Huffpost Denver
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Jeff Kass Headshot

Columbine and Brazil School Shooting

Posted: Updated:

HIV and the Third World may be unusual aspects in a Columbine-style school shooting that occurred in Brazil Thursday.

CNN.com and the New York Times appear to agree on most of the story fundamentals: a former student of the Tasso da Silveira Municipal School, 23-year-old Wellington Menezes de Oliveira, opened fire with two handguns, killing 11 students and wounding at least 13 others.

Police in the Rio de Janeiro shooting wounded gunman Menezes de Oliveira, then he shot himself. That suicide overlaps with U.S. school shootings, where shooters express a desire to die in the course of the shootings -- although in fact that rarely happens. The Columbine killers actually carrying out their suicide was in that sense an unusual case.

There may be a number of factors in the desire to kill others and kill yourself. In this case, CNN adds a possible explanation for the suicide in that Menezes de Oliveira may have left behind a letter saying he had HIV. But why the school shooting too? He may have been mad at society -- maybe blaming something or someone else for his HIV -- and the school became that symbol. The expected publicity is also a way to publicize your plight or cause. (The New York Times reports it's an elementary school, so it seems unlikely a 23-year-old would have a direct problem with the school itself. Possibly more of an issue of the school being a familiar and convenient target.)

What stands out about this shooting is that it occurred in the Third World (although I would add that I have been to Brazil, and parts of it are strikingly modern). Poverty isn't a trademark of U.S. school shooters, or where the shootings occur. And previous school shootings outside the United States have occurred in developed countries such as Germany and Finland.

If we're trying to look at societal factors, one area to explore might be the types of violence in Third World countries versus developed countries, and why that may explain the lack of school shootings in Third World countries so far. Does violence in the Third World tend to be more targeted and for specific reasons versus the indiscriminate school shooting?

Or, as I believe is the case in the Tucson shootings, is the primary factor one troubled individual?