THE BLOG

The Youthful Face of Mass Violence in America

04/18/2014 03:24 pm ET | Updated Jun 18, 2014
  • John Matthews Executive Director, Community Safety Institute (CSI) in Dallas, TX

This latest attack by a student at Franklin High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, where 20 students were brutally stabbed graphically illustrates the desire for mass violence by certain segments of our society, especially in schools and specifically by young adults.

Research by the Community Safety Institute on mass shootings which have occurred in educational institutions over the past 30 years indicates a significant difference in the average age of the offender. Overall, the average age of offenders is 33.2 years of age, but college-campus-based offenders average a mere 21.9 years while the average age of the primary and secondary school shooter is just 18.6 years.

More often than not young people are turning to mass violence to resolve issues or quell their demons. Whether it's the increased exposure by young people to violence-based video games, the amount of information on mass attacks available on the Internet, the coverage of mass shootings and school violence by the media, the lack of access to needed mental health services, or -- most likely -- a combination of all of these factors, the age of these offenders is disturbing.

The individuals who commit these mass shootings and stabbings in schools are not career offenders or hardened criminals taking out their vengeance on society. More often than not they are young people with little or no criminal background, individuals with mental health issues or the victims of long-term bullying and harassment.

They are young people who have access to weapons, but not access to continued intervention or mental health services. They are teenagers who have been victimized by others and then take matters into their own hands because they feel they have nowhere else to turn. Threat assessments or early intervention efforts can often recognize these issues, but because of the lack of resources there are few if any services available to potential offenders. Unfortunately the end result is often mass violence, shootings and stabbings in our schools, with the most innocent members of society -- our children -- as the victims.

In order to stem this rising tide of mass violence by young adults, it is going to take a concerted effort on the part of schools, law enforcement, mental health and social workers. It is going to take resources to provide not just recognition of the problems but long-term treatment and solutions. The awareness of warning signs is needed, but the real solution lies in our ability to provide ongoing interventions, continual monitoring and a more expeditious route to confinement when warranted. Our nation's young people deserve better. America should be known around the world as the land of freedom and opportunity and not as the country of lockdowns and violence.

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