Columbine Re-Visited

The use of direct force is such a poor solution to any problem; it is generally applied by small children and great nations. (David Friedman)

On April 20, 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire with guns and bombs in their Littleton, Colorado high school cafeteria during peak lunch hour. Moving on into the library, they killed 12 students, a teacher and wounded 23 others before the homicidal pair turned their weapons back on themselves.

At that time, I was living in a nearby community and began what was to become a decade long inquiry into the many facets of this tragedy. I later published it in A Question of Balance: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Resolving Trauma, in a chapter entitled “War in Colorado” and another as “Aftermath”. One of the facts that drew my immediate attention was that according to their diaries, the Neo-Nazi teens described their homicidal plans as a “military operation” and their focus was on bombs more than guns. Their original plan was to initiate a mass scale bombing to blow up the school and then blow up rescue workers as they arrived on the scene. In addition to military assault rifles, their homemade arsenal included more than 48 carbon dioxide bombs, 27 pipe bombs, 11 one and a half gallon propane containers, seven incendiary devices with 40 plus gallons of flammable liquid, hand grenades and two duffle bag bombs with 20 pound petroleum tanks. Only after their homemade bombs failed to detonate did they resort to guns.

As of 2012 the community of Littleton has not healed and for some people, many important questions remain unanswered. Further events and more revelations about the killers and their families continue to shift the focus in a still evolving collage of social trauma with deep roots in unresolved wars, racism, terrorism, and genocide. Added to that are gun control laws, psychiatric medications and media disinformation and hype. In a tragedy that involves this much complexity the cause is neither obvious nor linear.

Nevertheless, it could be said that, in one sense at least, Eric and Dylan’s “military operation” has succeeded in fostering the safety and security measures leading to the militarization of our schools.

Public schools are coming to resemble military and prison facilities with an increasing presence of security apparatus, check points, metal detectors, mobile surveillance cameras, chain link fences, police on campus, surprise and even strip searches for students. We can now expect naked body scanners as part of the prom night experience and more and more elementary and pre-school school students handcuffed, taken away in police cars and charged with “felony offences”. If you think that I’m exaggerating take some time to read the daily news or better still, check the policies of your local school district.

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