Who Is Responsible For The School Shootings? The Texas school shooting raises questions about responsibility, who is to blame

Who Is Responsible For The School Shootings?

The recent horrific, shooting at Robb Elementary School, Uvalde, Texas raises the pertinent question of responsibility. Who is responsible for the senseless massacre of 19 students plus 2 teachers? Since 1970 there have been 2052 school shootings in America and the number of fatalities stands at 661.

Sure, Salvador Ramos, the perpetrator was 18 years, officially an adult when he committed this ghastly act. However, does turning 18, overnight transform you into a mentally stable, rational human being when all through your growing years, no one around you modeled empathy, caring, and good values. It’s a known fact that a person’s mental health is inextricably linked to the family/social environment.

The mother is a drug addict and the father, it seems, abdicated his parental responsibilities.  Add to that dear old grandpa is a felon. And grandma who was the first one to be shot, we don’t know how exactly she treated him. After all, she was planning to evict Salvador’s mom from her home which was owned by grandma.

Growing up in this type of dysfunctional family severely undermines your development. Primarily because your needs are not met. Salvador Ramos was one very disgruntled, angry young man. A dormant volcano ready to erupt at any triggering moment.  The origins of rage begin within the family. Not surprisingly, the first targets are usually close family members.

Uvalde, Texas Salvador Ramos a primary school school shooting guns
Salvador Ramos massacred 19 children and 2 teachers at this Texas school

As someone, who has personally, experienced intense grief and rage of not belonging, not being seen, heard, and understood, I know how easily one can go down the path of wanting to hit back at the world. Wanting revenge for being ostracized and being excluded.

Meeting a Child’s Needs

From what I have read, it seems both his parents seemed to not give two hoots about their son’s welfare. The mother may have provided him with basic needs of food and shelter, but what about his emotional needs. A child’s emotional needs may change as they grow older. Nonetheless, at the heart of any good parent-child relationship is unconditional positive regard.

What is particularly, galling is both parents claim they had no idea that he was suffering from mental health issues. His mother Adriana Reyes said she was ‘surprised’ by the mayhem her son caused. She blatantly asserts  “My son wasn’t a violent person. I’m surprised by what he did.”

To add insult to injury, she obtusely states, “He had his reasons for doing what he did. Please don’t judge him”.

Yet the police were called to their home repeatedly and eventually the mother kicked Ramos out of the home. After this, he went to live with his grandparents.

What’s The Real Story?

There are many versions circulating with regard to the familial relationship.

Sadly, we are hearing just one-sided versions of mother, father, and grandfather, since Ramos is not around. No one really knows what happens behind closed doors.

Those who grew up in abusive and neglectful households are well aware of the fact – adults can be very good at distorting the truth and painting themselves as paragons of virtue to the gallery. My father adeptly played the role of the anguished parent after I left home. Not once did he ever acknowledge the living hell he imposed on his kids due to his unrelenting abuse.

According to reports, the grandmother, took him for dinner at Applebee’s to celebrate his 18th birthday. Yet, a week later, he shot her in the face at the start of his crazed rampage.

Ignoring His Cry For Help

There are reports of his grandmother not intervening when he complained of bullying during middle school due to his speech impediment.

He had a history of harming himself – once showing up at a park with self-inflicted cuts on his face. This is a huge red flag of inner turmoil. And as usual, it was ignored.

The absentee father, Salvador Ramos Sr. had the temerity of giving an exclusive interview. He claims, “I never expected my son to do something like that. He should’ve just killed me, you know, instead of doing something like that to someone.”

The grandfather has revealed the family had no idea that he legally purchased two AR-15s last week.

The sister was asked by her underage brother to buy him AR15 s last year. Though she refused, she failed to caution the family, the authorities, and the social workers?

And nobody thought it unusual that he spent most of his time alone in his room.

Though the signs of his turmoil were evident. Typically, everyone close ignored them. They did not want to be bothered or were too lazy. Now, they feign surprise that the boy would do something so horrifying.

Putting blinders on is not how you raise a child!!

Bad Seed – Nature Vs Nurture

Every child is different, each has his/her own unique temperament. Some are hypersensitive and have a low tolerance to stress while another child is more resilient. That is not to dismiss the importance of early childhood maternal care and nurturance.

Moreover, having a drug addict for a mother, there is the possibility of Ramos being affected by fetal alcohol syndrome disorder due to which he was born with some other prenatal abnormalities. One commenter pointed out that Ramos had no philtrum (the groove above his lip) it was smooth. A smooth, non-grooved contour between the nose and lip is a sign of fetal alcohol syndrome.

Mental health begins in-utero. Even though a child may be born with susceptibilities towards delinquency, good enough parenting can offset many genetic/prenatal predispositions. Both good enough nurture can in many cases override nature’s predispositions.

James Fallon’s Psychopathic Brain

Even if one is born with a psychopathic brain one can still not act violently as neuroscientist James Fallon accidentally discovered. During the course of his research, he scanned his own brain and was surprised to see his brain resembled that of a psychopath. Furthermore, he learned he had descended from a long line of murderers.

Fortunately for him, he’d been raised in a loving family. Ample evidence supports the fact that childhood experiences, especially in the first few years when the brain is growing rapidly, are extremely important in shaping personality and character.

The environment one grows up in both, directly and indirectly, impacts our development.

Lucifer Effect

People aren’t born murderers; they’re a creation of life experiences that lead them to decide to cross that line. Often the aberrations that show up during the teenage years are the accumulation of years of lack of bonding, neglect, and abuse starting from birth.

And usually, it’s too late to redress them during the hormone spiked teenage years.

Social psychologist Philip Zimbardo, the author of Lucifer Effect, explains the myriad reasons why—we are all susceptible to the lure of “the dark side.” Drawing on examples from history as well as his own trailblazing research, Zimbardo details how situational forces and group dynamics can work in concert to make monsters out of decent men and women.

A healthy, emotionally-regulated teen doesn’t wake up one morning and decide to shoot up a school. That decision is the culmination of a long chain of events that led to that tragic aftermath.

Combination of Factors Leading To Mass Shootings

According to Lillian Peterson and James Densley, authors of the op-ed We have studied every mass shooting since 1966. Here’s what we’ve learned about the shooters, found four common themes:

First

The majority of shooters have experienced childhood trauma, and as a result, have mental health issues. Having a drug addict for a mother with a string of lovers and an absentee father means Salvador experienced ongoing neglect and abuse. Add to that, he had a stutter and/or speech impediment and was bullied quite regularly over the years.

Second

Practically every mass shooter had reached a crisis point in the weeks or months leading up to the shooting. They often had become angry and despondent because of a specific grievance. Ramos was kicked out of his home by his mother and was angry about being unable to graduate.

Third

Most of the shooters had studied the actions of other shooters and sought validation for their motives. Columbine became the blueprint of school shootings. The massacre was one of the first to take place after the advent of 24-hour cable news and during the year of the net. To the violently delusional aggrieved young men, shooting the maximum number was a sure way to gain notoriety.

Fourth

The shooters all had the means to carry out their plans. Once someone decides life is no longer worth living and that murdering others would be proper revenge they begin planning. Ramos probably, had the idea nearly a year ago when he asked his sister to buy him a gun. When she refused to pander to his delusions, he waited. Soon as he turned 18 on May 16, 2022, he purchased the rifles on May 17 and May 20. One week earlier, Salvador allegedly asked his cousin for details about Robb Elementary School. On May 24, he walked into the school and carried out his evil plan.

So Who Is To Blame?

Was it his mother? After all, she brought him into the world. Moreover,  she was a drug addict, who wasn’t very nice to Ramos.

Was it the father? One-half of the media is harping about fatherlessness being the issue. While forgetting the fact that both the Columbine shooters had their fathers living with them. Both Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were living the all-American life with both mothers being normal mothers without any issues.

However, personally speaking, the so-called normal families can have their own set of skeletons hiding within the privacy of the home. One never knows how parents really treated their kids from birth onwards. Many are quite negligent to young babies during the crucial 0-2 year period which affects a child’s emotional right-brain development.

Was it transgenerational trauma? Are the grandparents to blame? After all, they raised Ramos’ mother. What kind of parenting did she receive to be so uncaring to her own child.

Other Factors

Was the school system to blame? Even though he was mocked and bullied due to his stutter and poor attire, no one at school intervened. Even his grandmother refused to listen to complaints of bullying.

Was it the violent video game Call of Duty that  Ramos played that blurred the lines between fantasy and reality? Thus leading to him becoming the killing machine.

Or was it the drugs/antidepressants, if he was taking them surreptitiously? Some of the side effects caused by SSRIs are increased risk of violence against others. There’s also a link between SSRI use and psychosis and hallucinations, both of which are known to increase violent behavior

The Most Pertinent Question – Guns

Was it the easy availability of guns? You can buy a gun at 18 but you can’t buy a drink or smoke until you’re 21.

I don’t think there is any country in the developed world where an 18-year-old can easily pick up guns, that too machine guns. Though it is a well-known fact that an 18-year-old’s frontal cortex is not mature until 25.

Whatever the precipitating factors, the easy availability of guns makes massacring huge numbers easy. It’s impossible to carry out this level of carnage with a knife.

How To Prevent The Next School Shooting

According to Mark Barden, the founder of the Sandy Hook Promise who lost his son Daniel, aged 7 in the 2012 carnage,  there are warning signs prior to one of these horrific atrocities:

When someone talks about a mass shooting and a suicide, that needs to be taken seriously. We need to find the courage to speak up when we see signs that someone may be at risk of hurting themselves or others — even when it might feel uncomfortable to do so

As with many gunmen of mass shootings, the Uvalde shooter exhibited several warning signs before his attack, yet no one intervened. Marks’ organization, teaches millions in schools nationwide to recognize the warning signs, to act immediately, and “say something” to a trusted adult to get help.

Now, Red flag laws exist in 19 states, allowing police or family members to sound the alarm about individuals who may be a danger to themselves or others and to confiscate their guns.

The question is, does a kid need to reach a breaking point for the adults, and society to take notice?

Scarlett Lewis, another bereaved parent of the Sandy Hook tragedy, started social and emotional learning (SEL). She lost her son 6-year-old son, Jesse on that fateful day.

Her organization believes in getting out there – connecting and helping other people. We all know somebody that’s lonely—check in on them. That is the solution. She is absolutely right!!

What people misunderstand about mass shooters is that they are more suicidal than homicidal. They are depressed and lonely. They don’t have an outlet to express their emotional angst. After all big boys don’t cry is what we teach them. They hold it in, till one terrible day they go berserk.

Parenting Entails Patience and Wisdom

Parenting a child up the slippery slope to adulthood entails patience, wisdom, and hard work.  I’ve had to navigate many challenges. There are many complex factors at play during the formative years of a child’s life. Innate tendencies, family situations, and outside social influences are some key factors that shape how a child turns out.

Nonetheless, having a child means always being on duty for the next 18 years. It means having the wisdom to step in or step back. When to give in or hold out. It requires being always alert to the spoken and unspoken signs. Being proactive, taking steps to address an issue, instead of wistfully waiting, hoping it will magically disappear.

Parenting involves love, caring, discipline, and building self-efficacy. Validation and being paid attention to are very important.

Being a single mother, I was the sole breadwinner and caretaker, managing health issues, dealing with learning difficulties, school bullying and so many myriad issues that crop up. I can proudly say that we both survived and my son who is 21 now turned out into a fine young lad.

What matters is building a relationship with your child from a young age. Whenever there was an issue my son would come to me for support or clarification. I still chuckle, thinking of the time, when my son came to confirm if there really was Santa Claus. I felt a little sad to deflate his fantasy – but maintaining honest trust was more important.

Of course, he has been fortunate, to have some male figures –  teachers mainly who benevolently encouraged and mentored him.

No Easy Solutions To School Shootings

There are no easy solutions to the problem of school shootings. How to handle unhappy and self-destructive young men?

Firstly, every parent/caregiver should be taught the basics of child development  – that children have needs and feelings that have to be met.

Secondly, every parent, teacher, police official, etc. must be alert to the red flags of kids, particularly young boys, and learn how to effectively intervene.

Thirdly,  teaching, empathy, and kindness should be made mandatory from preschool onwards. Most of these shooters were tipped into madness due to the ongoing bullying and exclusion from their peer group.

As a community, we can help these lonely kids experience micro-moments of positivity resonance. It does not take much to lift up someone, a quick hello, a kind word, a compliment, a pat on the back.  Repeated brief moments of positive feelings provide a buffer against stress and depression and improve both physical and mental health. It was episodes of micro-positivity I experienced during my abusive childhood that saved me from becoming bitter and retaliating toward the world.

And lastly, more sensible gun safety policies.

All this takes time to implement but change is possible. We need to stop giving that lame excuse, ‘nobody saw this coming.’ The fact is everyone saw it coming, it was clear as day. But it was just too much effort to act.

We can learn from these school shootings, by becoming more aware and doing our bit to make the world a better, safer place for our children.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Further Reading:

Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them – James Garbarino

For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence -Alice Miller

Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence – Robin Karr-Morse  

General Theory of Love – Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini & Richard Lannon

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