WHAT LIES BEHIND A SHOOTER’S BULLET?

In Cleveland last week, a 14-year-old went on a shooting rampage at his school, wounding two teachers and two students, then turning the gun on himself. Grieving children and parents were left wondering: How on earth can something like this happen?

Microsoft’s Halo 3 video game – a first-person shooter experience using guns, grenades and other weapons – earned $170 million in sales on its first day of availability, making it the hottest-selling title in video game history.

The shooter, a 14-year-old named Asa Coon, reportedly was into Goth music and dress, claimed to be an atheist and worshipped shock rock singer Marilyn Manson. He wore a Manson T-shirt the day of the shootings – although many were quick to deny any connection between the music and the shootings.

I throw a little fit, I slit my teenage wrist

The most I can learn, is in records that you burn

Get your gunn, get your gunn
– Marilyn Manson lyrics

Coon, at his young age, already had been in a shelter, a detention center and a mental hospital, had once attempted suicide and apparently threatened to blow up the school a week before his rampage, according to reports. A shocked community wondered how so many warning signs could be ignored.

“He threatened to stab everybody,” a student named Doneisha LeVert told the Associated Press. “We didn’t think nothing of it.”

Everybody owns a gun

In Pennsylvania last week, another possible Columbine-type attack was thwarted when a 14-year-old was taken into custody. He had, in his bedroom, a 9mm semiautomatic rifle, homemade grenades, swords, knives and 30 air-powered guns made up to look like real weapons. People were shocked that a child this young could be harboring such an arsenal.

The U.S. has the world’s highest rate of gun ownership at 90 firearms per 100 citizens, according to the Small Arms Survey 2007.

The boy’s mother was the one who purchased the 9mm rifle, as well as a .22-caliber handgun and a .22-caliber rifle for her son. The boy’s father also tried to buy his son a rifle a few years ago, but couldn’t because he was a felon, police said. People were shocked parents could be so complicit in arming a child.

Thomas Jefferson said, “No free man shall be debarred the use of arms.” Patrick Henry said, “The great object is, that every man be armed.” Richard Henry Lee wrote, “To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms.”- From the National Rifle Association Web site.

Also in the teenager’s room, police found notebooks detailing acts of violence, a hand-painted Nazi flag and DVDs, including one titled “Game Over in Littleton,” the town where Columbine High School is. People were shocked that a teen this young could show such fascination with violence.

A Google search for the words “Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold,” the Columbine killers, returned 78,300 possible references.

The numbers don’t lie

Last week in Wisconsin, students went back to class at Crandon High School after three classmates and three alumni were killed by a 20-year-old alumnus who burst into a pizza party with an AR15 assault rifle.

In August, students at Virginia Tech University started the fall semester still reeling from the massacre of 33 people after a gunman went crazy on their campus in April.

October marks the one-year anniversary of a 32-year-old shooting 10 girls at an Amish school in Pennsylvania before killing himself.

Everywhere you look, people are wondering where these crazy people are coming from.

Up to 50% of first marriages, 67% of second marriages and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, U.S. statistics show.

Thirty-one percent of American teenagers believe they’ll become famous one day, according to Psychology Today.

A recent survey, “The Decline of Religious Identity in the United States,” found that 16% surveyed declined to identify with a particular faith, up from less than 10% in the early ’90s.

According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in four children is bullied and 87% of teens say school shooters operate from a desire to “get back at those who have hurt them.”

“How can these shootings happen?” we ask.

How can we ask that question?

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com.

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