Finding ways to halt outbreak of violence

March 31, 1998

An excerpt from a Sunday Kansas City Star editorial:

The horrific execution-style murders at a middle school in Arkansas have people scrambling for blame.

It's the media's fault!

There is substantial violence in video games, television and movies, rock and rap music. But media can't take the full blame for what happened at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, where 13-year-old and 11-year-old boys, both dressed in camouflage attire, were accused of killing four girls, a teacher and injuring at least 11 other people.

Get rid of the guns!

Minors aren't prohibited from possessing rifles and shotguns in Arkansas. Rifles were among weapons reportedly used and confiscated in the Jonesboro shootings.

Said Sarah Brady of Handgun Control Inc., "A nation that glorifies guns should not be shocked when children act out their darkest fantasies with those very same weapons."

Weapon of choice

Some troubled youths have used other weapons, but guns are more efficient killing machines.

Schools just aren't safe!

Not even metal detectors or security guards would have helped in the Jonesboro shootings. Victims were lured outside of school by a false fire alarm. The accused allegedly positioned themselves on a hill about 100 yards away and fired.

Toughen up juvenile justice laws!

There probably will be a public outcry for adult sentencing in the Jonesboro case. But states can't build correctional facilities fast enough and taxpayers aren't willing to support them well enough to stem the tidal wave of delinquency washing over the land. Furthermore, violent criminals are getting younger.

Unfortunately, there is no single answer to the problem of youth violence. A combination of answers is needed. We must demand an end to the easy access of legal and illegal firearms to our children; insist that media be responsible in the dissemination of graphic images to kids; urge states to fund prevention and corrections for youths; support schools whose quality-of-education focus has shifted to public safety; and accept more parental responsibility for our children's crimes.

Losing control

And, we must recognize the signs of a young person who is losing control. Said one child of one of the Jonesboro boys, "He told me yesterday that all the people who broke up with him, you know, he's going to come to school and shoot them . . . I thought he was just kidding around."

Apparently, he wasn't joking.

We can't stop people from thinking about doing harm to another. But as a nation, we must work together to stop our children from having the means to act on their "darkest fantasies."

Pub Date: 3/31/98

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