Going for the record

June 4, 2008

This is chilling, isn’t it?

A teenager accused of plotting a school attack wrote that he wanted “instant recognition” for shooting a record number of victims and that he wouldn’t feel sorry about it, according to documents unsealed Tuesday.

A black spiral notebook authorities obtained from the 16-year-old boy’s locker at Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind., contained handwritten entries in which the teen expressed his hatred for most of the people at the school.

“I wanna break the current shooting record. I wanna get instant recognition. The only thing that stops me is the fact of being put in jail forever, or having to kill myself, or getting killed by an officer. I could kill anyone without feeling sorry because society sucks!!!” read an entry dated April 18, the day before he was arrested.

This plot is in line with the finding of the National Institute of Justice that school shootings are rarely impulsive; most are planned at least a couple of weeks in advance. When the derangement needed in such incidents is combined with a desire to “break the current record,” watch out. I’m afraid the media contribute to the numbers-game mentality. When we report such incidents, we make so much of how many were killed that there we almost convey a sense of disappointment when the previous body count hasn’t been topped.

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