New Castle News


April 11, 2014

Our Opinion: School attack leads to inevitable questions

NEW CASTLE — Another mass attack at a public school has people grasping for answers.

They shouldn’t be surprised if no good explanations are forthcoming.

Initial reports suggest the young man accused of attacking 21 classmates at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville was a good student, shy but not a loner. In short, there was apparently no indication he would erupt in this sort of violence.

How many times have we heard similar comments after such attacks?

There will, however, be investigations. At the end, perhaps a motive will be uncovered. Maybe the attack was initiated by a confrontation. But such confrontations among young people are hardly uncommon and they don’t automatically lead to murderous rampages.

Meanwhile, we should all brace for another round of nonsense from those looking to score political points from this tragedy. We’ll hear claims that the knife attack helps to demonstrate the pointlessness of tougher gun laws. And there will be the inevitable demands for more security piled atop of what’s already been added to public schools.

From a reasonable standpoint, schools need to assess safety procedures. But realistically, anyone seeking to do harm in a crowded situation — such as a school hallway between classes — will have the opportunity to hurt a lot of people before anything can be done.

And even if schools could somehow be made safer, there are other places where people congregate that can be open to such attacks.

The young man charged in this case (and young men are typically the culprits in such instances), will undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Maybe something will be revealed. It appears his family and attorney are just as determined to find answers as authorities are.

Still, will an explanation offer any degree of protection regarding future incidents?

A few things are worth pointing out here. These types of attacks seem to have become more common in recent years. To some extent, we think they feed on each other, and it’s worth asking if the attention they receive and the public reaction to them contribute to their frequency.

And there is absolutely no doubt that mental illness is a factor in these mass killings. While we by no means argue there is a convenient and simple explanation for such violence, emotional disturbances are an inevitable factor.

It’s easy to hire a security guard or install a metal detector that may, or may not, make a difference in safety.

Developing a broad-based national commitment to better understand and treat the types of mental illness that can lead to violence is something that continues to be discussed in only general terms. Until more concrete steps are taken, these acts of mass violence will persist.

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