The best weapon against school shootings

Posted on: 08/15/19 9:10 AM | by Jonathan McKee

When July came to a close there had been 22 school shootings to date in 2019, and that’s just school shootings. That doesn’t include Dayton, El Paso, Gilroy, Brooklyn, or Mississippi… all mass shootings in the last month. That’s over 2,000 mass shootings since Sandy hook, killing over 2,400, wounding over 9,000… leaving us wondering, are the only safe places in the US Wyoming and North Dakota?

Some people love to debate the cause behind the shootings. I chuckle at my wording: “the cause”… if it were only that simple.

When I was researching school shootings for my fiction book, Bystanders, about a teen who was pushed over the tipping point, (many of you might even recall when my character Brett is scrolling through his computer researching and learning from past school shootings the day before he gunned down his classmates) I noticed three ingredients prominent in most school shootings. Most shooters had at least two of these influencing factors:

  1. Mental illness
  2. Bad home life
  3. Severely bullied

Think of the iconic Columbine killer Eric Harris.

  1. Most experts think him a sociopath
  2. His military dad was known to be very hard on him
  3. He was bullied consistently, especially by the “white hats” at the school

I love it when people try to tell me that bullying isn’t a factor in school shootings. I’ve got two words for you: Dylan Klebold. Yes, the second Columbine shooter.

  1. All his teachers and classmates say he was as sane as could be. No sign of mental illness or any lack of empathy.
  2. His home life seemed very stable. He looked at colleges with his family just a weekend prior to the shooting.
  3. But bullied big time!

Go down the list. You’ll see these factors present again and again. Like Nicholas Cruz, the Parkland shooter in Florida. Classmates said, “That kid gets bullied a lot.”

Alex Hribal, Franklin Regional High. Same thing.

The list is endless.

So what can we do? How can parents, teachers and youth workers respond?

The Best Weapon
Let me tell you where it starts: prayer.

I know, I know…some might call that cliche’ or even dismissive. “Since we can’t do anything, let’s just pray.” Nothing is further from the truth. Prayer makes a huge difference. Prayer changes us.

God doesn’t need our prayers, we do. Prayer not only gives us an opportunity to come to our creator and submit to him asking him, “Thy will be done,” it helps us keep a proper perspective.

Imagine a family who commits to pray for their kids’ campus together. Mom, Dad and kids praying together for hurting kids, asking God, “Fill me with your love so that it overflows to others I encounter on campus tomorrow.” Imagine the empathy that is kindled when young people purposely pray for others, “thinking about others needs instead of their own.” (Phil 2)

I really love what has done, sending simple text reminders and prayer guides (in fact, they are kicking off their Day of Prayer e-Event on 9/18/19…a FREE e-Event mobilizing students to pray for their schools).

It’s interesting… I’ve done probably 30 interviews in the last year about bullying prevention, written two books and trained teachers on the subject (trained a group of teachers in St. Louis just last week)… and the one “word” I probably keep running across more than ANY other word that mental health professionals use when talking about bullying prevention:


I used the word probably 5 different times in a radio interview today on the subject.

In a world full of digital hurt, a world where self esteem is at an all time low and empathy is shrinking rapidly…we need to help young people empathize for others, considering others’ needs greater than their own.

How can we help young people to pause and consider others’ needs?

How can we help young people connect with God and draw strength from Him?

No better place to begin this than prayer.

Don’t underestimate the power of prayer.

5 Replies to “The best weapon against school shootings”

  1. Highlighting mental illness as a contributing factor to mass shootings is dangerously misleading and irresponsible. This incorrect information continues to perpetuate stigma against people who do have mental illness. Research consistently shows that those with mental illness are NOT more likely to commit mass shootings or acts of violence using firearms (except toward themselves via suicide), but this post misleads the public. As a Christian and as a clinical child & adolescent psychologist immersed in the research and clinical work, I feel responsible for speaking up, something I have never done in response to these posts.

    1. Nick, just so you know, my typical comments about school shootings have to do with the influence of bullying. But one thing I’ve learned is that whenever I talk about the influence of bullying, OTHERS always argue, “it’s not bullying, other influences like mental illness are much more prevalent factors.” It’s almost tiring how often I hear that (I say tiring because they often argue that’s it’s NOT bullying, when I’ve seen the evidence first hand). But yes, sadly, when you research school shooters and mass killers, many of them do have a history of mental illness. I haven’t heard people say, “Watch out for those with mental illness- they are going to shoot you!” That would indeed be irresponsible. But when a shooter has a history of mental illness, citing that fact isn’t irresponsible…it’s just citing a fact. Sorry that you find that misleading.

  2. Have you read “A Mother’s Reckoning” by Sue Klebold? A fascinating read on Columbine from his mother’s perspective.

    In this book, she does say she believe he had hidden depression.

    Thanks for all you are doing! It matters!

    1. Yes… also saw her interviewed on 20/20 and she talked about that. I actually quoted her in my bullying book as she talked about times where SHE thought he was doing great, but later in his journal she found he was struggling with his identity. I think what she was observing was some of the same stuff that many “bullied” teens go through: self=esteem issues, am I liked?, who am I? I don’t think anyone who spent time with him before would have said he had “mental health” issues… but after? My point, constant bullying (and hanging out with the wrong friends) have a HUGE influence. Hope that helps.

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