What Changed?

gun racks for pickup trucks carrying rifle in pickup truck in nh archive northeastshooters model
image source: www.fisolazio.info

In 1980, I was 16 years old attending Mitchell County High School. When I pulled into the high school student parking lot in my 1973 Chevy El Camino, I parked beside Ford F150s and Chevy C10s.In the back windows of those pickups were gun racks holding Remington shotguns for dove and quail hunting, .22 rifles for squirrel and rabbit hunting, 30-30 and 30-06 rifles for deer hunting. Many days there was a shotgun behind the seat of the El Camino and a five gallon bucket in the passenger side floorboard with 3 boxes of shotguns shells. We often set in a deer stand before school. As soon as school was dismissed, many of us headed to the fields and the woods. When  I walked down the hall, most of the guys had a leather sheath on their belts which held a lock blade knife for skinning what we shot so we could have it for dinner. If the pop top broke off on a Coke can before it opened the can, those knives were handy for remedying the problem.

I do not recall anyone brandishing a weapon in class. There were no mass shootings in high school or during college. So I am struggling to understand what has changed. There were no gun vaults in homes. Most families had a wooden cabinet with a glass door in the front that held all of their rifles and shotguns. Since that time, locking trigger guards have been developed and sold widely.Heavy gun vaults have been marketed and widely sold. Schools are now gun and knife free zones. By every stretch of the imagination, students should be safer now than we were in the 1980s. But on the contrary, we have seen a rise in school shootings. What has changed?

Several things have happened since 1980 that may have influenced the situation we now see before us. The first was the deinstitutionalizing the mentally ill.

 "In 1955, there were 558,239 severely mentally ill patients in the nation's public psychiatric hospitals. In 1994, this number had been reduced by 486,620 patients, to 71,619." (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/asylums/special/excerpt.html)

So where did they go? When the closed the state mental hospital in Georgia, they simply released the residents onto the streets.

"Thus deinstitutionalization has helped create the mental illness crisis by discharging people from public psychiatric hospitals without ensuring that they received the medication and rehabilitation services necessary for them to live successfully in the community. Deinstitutionalization further exacerbated the situation because, once the public psychiatric beds had been closed, they were not available for people who later became mentally ill, and this situation continues up to the present. Consequently, approximately 2.2 million severely mentally ill people do not receive any psychiatric treatment." (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/asylums/special/excerpt.html)

Video games came on the market. Without naming titles, suffice it to say that there are a number of games that romance stealing automobiles,running from the police, and shooting anyone that gets in your way. A majority of titles dominate the gaming scene with first person shooter roles providing active shooter simulation.

Respect for adults, authority, and human life has decreased in the last 30 years. Disciplining children has been frowned upon and allowing children to "speak their mind" and "question authority" has been wildly encouraged.

Are these the reasons behind the increase in mass school violence? I don't know. But I am perplexed that 30 years ago, the amount of weapons that were on school campuses across the country were significantly higher and mass shootings were significantly lower.

Something changed.

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