2007-04-21 : Key factors in Cho's shooting spree

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2007-04-21 : Key factors in Cho's shooting spree

Postby GOSA » Fri, 2007-05-04 07:15

Key factors in Cho's shooting spree

April 21, 2007 Edition 1

Isolation from his peers, easy access to guns, and Hollywood
images of gun-toting machismo were all key factors in Cho Seung-
Hui's transformation into a gruesome killer, sociologists say.

US media has been quick to frame the 23-year-old South Korean
man, whose rampage killed at least 32 in the worst school
shooting in US history on Monday, as a mentally disturbed
"loner" whose erratic shooting spree ended in suicide.

He wrote twisted, morbid plays in English class, set fire to a
dormitory room and stalked college women, according to cobbled
together accounts of his life from the few people who interacted
with him at Virginia Tech University.

But the real shaping factors in the crime require a broader
perspective on US culture, according to Joseph Gasper, a
professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University.

"I would urge people to avoid attributing the crime in Virginia
to the mental illness of an individual and focus on the myriad
of social factors that would play a role in this sort of violent
crime," Gasper said.

He pointed to "factors like social marginalisation ... violence
in the media, masculinity issues, easy access to guns," as among
the key factors that need to be examined.

"Individual explanation based on mental illness doesn't really
help us ... it doesn't help prevent future shootings."

Gasper agreed with the portrayal of Seung-Hui as a loner, but
counselled against viewing his actions as isolated.

"It's very clear that in a lot of American movies and TV there
is a link between manhood and violence ... telling young men who
are having social problems that, 'Hey, take a gun and kill
people,' (and they) can be very empowered."

Those messages take root in fragile minds but also find their
way into culture and society, Gasper said.

"In the US there has always been this culture of violence mainly
associated with the south. If someone hurts you, it's legitimate
to retaliate," he said, noting "violence and intimidation were
used to control slaves."

School shootings do not happen only in the US - for instance a
German gunman killed 15 people at a school in Erfurt in 2002 -
but they have happened in the US more often than elsewhere.

The two teenage gunmen in the school shooting at Columbine High
School in 1999 in the western state of Colorado got their guns
from their parents' homes, he said.

And Seung-Hui purchased his two guns and ammunition himself,
authorities said. The legal age for buying a gun in the state of
Virginia is 12, though that requires parental supervision.

"Of course it is more likely that there is going to be gun
violence in general in the US than in Britain or France ... the
actual murder rate is higher in the US," said sociologist Peggy
Giordano.

However, she admitted that "probably there are some social risk
factors that are involved that are greater in the US".

"We do have historically a more independent approach, more
individualistic, the frontier mentality ... I think it might be
an image of a male more in charge ... probably a different way
the French men understand being a man."

Those tendencies can combine with a high level of emotional
turmoil experienced by college-age men, Giordano found in a
study of 1300 teenagers and young adults as they were moving to
colleges.

"Many acts of violence in this country do stem from these
emotional upsets," she said.

"When men feel humiliated ... the emotions are definitely key to
understanding those acts of violence." - Sapa-AFP
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