Columbine High School (4/20/99)
In wake of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado:

1) Is there any more of a throw away moment than a reporter asking a student, "how could it happen here"? By the way, just what does that question mean? Does it imply that we expect such violence to occur in south central Los Angeles or Oak Cliff, but it's not supposed to happen in a predominately white school?
2) One of the students initially trapped in the school decided to call the local Colorado news station by cellular to give his account of the incident. A few minutes into the conversation, the on the air anchor advised the student to call 911. Everyone wants to grab their fifteen minutes of fame. 
3) WBAP radio repeatedly broadcast a piece of news on the morning following the shooting that wasn't news at all. The station aired a story about a web site of a former student of Plano East high school that made a reference to the "trench coat mafia", the group the Colorado shooters were associated with.  This was followed up with the explanation that the creator of the site had "updated it yesterday" but had stated that he was not associated with the boys in Colorado. Interpretation: Someone took the effort to type the words "trench coat mafia" yesterday but we're going to report it because we can use the word "internet" in the story. 
4) A recurring theme on the radio and television was that violent video games may be one of the root problems of violence by young people. I'm not sure how I come down on this. I played a Nintendo James Bond 007 video game with my nephew last Christmas, and you indeed win by killing your opponent with everything from automatic weapons to grenades. It was indeed violent. Then again, when I was growing up I pointed many a cap gun at my buddies and pulled the trigger in order to win our local cowboys and indians escapade.
5) If anything, the shooting provides fuel to those that call for school uniforms. It's a little hard to develop an attitude of a tough guy when your dressed in plaid. 
6) Another common thread among callers to talk radio was that random violence among young people is a by product of poor parenting in today's culture. Others blamed the violence on television, movies and videos. Oddly, all of these opinions were expressed before we even knew the identities of the shooters. For all we know, they were raised in good homes and read poetry in their spare time.
7) The most un-insightful comment about the cause of the tragedy comes from Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R - Colorado) on Larry King Live: "I might tell you, Larry, that I came from a dysfunctional home, and in addition to that, for 10 years I was a deputy sheriff and 10 years I was schoolteacher. And I know from own past experience when youngsters feel disenfranchised from the system they sometimes resort to anti-social behavior, and this, of course, is carried to the extreme." Oh, well, since you came from a dysfunctional home . . . .
8) And don't blame the school's administration for the incident. This type of violence is capable of happening anywhere at anytime. It is a price we pay for the freedom to associate, the freedom to express ideas, and the freedom to go down the street and buy a firearm. There will always be those among us that abuse those freedoms at the expense of others.

Barry Green is the District Attorney for the 271st Judicial District.

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