The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Things blamed for the deadly Texas school shooting: Ritalin. Abortion. The media. Schools. And doors.

Gun rights and gun control advocates lobbied for their solutions to mass shootings on May 20, two days after the devastating attack at Santa Fe High School. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Another school shooting has prompted yet another debate, the same intractable split about a statistic that has made the United States an outlier compared with other countries: the high number of mass shootings per capita.

Study after study analyzing mass shootings within the United States and in comparison with other countries demonstrate that the single most important variable is the high number of guns in the country, according to the New York Times. Yet after the high school shooting in Santa Fe, Tex., left 10 people dead last week, the National Rifle Association and other conservative entities have offered a host of reasons for the violence, none of which involve the weapons.

The best available evidence suggests NRA-backed gun policies are making crime worse

Here are some of the problems they spotlighted for blame, followed by what data has shown.

The media

The spokeswoman for National Rifle Association, Dana Loesch, blamed the media for the shooting, in part.

“The media has got to stop creating more of these monsters by oversaturation,” Loesch said on the NRA’s television station. “I'm not saying don't responsibly report on things as they happen. Look, I understand it. But constantly showing the image of the murderer, constantly saying their name, is completely unnecessary.”

Loesch’s criticism seemed to echo parts of a longtime campaign by some victims’ families and others to get national media organizations to focus less on the shooters and their manifestos, pictures, postings and even their names, and more on victims as a strategy to reduce publicity that could inspire others seeking notoriety.

David Hogg, an 18-year-old activist, also asked media organizations this week not to name the Santa Fe High School shooter, although he has remained one of the most prominent gun-control advocates since the Parkland shooting in February.

Video games, abortion, lack of religion in schools

Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, a Republican and prominent gun proponent in the state, has pointed to numerous issues that he sees lurking behind last week's shooting. In the hours after the violence, he said that reducing the number of entrances at the high school and others like it could have stopped the shooter, a remark that drew jeers on social media from gun-control advocates and others.

On Sunday, Patrick took aim at video games and complained about the lack of religion in schools, as well as the prevalence of abortions in the United States.

“We have 50 million abortions,” he said, according to CNN. “We have families that are broken apart, no fathers at home. We have incredible heinous violence as a game, two hours a day in front of their eyes. And we stand here and we wonder why this happens to certain students.”

Texas official says that fewer doors could mean fewer school shootings. We had experts weigh in.


Jonathan Stickland, a Republican state representative in Texas, seemed to imply that sending children to school was the problem.

“Hearing from many parents they’re scared to send their kids to school,” he wrote on Twitter. “We need to give them as many different choices as possible.”

‘Pummeling received on social media’

Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt (who is also a contributing columnist at The Washington Post), pointed out that the killer did not use an assault rifle and argued  that some of the gun-control methods in popular proposals wouldn’t have had any impact. Instead, he recommended paying attention to troublesome individuals, a premise broadly echoed by some security experts, and suggested keeping a close eye on students’ clothing.

“To the teachers and administrators out there, the trench coat is kind of a giveaway,” he said. “You might just say, ‘No more trench [coats].’ The creepy people, make a list, check it twice.”

The Parkland students outpaced them. So the pro-Trump media was prepared for the Santa Fe school shooting.

He also spoke of the “social media petri dish problem,” saying that the shooter may have been moved by, among other things, a “pummeling received on social media.”

At the American Conservative, a writer mused about modern technology’s role.

“Smartphones came out in 2007,” wrote Rod Dreher, in a discursive essay titled “Helplessness & The Santa Fe Shooting. “Social media became a huge thing around 2010. Is there a connection?”

A culture of violence and Ritalin

New NRA President Oliver North blamed a “culture of violence,” and criticized prescription drugs like Ritalin, which is used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, after the shooting.

“The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence,” North said on Fox News. “They've been drugged in many cases. Nearly all of these perpetrators are male, and they're young teenagers in most cases. And they've come through a culture where violence is commonplace. All we need to do is turn on the TV, go to a movie. If you look at what has happened to young people, many of these young boys have been on Ritalin since they were in kindergarten.”

The New York Times reported on studies that examined many non-gun-related issues that are often held up as explanations for the mass shootings in the United States. It noted that mental-health issues and video game use did little to explain the mass shootings, as some have claimed, as other developed countries experience similar levels of both but much lower shooting rates. Other studies have shown that the United States is not more crime-prone than other nations, just more mass-shooting prone. And some have shown a strong positive correlation between higher gun ownership and more gun violence.

Read more:

Oliver North blames school shootings on ‘culture of violence.’ He was a pitchman for a violent video game.

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