In the wake of the mass shooting at Umtqua Community College in Oregon, police in California say they have arrested 4 students in a plot to attack Summerville High School in Tuolumne. Tuolumne county sheriff Jim Mele said the students confessed and when asked to elaborate, he says that their plan was “to come on campus and shoot as many people as possible.” Authorities were alerted to the plot on Wednesday after school administrators became aware of students making threats against faculty and staff. Deputies say they found assorted evidence of the planned attack, including a list of names the teens were planning to target.
It will be hard to know how serious these students were about their plot. Teens say & do a lot of things they don’t mean. And scribbling names on a paper does not a terrorist attack make. Yet the fact of 4 separate individuals were disillusioned enough to entertain the idea of throwing their lives away in a fit of rage against those around them suggests that society is failing too many people in too many ways. This is more than a problem of mental illness or lone wolf lunatics. It’s something structural.
many people presume violence isn’t preventable. In actuality, it’s one of the most preventable things imaginable. It’s just that the time to prevent it is not after someone has reached a boiling point, prevention is about promoting the type of environment that meets people’s needs and makes it less likely for them to ever reach this point.
Patterns of violence are much like weather: it’s impossible to predict the path of every storm, but it’s quite easy to tell which things make storms more likely and numerous. The laws governing violence are very simple: things like shame, ridicule, social isolation, insecurity, inequality, mistreatment, judgment, and so on increase it. Things like love, connection, plenty of touch and affection, a sense of purpose, and compassion prevent it.
Right now we have a society that is heavy on the former, and light on the latter, which is why these storms of rage are flaring up more often. Gun control might help, but if we really want to get serious about preventing violence we need to address the root of the problem.