Vines: Media should give more attention to victims, not perpetrators, of shootings


Katy Vines, Columnist

One of the biggest stories on the news this week is the shooting at the University of California, Santa Barbara. By now, almost everyone has heard of Elliot Rodger and his horrific crime. While the topic of mass shootings is extremely sensitive to many people, I can’t help but feel confused and offended by the way my country deals with such events. From my experience, almost every mass shooting that gains national attention is handled in a very distinct way by the press, the government and the general public. Through Columbine High School, Virginia Tech University, Sandy Hook Elementary School and UCSB, we are able to clearly see this pattern.

First, the media covers the story and it is replayed over and over for days or weeks on end. Then, it comes up with a very compelling story about the history of the shooter, which I have noticed usually focuses on his mental health or on the way those around him treated him. While I wasn’t really old enough to internalize the Columbine shooting when it happened, I have heard about the tragedy growing up. I have heard the story of how Eric and Dylan were bullied and depressed loners and that one day they snapped and retaliated at those who had made their lives difficult. Not only did this story turn out to be almost completely untrue, but it also provided attention and fame for the shooters specifically because of their crimes.

Despite the fact that 13 people lost their lives and 21 were wounded during the shooting at Columbine, I have rarely heard the victims’ stories. The media focuses so intensely on the life and struggle of the shooter or shooters that they often remain unknown. Additionally, many people tend to research and talk about the shooter specifically, which builds up his or her level of distinction. The most important thing for everyone to remember is that these shooters, before they committed their horrendous crimes, were regular people. They were students, coworkers and maybe even friends. People are often shocked after these incidents, but the truth is that the shooter almost always shows signs of dangerous behavior, such as talking or writing about plans to harm others, even if he or she is not necessarily mentally ill or bullied. We should take the time to really talk to those around us and listen to what they have to say, so that we may potentially be able to get them help before their situation escalates into a national tragedy.

Katy Vines is a Weinberg freshman. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].