Tags: Aurora theater shootings, Batman movie shootings, Colorado Theater Shootings, columbine, James Holmes
After incidents like Columbine and now the Aurora theater shootings, people are wondering what it is about Colorado.
And indeed while those two are the deadliest incidents, they are not the only ones in recent Colorado history that might be highlighted. In 2006, an adult gunman entered Platte Canyon High School in the foothills about 45 minutes outside Denver and shot dead 16-year-old Emily Keyes before killing himself. In 2007, Matthew Murray, 24, shot four people dead then killed himself in a rampage that included the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. “He had downloads about Columbine gunmen Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the Platte Canyon School shootings and the Virginia Tech shootings. Experts later did a forensic analysis of the computer and found 444 connections to Columbine. There were 33 to Virginia Tech,” The Denver Post reported.
In 2010, another adult shooter shot and injured two students at Bear Creek Middle School in Jefferson County, the same county where Columbine occurred. In that incident, Bruco Eastwood was found not guilty by reason of insanity on the most serious charges, according to one news story.
A search for the common denominators in school shootings across the country drove me to spend 10 years researching my book “Columbine: A True Crime Story.” I believe a concept known as “culture of honor” is one of the key factors that compelled a core group of school shootings.
The South and the West of the United States have a “culture of honor” that infuses people with the belief that if you feel your honor has been violated, you feel it is appropriate to retaliate with violence. I argue that school shooters, who often see themselves as outsiders, feel their honor has been violated.
Looking at the sites of school shootings, you can map it to prove it: Columbine; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Bethel, Alaska; Paducah, Kentucky; Santee, California; Pearl, Mississippi. In turn, I believe adult shooters may be taking a cue from juvenile shooters. (In addition to the Colorado shootings, for instance, other adult shooters have unleashed in southern Alabama; Carthage, N.C.; and Virginia Tech.)
Culture of honor as an issue in school shootings was borne out in a 2009 study in Psychological Science. The Denver Post also wrote about it this past week with, “In the wake of another mass shooting, a question: Why Colorado?”
You may point out Aurora shooting suspect James Holmes was not from Colorado; but he was from California, another Western state. In the end, as I wrote in a previous blog post, who knows what motivated Holmes at this early stage?
But it will be interesting to see if Holmes mentioned Columbine in any writings that may turn up. If so, I also fear it could be a case of Colorado becoming an attraction in its own right – i.e. just because some people did it here, others want to follow. Maybe the same way Berkeley became a haven for hippies, a critical mass develops. For Colorado, it would be a scary proposition.