Monday, April 20, 2009

Remembering Columbine

Columbine Memorial Littleton, Colorado

Today is the 10th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School and, inevitably, it will renew debate in the United States about gun control - perhaps the hottest hot button topic of our day. But a just-released book that chronicles the events leading up to and including that fateful day suggests that, perhaps it's reporter, not gun control, that's needed.

Before I go any further, let me quickly add that I am not in favor of putting constraints on reporter's First Amendment rights. But the book, appropriately titled Columbine, argues that, it wasn't a case of a couple of bullied boys who reached the end of their emotional ropes. Instead, says author David Cullen, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's motivation was to gain them more notoriety than Timothy McVeigh.

The reporting a decade ago, however, left the impression that they were bullied to the breaking point. This is the problem with the minute-by-minute news cycle, led by cable TV and, now, the Internet. It leaves no time for reflection and proper analysis. And the early reports, which journalists are pressured to file with or without proper verification, are the ones that we remember the most. If the reports are inaccurate, then, so too, are our collective memories of events.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't be discussing the issue of guns in America. There are hearty arguments on both sides of that debate that deserve airing.

But remember, McVeigh didn't use guns when he blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. He used fertilizer. And Harris and Klebold's original intent was not to shoot up, but to blow up the school.

Ten years after the tragedy, a more accurate explanation and analysis is warranted.

We talk about issues like this and more weekdays at 5 PM New York time on News Talk Online on


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Anonymous said...

Sad commentary that the glut of news can make you less informed.

Steve Arney

Anonymous said...

Today I choose to think about the survivors and their families along with the victims. I refuse to give any more of my time to these two self-centered criminals. McVeigh was a lost soul bent on revenge against the government. God bless Columbine, CO, today and watch over its citizens.

Anonymous said...

I live in a city, Montreal, that has had three school massacres: Université de Montreal (14 women singled out and killed). Concordia University (four professors killed, one of them a family friend) and Dawson College (Only 1 killed after a brilliant and quick witted reaction by police.)

You'd be hard pressed to find a city that has reflected more on these issues. If I could pick one issue that could be the focus of this reflection it would be police tactics, from what I've read, an important theme in Cullen's book. School massacres are rarely, if ever, standoffs.

The perpretator has gone in there with a plan and police have to be really to act as quickly as possible. No time for negotiation, or to try and figure out what's happening.

But if the day ends up being about gun control, so be it. This is a day on which many parents will be grieving children lost to gun violence. Something which happens far too often in the U.S., every day, no matter what the true story behind the shooting is.

Juliet Waters

Anonymous said...

I was in elementary school when Columbine happend,but I'll never forget the pictures I saw on television...or the video we watched in school.And I can remember that we all cried.And when we left the classroom,my mates hadn't a second thought about all that or what they had seen.
Our school could be the next,our friend could the one with a hidden side,ourself could hide under a table..thoughts I shouldn't have with 17.
Today you aren't scared of school because of too much stuff to learn,you're afraid of something happens,you couldn't imagine right now.
A school shouldn't be a place where kids are afraid about their life.
I always hoped that the world would learn from Columbine,like our societies,but kids get more rebellious with every minute.Mabye it's the pressure from the outside,the urgency to grow up quickly,to get respected,but kids aren't kids like we had been when we grew up.
I'm a student and don't have high chances to change that,but I think the world remember Columbine,but didn't learn too much to protect our schools.Where's the line between cruel reality and a prank?!I don't know.And that scares me the most I think.
We're children,and future adults,but we know to little to live safe.
It's not a long time ago when someone suspected a student to plan something in my own school,and I just run away from school when I heardthe news,that they had inform our headmaster.I couldn't stand the thoughts what all could happen right now.
Wherever you are,you have to be scared about your life.
It's not the world I hoped for.
And I wished I could open the eyes of the ones,who face all that totally blind with the hope,everything will change without any influence.
Our generation should do better,but they just don't learn how.

Anonymous said...

I think rather than gun control the debate is about 1) parental oversight - did you not notice your sons had weapons hidden all over your house? 2) anti-depressants. Too many gun toting teens are on anti-depressants, now there is a black box warning telling parents, oops, your kids might kill themselves or someone else. How about, not put them on them in the first place?

Deborah Young

Anonymous said...

My children were in high school in Boulder when this happened. They had lost a lot of their innocence by then, but this added to that loss. They never went to school again without thinking of this horrible day. The impact to all of Colorado was obviously significant. Thanks for your post.


Anonymous said...

Your comments about Amadinejad are very negative...and obviously meant to poke a stick in his eye. His comments ab0ut Israel are very negative...and obviously meant to poke a stick in its eye.

No surprises by either side.

If both sides of issues of this sort would get their heads out of their asses...the world would quickly become a much better place in which to live.

But I wouldn't hold my breath.

Frank Apisa

Anonymous said...

When you don't expect very much I know he can deliver.

THE LonesomeDove said...

You’ve raised a difficult question certainly. There are no simple solutions, but my personal opinion is that neither gun control, journalistic control nor both are the answers to ending mass murders that manifest in the one of the most vulnerable of places – schools. Schools and churches have been targeted for decades by opportunistic madmen and these tragedies and the psychotics behind them aren't in short supply and they’re not limited to the United States.

Not to diminish the tragedy of Columbine, it must be recognized and acknowledged that schools have been chosen the world over for their availability, predictability and the sheer number of exposed, defenseless targets they offer. They’re also chosen for the gut-wrenching reaction produced when children are targeted. But more stringent gun control won't protect them.

We’re all familiar with Columbine, the University of Texas Clock Tower sniper, the massacre at Virginia Tech, but the deadliest school slaughter in U.S. history occurred in 1927 and guns weren’t involved. The small town of Bath, Michigan lost 38 young students and 7 teachers when Andrew Kehoe blew up the town’s school. Sixty-one others were wounded.

Germany had much stricter gun control laws in effect than the U.S. at the time of the Erfurt Massacre in 2002 – including background checks that could take up to a year to complete, mandatory membership in a club and police licensing – and yet, 16 people were killed before the gunman committed suicide.

But, in 1964 even more people were killed in the Cologne School Massacre, but not by guns, when a converted insecticide sprayer was used as a flamethrower and the perpetrator was also armed with a lance and homemade mace. Eight children, two teachers were killed while twenty other children and two teachers survived with very severe burns.

In Canada, 15 were killed and 14 injured during the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique Massacre at the University of Montreal – the motivation? A hatred for feminists…

The Dunblane Massacre left 16 children and a teacher dead at the hands of a former Scout master. It also led to a ban on handguns in the UK.

Madmen and schools will always bring to mind the Ma’alot Massacre in 1974 – 26 killed, 60 wounded when the “Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine decided the best course of action and manliness was not to be found facing Israli soldiers, but chose to murder 22 defenseless religious high school students in Safed Ma’alot..

The Beslan Massacre at School Number One is burned into the world's memory – 1200 school children and adults were taken hostage and ended with 386 dead…

Why can’t we, in this era of cutting edge technology, protect our students? I not only believe that we can, I believe that we should. It wouldn’t necessarily create any “green jobs”, but there’s an earmark for you and one that we would all support!