School Killers

David Grossman writes in his book On Combat:

Psychologist and FBI consultant, Dr. James McGee has conducted the most definitive profile of the school shooters, using extensive data collected from 17 cases. Dr. McGee calls these kids, “Classroom Avengers,” and his superb research has been extensively used by local, federal and international law enforcement organizations.

There are many myths about these killers. For example, some individuals claim they were all on Ritalin or Prozac, which is wrong. The truth is that very few, if any, of these school shooters was on these drugs when they committed their crimes. Dr. McGee says there is a lot of “bad” info out there, and even most of the media reports were wrong, based on rumor that cannot be refuted because the reporters do not have access to the juvenile offenders’ medical records. McGee had access to the FBI data in these cases, and he believes that one or possibly two of the school shooters was had been on antidepressants and one or two had been on Ritalin, but in most of cases they had been taken off those medications prior to committing their crimes. It may be useful to ask ourselves how many kids (and how many adults) would have committed violent crimes if they were not on powerful, modern antidepressants.

Very few, if any, of the school shooters were on medication, but according to the FBI, all of these Classroom Avengers did have something in common: All of them had refused to participate in any disciplined activity or sport, and all of them were obsessed with media violence.

Consider these facts. When they committed their crimes:

-None of the school shooters was in varsity sports.
-None of them had trained extensively in the strict discipline of a martial art. (One had
earned a yellow belt, the lowest rank which took only a few weeks, and after dabbling
briefly he dropped out.)
-None of the school killers was in Junior ROTC.
-None of them was a competitive shooter, a very demanding sport with draconian
punishments if you fire at the wrong time or in the wrong direction.
-None of the school killers had a hunting license, another activity that requires strict
discipline and adherence to the law. (Did you know that if you shoot at a deer from your
car, you would lose your car, your gun, your money, and your hunting license? For all you
golfers, what would happen if the first time you cheated, they took your clubs and your
cart, and banned you from golfing again? There wouldn’t be any golfers left! Such
draconian discipline and severe punishment is present in hunting because the activity
involves deadly weapons, and hunters wouldn’t have it any other way.)
-None of them had been avid paintball players, a demanding sport that requires
discipline, and one in which the player can get hurt. (You may note that paintball does
provide military quality conditioned reflexes and combat inoculation, but no one is
attacking this sport, nor should they. The entire medical community–AMA, APA, American
Academy of Pediatrics, and many others–has warned us about the health impact of
violent video games, but not one scholarly study has indicated that paintball is harmful
for kids. Again, discipline seems to be the safeguard.)

The video game industry is particularly incensed by this school shooter profile, and have gone to extreme levels to provide some exceptions. For example, they claim that the Columbine killers were reported to have gone bowling. Which is a pretty pathetic example, and I believe it simply proves the point if this is the best they can come up
with. The primary point to remember is that it is not me saying this about these killers. It is the FBI.

(It should be mentioned that there was one disciplined activity in which several of the school shooters did participate (although several of them later dropped out), and that was band. But no one is sure what to make of that. I am not taking a cheap shot at band, an excellent activity in which all three of my sons participated. This is a puzzle that many good people have examined with sincere concern, developing theories involving such
factors as the absence of discipline in some band programs, possible bullying in the band environment, and the non-athletic nature of this activity.)

With a few minor exceptions, none of the school shooters were willing to participate in disciplined, structured, adult led activities, but all of them were infatuated with media violence. In the end, the profile of the school killer is that of a sad, pathetic little kid who is obsessed with violent movies, TV, and/or video games, but who will not participate in an activity in which he might be hurt or have to submit to discipline. I am not necessarily recommending any of these activities for children, nor am I condemning them. But I am joining our medical community in stating that, from the perspective of my area of expertise in enabling killing in combat, the impact of violent TV, movies, and (most especially) video games on kids should be condemned. Like the AlQaida terrorist, or the kamikaze pilot, or the Nazi SS, these kids have immersed themselves in a sick culture, and they have convinced themselves that what they are doing is good, appropriate and necessary. The school shooters are all products of our sick culture, and those who immerse themselves in the sickest part of our sick culture have potential to be very sick indeed.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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