School Shootings: Mental Illness or Pure Evil? by Alina Lopez

The devastating incident at Uvalde, TX, trails recent mass shootings that have occurred in our country. We are mourning and outraged, especially with what happened at Uvalde, because it took the lives of 21 innocent victims: 19 of them children between the ages of 9 and 11. After every such terrible event, everyone starts asking what could be done to prevent school shootings? Many blame the lack of gun control laws. Many blame mental illness. Many blame a combination of both. Yet, this finger pointing isn’t getting us anywhere in solving how to stop further school shootings from happening.  

Since Columbine in 1999, there have been over 300 school shootings, where nearly 200 children and others have lost their lives. Columbine changed the way professionals, such as law enforcement and mental health specialists, view and respond to school and mass shootings. The underlying cause as to why these perpetrators acted is due to mental health issues as well as an adverse reaction to being victims of bullying and harassment by their peers. Some preventative measures that have been implemented over the years focus on target hardening the campuses. Metal detectors, armed security on the premises, one entry/exit access to the campus, and using the CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) strategy are all extra layers of security to help keep our children safe in schools. The fact of the matter though, is that this may not actually halt a gunman from doing harm. See, if the desire to commit the crime isn’t addressed and eliminated, there could still be a way to have their plan unfold. It may be harder, but as the saying goes, “When there’s a will, there’s a way.” 

There are always signs that point to a perturbed individual. No, not everyone who is battling depression or mental health struggles is going to shoot up a school, but there are clues from all past shooters that we have to look at and not ignore.  The average age of the assailants is 18 and male, who have been victims of bullying or have witnessed violence at home on a regular basis. The majority of the shooters, motivated by a generalized anger, have obtained weapons from relatives; some have legally bought firearms. Most have no criminal record or documented mental health diagnosis and the majority of the school mass shooters die in the attack.  

So, what are some signs that we could be on the lookout for? The key to stopping these tragedies lies in society being alert to warning signs and acting on them immediately.  

  • Sudden withdrawal from friends, family, and activities 
  • Victims of bullying 
  • Excessive irritability  
  • Chronic loneliness or social isolation 
  • Persistent thoughts of self-harm or harm to others 
  • Making direct threats toward a place, another person, or themselves 
  • Bragging about access to guns and weapons 
  • Purposely hurting and/or killing animals 
  • Leaving posts, messages, or videos warning of an impending attack 

*Note: This isn’t a complete list of warning signs. Exhibiting any of these does not necessarily indicate imminent violence, however, when concerned about troubling behaviors, tell a trusted adult or call 911 if there is an immediate threat. 

Citizens’ Crime Watch, through the Youth Crime Watch program, educates students on the importance of school safety and violence prevention. We stress reporting suspicious activities and behaviors in both the neighborhood and in the schools.  

Is the cause of these attacks a nationwide mental health crisis that we are facing in this country and isn’t being addressed properly or is it something beyond our understanding and just pure evil that is plaguing our world? Regardless, we must come together to keep our schools and communities safe. 

To contact us, call 305-470-1670, or visit our website at 

Until next time, be aware, make good choices, and stay safe. 

Written by: Alina Lopez

Citizen’s Crime Watch of Miami-Dade

Citizens’ Crime Watch is a nonprofit county-wide crime prevention program funded by the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, grants and donations.