People are complicated. They’re complex. They’re never just one thing. If you were to try to figure out who I am by only looking at one aspect of my life, you’d come up with something wildly different depending on what part of my life you examined. If you looked at my music, you might think I have a problem with authority and a nostalgic streak. If you looked at my books you might think I was a romantic science nerd. If you looked at my high school transcripts, you might think I was a slacker who barely graduated. If you looked at my blog…well, I don’t even know what you’d think.
No one is only one thing. We’re all Jackson Pollock splatters of paint—disorienting and weird and unknowable. We’re the sum of our experiences and we’re more than the sum of them.
When a school shooting occurs, everyone wants to know why. They want to know how a person could do something so beyond terrible, and they want to know how we can stop it from happening again. But in the search for answers, we inevitably latch onto one aspect of the shooter’s life and blame his actions on that. Whether it’s goth music or violent video games or lax gun control laws, we zero in on that one thing we think can tell us who the shooter was and why he did what he did.
(Side note: I use the pronoun “he” because while a study performed by the Secret Service after the Columbine shootings showed that it was nearly impossible to create a meaningful profile of a school shooter, the one commonality is that nearly all school shootings are committed by males.)
The problem with latching onto that one thing is that we lose focus on the human being behind the monster. If the goal is to prevent future school shootings, then we have to reach the human before he becomes a monster.
As I wrote in the side note, the Secret Service report (which my amazing agent, Amy Boggs pointed me toward) found there was no meaningful profile of a school shooter. They could be bullies or the bullied. They could be any religion, any race, from any socioeconomic background. Some had previously diagnosed mental illnesses, some did not. Which is why focusing on one thing will never work. People are too complex. They’re made up of infinite shifting pieces that make categorizing them as one thing impossible.
That’s why I wanted to publish Violent Ends. I wanted to create a picture of the person behind the monster. I firmly believe that the best way for us to prevent school shootings, isn’t to find and eliminate school shooters, it’s to help children before they can become a school shooter. The thing no one likes to admit is that each person who commits an act of violence like a school shooting is an actual human being inside. The media may try to reduce them and their behavior into one thing, but we can’t and shouldn’t do the same.
I don’t expect readers to walk away feeling sympathy for Kirby Matheson, the fictional school shooter in Violent Ends. That’s not what the book is about. What I hope is that they’ll read it and realize that he wasn’t just a school shooter. He was a brother and a gamer and a friend and a band geek and a book worm. He wasn’t just one thing. Yes, he was a school shooter, but he was a person too.