School Shootings in the USA: 10 Points

EDITORIAL, 12 Oct 2015

#397 | Johan Galtung, 12 Oct 2015 - TRANSCEND Media Service

The Oregon community college was “the 45th school shooting this year in America; the 142nd school shooting since the Newton massacre in 2012”, Matthew Albracht–Peace Alliance–who adds: 25% of women experience domestic violence, 6 million children witness it every year, 28% of children are bullied during the year and they are 2 to 9 times more likely to commit suicide. What can be done? 10 points:

  1. Gun control, of course. But the point is not only sales control but possession control with very strict laws for possession and making illegal possession a federal crime. With an average of at least one lethal weapon per citizen, there are enough arms to continue shootings; sales control is insufficient. States and municipalities can endorse this ahead of time for Weapons Free Zones in America, as places where life is safer. There will still be armed police around.
  2. Less violent foreign policy, of course. Believing that serious change in domestic violence is possible without serious change from violent to solution-oriented foreign policy is unspeakably naive. “If my government can kill whoever stands in our way so can I; if we think we are exceptional, above the law, so am I, as a US citizen” is a psycho-mechanism that can only be beaten by destroying the premise. A government solving problems instead of bombing their way through will have an equally strong effect on the citizens, but this time positive.
  3. Less violent media, of course. The point is not only less violence, with copycat danger. The point is deeper: media that focus on solutions; journalists who systematically ask politicians “what is the unsolved conflict underlying this violence, and what are you going to do about it?”; media with at least as much attention to peace efforts as to violence (which of course has to be reported); switching the point of gravity from the negative and superficial to the root causes and to positive approaches, in all the usual media negativism.
  4. Handling mental cases better, of course. Every shooting is a mental case; no concept of normalcy embraces gunning down people in schools. Moreover, nearly every shooting is also a suicidal case; they know perfectly well that they will themselves be gunned down, or captured for capital punishment and use a last bullet for themselves. They belong in institutions–a rich society can afford such preventive measures for care and cure; not at home with a mother who may care but not cure. As the preceding three points, professionalism is needed.
  5. Peace education from kindergarten onward, of course. The experience from Norway: this is better done by discussing how to handle their own conflicts–bullying, with and among teachers, with and between parents, with and among administrators, among all of them rather than by reading texts; they come in addition. Use the concrete cases to understand conflicts not as violence but problems of incompatibility–“I want this, He wants that, the goals clash”–crying for solution, solving the problem, making the goals compatible. Dialogue and mutual respect will help a lot. In K and lower grades the teachers have to propose solutions–children are not born with them but think conflict behavior at home–the only reality they know–is normal. Then they start proposing and implementing themselves, ahead of adults so often getting lost in “I am right, He is wrong”.

However, there is more than handling conflict relations; there is also building peace relations of friendship, love. Sooner or later equity and empathy have to enter: in friendship there is cooperation for mutual, but also relatively equal benefit, one is not an underling of the other. Moreover, they learn to respect each other’s views.

  1. Conflict hygiene. Body hygiene is taught, time for conflict hygiene. Know your own goals. Know those of others. If incompatible do not get angry, hateful, violent; see the other party as a partner in mutual search for solution, not as enemy. You may need mediators.
  2. Conflict solution. It has to be learnt. A good point of departure is to know the three solutions for conflicts with two goals: compromise (the lazy way out, usually unsatisfactory); neither-nor, give up both, surprisingly useful; both-and–the best, bridging goals in a somewhat new reality, like a club, new togetherness. Not only to prevent future violence, but also using the conflict to build peace.
  3. Trauma conciliation. It has to be learnt, how to handle the memories of past violence that can well up and destroy everything. A good point of departure is to know three musts: with the help of a friend try to understand the underlying conflict and whether it can still be solved; the perpetrator of violence distancing himself from the act, “that was stupid of me”, “I wish it undone” rather than apology; then both trying to design some future cooperation.
  4. Peace Structure. General formula: horizontal relations, mutual and equal benefit all over–much progress has been and is being made. Equity. Between genders and generations in families and elsewhere, between races everywhere also internationally, by reducing economic gaps in societies and companies–build cooperatives instead–by reducing political gaps through genuine democracy, not bank-ocracy. More cooperative, less competitive, schooling from K to university.
  5. Peace Culture. General formula: mutual learning to reduce cultural gaps–“I like that idea of yours and will adopt it; how about you and my points?” Denounce any idea of being chosen with rights, even duties, to be above others. Celebrate the value of any human being, of life itself as a sacred gift. Empathy. +With any victim, with the bereaved. And criminals: restorative, not punitive justice.

A tall order? Not at all, and it is all coming. The USA knows that unlimited guns and empire are dying and are in a state of denial, hanging on to the past, moving through agony to acceptance. In the meantime the other eight points can be practiced locally, right away.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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2 Responses to “School Shootings in the USA: 10 Points”

  1. Dear Johan,

    Of course I agree with all your suggestions. At the same time, however, I’m aware of the fact the USA Administration also agrees with you, but they know such methods will hinder their “war programme”.

    Your first point: “Gun control” has already been applied by Guiliani, former Mayor of New York, when he wanted to help Clinton win a second term at the White House.In fact, Giuliani applied exactly what you’re recommending, “sales control” and mainly “possession control”. However the No.1 measure – stop nmanufacturing – was not taken and is not recommended by you. RESULT: increased exports abnd increased gun violence in many Latin American and several European countries. “Weapons Free Zones in America” means “Armed Zones” in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Nigeria, Angola, Sudán, etc.

    To follow your suggestion of a “Less violent foreign policy”, Washington should again, close manufacturing plants of mortars, bombs, rockets, tanks, warships, Apaches, drones, air-fighters, torture instruments, etc. With the current levels of production and a need to help munfacturers sell their products, the White House has NO ALTERNATIVE to produce and promote violence.

    You also suggest “Less violent media”. How then do you suggest promoting young men and women joining the USA Forces? because in many countries Military Service is no longer compulsory, Governments are forced to create a Youth attracted by violence, blood, torturing others, etc. It is mainly this violent young people who are attracted by a life in the military. In fact, many soldiers are very happy, because if, as civilians, they kill someone, they are considered murderers and have to spend many years, sometimes their entire lives, in prison.

    As soldiers they are free to kill and the more they kill the higher the chances of a successful career, in the Military or in Politics.

    We must not forget also that Corporate Media is much involved in Military manufacturing and trade, so promoting non-violence goes against their interests.

    Peace Education should start by making National Anthems ILLEGAL. To teach children to recite and sing how great their country, how prepared they are to die for their country and teach them human equality, respect for other countries, etc, is an oxymoron.

    USA Governments spend millions in Educators and Psychologists (all connected to toy and video games inventors, creators and manufacturers) to make sure they create vionent young people

    A very complex issue.
    Best wishes,

  2. Dear Johan

    I would do one thing above all others you mention. Raise awareness of what is causing the violence so that each individual can play a strategic role in addressing violence at its origin. In essence, help individuals to understand that ‘visible’ violence, in its wide variety of direct, structural, cultural and ecological forms, is an outcome of the ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ that we adults inflict on children without even realising it.

    A dramatically revised parenting model is needed and, indeed, healed parents too. Here are the key documents from 49 years of research:

    ‘Why Violence?’ – – which is summarised, extremely briefly, in this newspaper article: ‘Time to End the Adult War on Children’ –

    Anita McKone’s explanation of our process in seclusion (from 1996-2010) undertaking a deep psychological examination of our own minds: ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’:

    In appreciation.

    For a world without violence; Robert Burrowes