Love those who least deserve it: A profile of school shooters


Bradey Resulta, Freelance Writer

Think about someone you hate, for legitimate reasons. Are they rude? Are they reactive? Do they project their anger onto people around them? Do they cause problems for everyone they meet? 

Now, think about them again. But think of them differently. Are they loners? Do they have friends? Do they sit by themselves in social settings? Are they frowned upon by their peers, teachers, and family?  

And, maybe most importantly, are they loved? 

Unfortunately, the topic of school shootings is all too familiar for today’s generation. According to the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, 75% of mass shooters felt bullied/persecuted/threatened by others. 61% were motivated by the desire for revenge.  

School shooting incidents by year since 2010.

Obviously, mass shootings are a multi-faceted and complex problem. It takes more than gun control to solve it. A larger key issue that is consistent within those that become mass shooters is that they are ostracized by society and treated differently. 

This is not to say that guns are not a part of the problem. However, it’s about how we treat those who would be willing to put their hands on a gun in the first place. 

It is argued that the people who are convicted of being mass shooters are not likable in the first place, and so it justifies their rejection. For example, Nikolas Cruz, the mass shooter who killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was an extremely unlikeable person. He was known for speaking against minority groups such as African Americans and Muslims, and had known ties to a white supremacist group. Naturally, he was not a favorable character. 

However, Cruz also came from a compromised home life. His father was unknown, and his mother had an extensive criminal background. He was adopted shortly after he was born, but his adoptive father had died when he was young, and his adoptive mother had passed away two months before he committed the heinous shooting.  

Behaviorally, Cruz was troubled. And the school, along with his classmates, treated him so. While his home life was slowly unraveling, it did not help that he was further alienated from society when he was expelled.  

He felt unwanted, and he was treated like a threat. Cruz, thinking he had nothing left to lose, decided that if he was a threat, then he should fulfill that role. 

But, what if Cruz wasn’t labeled as a threat or a menace to society? What if he was treated like a friend? A human? 

This isn’t about blaming the victims or the school for the atrocious act that Cruz committed. It is merely asking: What if? 

Aaron Stark, a Colorado resident, spoke at a Ted Talk event in the spring of 2018. He spoke on the fact that he was almost a school shooter in 1996.  

He elaborated on his background and fleshed out his reasons for why he felt that he needed to commit an atrocity. His entire family consisted of habitual criminals, he was abused, he was bullied, and he switched schools often which led him to lack genuine friendships. He hated his life so much that he tried to end it.  

He said, “But the bullying wasn’t just at school. It happened at home a lot too. I was told that I was worthless by just about everybody in my life. When you’re told you’re worthless enough you will believe it, then you’re going to do everything to make everybody else agree with it too.” 

Stark admitted that he wasn’t a likable person. He said, “I had pushed all my other friends away, shoved them all away by lying to them or stealing from them…” 

According to Stark, he had one friend that didn’t treat him differently. Although he stole from them and lied to them, they treated him like the complex human that he was. That one friend saved multiple lives, as they are the reason why Stark decided not to become a school shooter.  

Stark believes that inclusivity is one of the solutions to mass shooters. He said, “Instead of looking at that kid like he’s a threat, look at him like he might be a friend, like you might be able to bring him into the fold… Show him that he is worth it. Show him that he can exist in this pain even though it’s intense, that at the end of it, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.” 

We never know the difficulties that others are facing, and that is why we must always choose kindness. It’s time to start looking at people in different lights. They may be full of hatred, resentment, and rebellion, and may be broken people themselves. It’s time to start asking: Why? What is happening in their life, that they feel the need to project it onto us? And, how can we help? 

This is a time where the cliché, “golden rule” of life comes into play. Treat others how you wish to be treated.  

In Stark’s words, “We have to give love to the people who we think deserve the least.”