher gun laws, surely somebody must see that there's a bigger issue here. The root problem, of course, is sin. We're seeing a lack of individual responsibility and a failure to cultivate conscience. Conscience, remember, is cultivated by the most basic structure of society, the family. Discipline is learned in families, but too many American families have failed. Just look at the statistics. Even in the toughest ghettoes, only 10 percent of kids from intact families get into trouble; but 90 percent of those from broken families do. Unless we rebuild families, school shootings may well become the norm. Even in middle-class homes -- a subject I'll talk more about tomorrow -- kids don't get proper discipline. They don't consider themselves part of a family but rather of a separate teenage culture. And that's a real problem. To build discernment in young people, we have to love them, take an interest in them, teach them that their lives have meaning, and teach them right from wrong. That's how change happens, not by laws from outside but by a change of heart, from the inside. For further reference: "Another School Shooting." Associated Press, 7 March 2001. "Students Gather Outside the School." Associated Press, 7 March 2001.   "Threats All Over." Associated Press, 7 March 2001.


Chuck Colson


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