On May 20, 1988, 30 year old Laurie Dann walked into an elementary school in Winnetka, Illinois, an affluent Chicago suburb, shot and killed one student, and wounded several others. She then went into a house across the street and killed herself. One of those wounded died of their wounds. In the aftermath of the attack, school security in Chicago area schools was strenously tightened. School entrances were limited to one, central entrance. Metal detectors were installed. Guards were placed at entrances. Visitors were required to sign in and out. In the years that have followed many of these security measures have been left in place.
When there is a mass murder like the one that took place in Winnetka, like the one that happened at Columbine High School in Colorado, or like this most recent incident in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, normal, feeling people recoil in horror. We try to understand why it happened. We wonder how it might have been prevented.
Some are convinced that gun control will prevent these incidents from happening. The outcry for tightened gun control has already begun in the aftermath of the terrible murders in Sandy Hook.
Violence in motion pictures, television, video games, and maybe even books inures people to violence. Would censorship make murders like these too horrible for their perpetrators to contemplate?
Mental illness frequently plays a part in these horrific incidents. It certainly did in the case of Laurie Dann and I wouldn’t be surprised if the murderer of Sandy Hook was mentally ill. Would aggressive mandatory mental health screening prevent these horrible incidents?
How do we know that gun control or censorship or mental health screening or any of the other measures that we might put into place to prevent future tragedies would be effective? Wouldn’t they stand to reason?
But mass murder isn’t reasonable.