Twenty-four years ago today, two teenagers opened fire at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, and killed 12 students and one teacher. The massacre shocked a nation that has now grown accustomed to violence at schools: Since 1999, according to a Washington Post tracker, there have been 377 campus shootings, and more than 349,000 students have experienced gun violence at school.
Many of those attacks were directly influenced by the “Columbine effect.” Four years ago, Mother Jones reported that at least 100 mass shooting plots and attacks since 1999, including the Sandy Hook and Parkland massacres, were directly influenced by Columbine; that number, which relied on public records, was likely an undercount. But Columbine wasn’t America’s first school attack. Why has it inspired so many mass shooters?
According to criminal justice researchers Jillian Peterson and James Densley, Columbine’s potent legacy can be attributed to the dawn of contemporary mass media: It took place during the beginning of the 24-hour news cycle and the “year of the net.” “This was the dawn of the digital age of perfect remembering,” Peterson and Densley wrote for The Conversation, “where words and deeds live online forever.”
“At the time, Columbine was considered a once-in-a-generation type of tragedy — one that few other people in our country would ever have to contend with,” wrote survivor Craig Nason in an essay for NBC Think last year. He continued: “I think about how we vowed to ‘never forget’ Columbine. How we would make sure the next generation would be safer. The opposite has happened. … It is a burden too heavy.”
What to Know Today
ICYMI: As more politicians lose friends and family to gun violence, will it change how they govern? [The Trace]
How can Chicago prevent outbreaks of violence among young people? Public safety experts and youth advocates have some ideas — and most of them don’t involve policing. [WBEZ] Context: Last summer, teenagers talked to The Trace’s Justin Agrelo about their experience of Chicago’s gun violence crisis, and how they think the city should address it.
Two Texas cheerleaders were shot outside an Austin-area grocery store after one of them mistakenly entered the wrong car. The incident follows two similar high-profile shootings that occurred in the past week: Homeowners shot Ralph Yarl, in Kansas City, Missouri, and killed Kaylin Gillis, in upstate New York, after each victim mistakenly approached a house. [NBC]
Seven mass shootings — defined as an incident in which four or more people were injured or killed, excluding the shooter — took place on April 15, the most of any day so far this year. The U.S. has already seen more than 160 mass shootings in 2023, with attacks taking place in almost every type of public and private space. [CNN/Stacker]
Gun reform proponents in Congress plan to again push for tougher firearm laws, but they aren’t optimistic that the fight will yield any results. [The Hill]
Tennessee lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that would further shield gun companies from civil liability lawsuits; the legislation now heads to Governor Bill Lee. The bill comes as Lee’s administration has been urging the General Assembly to pass a red flag law. In a letter, dozens of Nashville musicians — including Sheryl Crow, Kacey Musgraves, and Jason Isbell — joined the governor in calling for an extreme risk protection order law. [Associated Press/The Tennessean]
In Michigan, the Democratic-controlled Legislature sent a red flag bill to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s desk. Whitmer signed legislation expanding background checks and mandating safe firearm storage into law last week. [Detroit Free Press]
Family members of children killed in the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde waited more than 12 hours to testify before a Texas House committee on a bill to raise the age to purchase some semiautomatic rifles to 21. [The Texas Tribune] Context: Uvalde families have rallied around the push for a raise-the-age law. They view it as a compromise, grounded in the reality that Texas is a gun state.
An Ohio grand jury decided that eight Akron police officers involved in last summer’s killing of Jayland Walker, whom the officers shot 46 times, will not face criminal charges. In response to the decision, Democratic U.S. Representative Emilia Strong Sykes, of Akron, said she will request a Justice Department investigation into the Police Department. [Akron Beacon Journal]
Three people, including two teenagers, were arrested and charged with murder in connection to the mass shooting at a Sweet 16 party in Dadeville, Alabama. Per the local district attorney, the teens will be tried as adults. [USA TODAY]
A Shooting Survivor Who Refuses to Let a Massacre Define Her: Anne Marie Hochhalter was a Columbine High School junior eating lunch with her friends when two gunmen stormed the lawn. (February 2016)
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