In light of this week’s shooting on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Oregon, I have to say I totally agree with Sheriff John Hanlin’s stance against naming the gunman. “I don’t want to glorify the shooter, I don’t want to glorify his name, I don’t want to glorify his cause,” he’s quoted as stating.
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I wrote about this very issue last year on this blog, and feel even more strongly that naming these shooters feeds the sickness and their drive to become famous by killing scores of innocent at once.
It’s hard to fathom from a journalist’s point of view the notion of not providing all the pertinent information for any news story. However, I’ve come to believe we should never know the names or see the photos of accused shooters or mass murderers, particularly those who wreak their havoc in our schools.
We so often fulfill their goal when their name becomes immortalized, when we forever remember the monsters of the world. This seems to be especially true of school shooters who strike at the most innocent of victims.
The gunman who entered an Atlanta, Georgia school last year is now famous. We’re inundated with photos and information about Thursday’s killer as well. Their motives were likely the same as countless others who were successful in the sick plan. They are so often seeking notoriety through mass executions in some warped sense of self. Sure, we can say that mental illness is to blame, but I still feel their goal should not be fulfilled.
Sometimes they claim to be striking out after being bullied, which is an issue schools seem to be dealing with more frequently and more fervently. But the desire still comes down to an “I’ll show them and make myself famous doing it” attitude.
We should know these shooters as a number only. Take away that privilege of hearing the accused’s name on the television, knowing that their mug is now familiar to everyone within earshot of a television, and let’s see if the tragedies don’t slow down.
Withholding of personal information on the shooter should have started with the Columbine massacre in April 1999. If we knew them simply as 99-01 and 99-02, maybe we wouldn’t have had many follow in their footsteps.
It’s just a thought from a heart that worries for the next group of children hovering in the corner of a classroom and listening to gunshots, a wish for us to end the suffering of families like those who lost so many young lives this week. My daughter just graduated from law school, passed the bar and found a job. We’re thankful, proud and happy to see her transitioning into the successful adult she has worked so hard to become, but the parents that lost the college students to this week’s senseless killing will not feel that joy and thankfulness. My heart aches for them.
As a mystery writer I read stories of murder and mayhem looking for inspiration, but these school shootings spark little more than sadness.
Do you agree that assigning these senseless monsters a number is better for the public good than knowing who they are and seeing their faces plastered on the television screen?