An investigation by the US newspaper The Washington Post indicated that despite the closure of thousands of educational institutions during the pandemic, the United States has recorded 14 school shootings during school hours since January this year, the most high in this period for at least 22 years.
“Apart from the dead and injured, children who witness gun violence or who hide behind locked doors to hide from it can be deeply traumatized,” the newspaper writes. The US government does not have a database for school shootings.
From the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado – where in 1999 two students killed 13 people – the newspaper analyzed nearly 300 incidents. Data revealed that more than 256,000 children have been exposed to gun violence in schools across the country since then.
According to experts, it is difficult to determine what caused the increase in incidents in the first half of this year. For Peter Langman, an American author and psychologist specializing in school shootings, it is still too early to determine whether this phenomenon is a trend or an anomaly, and the different criteria used by researchers to quantify this data make the work difficult.
“It could be something related to Covid. The children, previously confined, are now going back to school, but we don’t know, ”Langman told Folha. “It’s complicated to count these incidents, and then when you compare one database to another, you see different numbers.”
For John Donohue 3rd, professor of law at Stanford University, the increase indicated by the Washington Post database is not surprising, but consistent with the current situation in the country.
He told Folha that increasing insecurity and fear during the pandemic has led to an increase in shootings in general. In addition, protests by the Black Lives Matter movement over the past year have led to a decrease in law enforcement, and the combination of the two factors has led to more people buying guns.
There is a gun culture in the United States, the professor said, nurtured by members of the Republican Party and the National Rifle Association (NRA) for their own benefit. Bringing fear and insecurity into the population sells more weapons and brings more voice to the party.
“Nothing promotes the sale of arms or votes to Republicans more than terrorizing Americans with crime, so this is calculated to promote fear,” he said.
“Then when millions of people buy guns crime really goes up, which greatly benefits the gun lobby because they can say ‘look, this is getting really out of hand, you better buy yours. also. “”
In April of last year, the NRA sued New York State for failing to view gun stores as an essential service during the pandemic. Four months later, a judge closed the case, saying the association did not have enough arguments to ensure the prosecution continued.
In the United States, states can prevent city officials from creating regulations on a particular problem through so-called “preventive laws.” When it comes to gun control, the country currently has more preventative laws than those governing the production, purchase, possession and use of firearms themselves, according to a study released this week. this month by the American Public Health Association.
The result is a public health crisis, in which mayors fail to create rules that regulate firearms.
This was the case in the states of Florida and Colorado, where the shootings occurred in Parkland, in 2018, and Boulder, in 2021, Jennifer Pomeranz, professor of public health at New York University and one of the study’s authors, says Folha.
There is a legal vacuum, Pomeranz explained, in predominantly rural states, for example, where the problem with guns tends to be suicide and gun violence is concentrated only on the streets of more urban areas.
“Rural and urban communities have different needs and different problems with gun violence, so each needs specific measures. The state is not capable, and its legislators are not interested, to act against urban problems if it is predominantly rural.
On June 19 of this year, Colorado became the first U.S. state to repeal a law that prohibits cities from creating their own gun regulations. To date, 44 of the 50 US states have such laws.
From January to July of this year, gun violence – including homicides, murders, accidental shootings, the use of weapons in self-defense, suicides and mass shootings – in the country killed 173 elderly children. aged 11 and under and 677 adolescents aged 12 and 17, according to data from the organization Gun Violence Archive (in Portuguese, Archive of Armed Violence).
“We have become an armed society, and people who believe in guns think that these poor slaughtered children are only the result of exercising their rights,” Pomeranz said.
In general education institutions – including universities and schools – 40 gun incidents have occurred this year, killing 12 and injuring 17, according to data from Everytown Research & Policy.
In the past 9 years, no G7 country has seen as many school shootings as the United States. From 2009 to 2018, the country recorded 144 times more incidents than the second – Canada and France, with two shootings each – according to a CNN poll. For Donohue 3o, the success of others is due to strict legal gun control.
“You can’t stop everything, but you can make it more difficult,” he said. “This problem will continue to worsen in the United States until action is taken to reduce firepower and actually change some attitudes.”
For Langman, an aggravating factor is that there is not enough focus on preventing shootings. Most of the work done in schools is protective measures during an incident, such as simulations with students. He said he believes that, while important, these measures do not prevent attacks, they only minimize damage.
“There is a huge knowledge gap among many people who work in schools,” he said. “Recognizing the warning signs and assessing the risk before an attack happens is how you prevent an incident from happening. “
In gun culture, there is always an internet sub-movement that glorifies snipers and mass murderers. Not only present in the United States, it connects people all over the world, including Latin America.
When snipers in Suzano (SP), for example, killed eight people and injured 11 at Raul Brasil School in 2019, the massacre was commemorated on dark web forums, and the two killers were included in an idol gallery.
Having a place on the internet that encourages and legitimizes mass shootings helps children and adolescents take action, said Folha Natália Pollachi, project manager at Instituto Sou da Paz, an organization that promotes public safety in the country. Brazil.
“Come to think of it, five years ago, it was much more difficult to have access to this type of forum, to this type of information.
But not everyone who participates in this subculture becomes snipers. According to a 2018 study by professors at the University of Tampere in Finland, people interested in school shootings include four subgroups: researchers, fans, “columbiners” (people obsessed with school shootings). Columbine) and imitators.
Of these groups, only imitators have an explicit interest in committing the acts, but members of one subgroup may belong to others. In other words, being an imitator is not an isolated characteristic.
In Latin America, although gradually, gun violence in schools is also on the rise, according to data from Unlirec, the United Nations agency for disarmament in Latin America and the Caribbean. The last major school shooting in the area was in Suzano, but daily incidents of carrying weapons are becoming more and more frequent.
The lack of a uniform database makes it difficult for those who study the increase in gun violence in the region, but the Sou da Paz Institute’s bet is that it was caused by the biggest student access to home firearms.
Of the last four major shootings in Latin America, three have taken place in Brazil. For Pollachi, it is a reflection of the widespread violence in our country.
“Brazil is by far the country with the largest population, so in a way it is natural that we have most cases, but we are also a society with very high rates of violence, high rates of violence. very high gun violence, which is to follow this flexible access route to weapons, ”Pollachi said.