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Taft Union High School Shooter Was a Victim of Bullying

Taft Union High School Shooter Was a Victim of Bullying

by Karen Ocamb on January 11, 2013

On Thursday, the same day that Vice President Biden was meeting with the NRA to discuss finding common ground on gun control regulation unsuccessfully – across the country in Kern County, California, a 16 year old boy walked from his nearby home with his sibling’s shotgun, pockets stuffed with ammunition, entered the first period science class at Taft Union High School and shot a student he claimed had bulled him. He allegedly fired two more rounds looking for a second student before being talked into laying down his shotgun by a popular teacher and a campus supervisor as 28 students escaped. The 16 year old victim is in critical but stable condition and is expected to undergo surgery Friday. (Click here for an extensive report from the Bakersfield TV news.)

According to several students, the smart, short teenage shooter had been kicked out of school last year for having a “hit list” with the names of those who had teased and bullied him. But he had been allowed back in school this year. CBS News reports:

“He planned the event,” [Kern County Sheriff Donny] Youngblood said. “Certainly he believed that the two people he targeted had bullied him, in his mind. Whether that occurred or not we don’t know yet.”

The violence came just minutes after administrators had announced new lockdown safety procedures prompted by the Newtown, Conn., school slayings….

Youngblood said that the suspect would be charged with attempted murder. The district attorney will decide whether he’s charged as an adult, Youngblood said.

CNN reported that Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy was there – Kern County is in his district.  “I am deeply saddened and troubled by news of the shooting,” he said.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein also commented. “Today comes word of another tragic shooting at an American school,” Feinstein said. “At this moment my thoughts and prayers are with the victims, and I wish them a speedy recovery.  But how many more shootings must there be in America before we come to the realization that guns and grievances do not belong together?”

Feinstein makes a key point.  But, as a parent interviewed by CNN indicates, the focus is on the shooter rather than what triggered the shooting. The parent said: “I don’t know what you do with a kid like that. I don’t know where you put him.” About 75% of the parents, he said, probably didn’t know he was back in that school.

After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut,  in which 20 children and six adults were killed, CNN looked at what caused the mental illness that  precipitated the shooting – something that Biden and the NRA might agree upon – do background checks and deny guns to those found to have mental illness.  But, as Jack Levin, noted professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University, told CNN, while there are behavioral “warning signs,” it’s still hard to predict who might resort to violence. “They may be loners, and strange and angry and have access to firearms, but they don’t hurt anyone,” Levin said.

The question is: if the school knew that this 16 year old had a “hit list” of those who he claimed had bullied him – why did they not intervene and mediate the situation so the issue of bullying would be dealt with and dissipated immediately? Instead it looks like victim of bullying was made to feel responsible for his plight and with no place to turn for adult help, the teenager apparently saw no recourse but revenge. To paraphrase Feinstein, how many more shootings must there be in America before we come to the realization that bullying – real or imagined – is a grievance that might lead to guns?

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