The notion one has these days is that whenever you turn on a TV set, it no longer raises the eyebrows to see dozens of students running screaming out of a building where some psychopathic lunatic has gone on a rampage. In the USA of course, where else? And let us try to answer this question, taking a look at the bigger issue.
Wednesday April 10, 2014. Franklin Regional High School, Murrysville, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America. 21 students and a security guard injured by a 16-year-old boy using a knife. Some victims were just 14 years old. So here we go again, this time with a weapon known as M (Melee, knives, swords and the like) as compared with F (Firearm) or E (Explosives).
For Franklin, read Columbine, read Sandy Hook, Newtown, Connecticut, read Blacksburg, Virginia. Columbine, made infamous by Michael Moore's film Bowling for Columbine, where on April 20 1999, an eighteen-year-old and a seventeen-year-old student perpetrated a planned attack on schoolmates murdering 13 and injuring 21, using firearms and explosives before committing suicide.
Newtown, Connecticut, Sandy Hook Elementary School where on December 14 2012, Adam Lanza, 20 years of age, murdered 27 primary school children and injured a further 2, before committing suicide.
Blacksburg, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where on April 16, 2007, the 23-year-old Seung-hui Cho murdered 32 students and injured 17, with firearms, before committing suicide. USA, USA, USA.
But just a moment... Baku, Azerbaijan State Oil Academy, where Farda Gadirov, 28 years of age, murdered 12 students and injured 13 with firearms before committing suicide on April 30, 2009. Haven't heard of that one? Then how about Wellington Menezes de Oliveira, 23 years old, who murdered 12 and injured a further 12 elementary school students aged between 12 and 14 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at the Escola Municipal Tasso da Silveira, using firearms, before committing suicide on April 7, 2011?
And what about these other school massacres since the turn of the century?
In the top fifteen, in terms of victims, we also have, in 2002, the Erfurt massacre in Germany, where on April 26, 19-year-old Robert Steinhäuser killed 16 people with a firearm (13 faculty members, 2 students and a guard) at the Gutenberg-Gymnasium School and injured one other person, before committing suicide.
Also in Germany, in 2009, on March 11, 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer murdered 15 students and injured 9 others with firearms before committing suicide at the Winnenden and Wendlingen Scondary School in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Then there is, on May 8, 2006, the Shiguan Kindergarten attack, perpetrated by 18-year-old Bai Ningyang, murdering 12 children and injuring 5, dousing them in gasoline and setting fire to them, before escaping. He was caught the next day and later executed.
Also in China, there was a series of attacks against schoolchildren from 2010 to 2011 (Zheng Misheng, 41, stabbed 8 children to death on March 23, 2010 in an elementary school in Nanping, Fujian. He was executed; in April, Chen Kangbing, 33, injured 16 students and a teacher in Hongfu Primary School. He was sentenced to death; in the same month, Xu Yuyuan, 47, stabbed 28 pupils and 2 teachers at Zhongxin Kindergarten and in Weifang, Shandong, Wanglai attacked primary school children with a hammer, before setting fire to himself, also in April). Further attacks took place in the PR China in May and August 2010, two more in 2011 and another in 2012.
And finally, in the top-15 since 2000, is the case of the Kauhajoki School shooting at the Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences, Finland, when a 22-year-old hospital management student murdered 10 people with a firearm and committed suicide.
There were many other incidents involving multiple victims also between 2000 and 2014, and many more before the year 2000, some of them in the USA but others elsewhere. True, the worst school massacre of all time took place in the USA in Bath Township, Michigan, in 1927, when Andrew Kehoe murdered 44 people, including 38 children, using explosives, before committing suicide but...
If there is a common denominator, it is not the United States of America. Reading through these hand-picked cases, and many others, what we can find is that in all cases, we have males, and in many of these mental illness or else a feeling of anger, frustration, rejection by the Institution attacked and a desire to heighten the manifestation through an act which will garner the maximum attention, before they commit suicide. Throw into that equation easy access to firearms, and we have a greater effect but not the cause.
The other common denominator is the families of the victims, who, whoever they are, whatever colour their skin, whatever their race or creed or nationality or socio-economic status, will grieve, will be marked for life, and who will cry. And their tears will taste of salt.