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Who’s To Blame? The Answer May Surprise


 It’s hard to believe, but as commentators, radio and television reporters, anchors, entertainment moguls, and dozens of others whip themselves into a frenzy pointing fingers at everything and anything which is even marginally related, we come to the unenviable conclusion that nobody is to blame in the Columbine High School shootings earlier this month in the Denver, Colorado suburb. You heard right — nobody but the killers themselves. Let’s go through the usual suspects…

The Parents
Outside of a great deal of media speculation and pure opinion (based not in fact, but in guesswork), we have no evidence that the parents of the children who committed these murders are to blame. By all accounts, the parents were pretty typical suburban parents, no more or less in touch with their kids behaviors than any other parent in the community.

Give me a break. While I’m no gun supporter, only a gun-control advocate could find a link between the availability of guns and this tragedy. The kids obtained the guns from a variety of sources, the restriction of which would not stop kids in the future from obtaining guns as needed for such a massacre. Parents and other adults who legitimately purchase and keep firearms cannot be forced to safely store them, no matter what laws are passed. And that’s where the system breaks down.

 Same with explosives. Home-made pipe-bombs are not exactly the easiest thing to ban. The ingredients for pipe bombs are wide-ranging, and would be nearly impossible to track through their sale. These kids didn’t walk into a gun store and buy these bombs — they made them from scratch.

Video Games
Video games, just like books or television, can’t make someone do something they don’t want to. While playing endless hours of Doom may have made them more immune to violence, and help hone their shooting skills, it cannot be said to be the cause of their irrational behavior. Millions of kids play these types of video games everyday in the U.S. 99.9999% of them do not go around killing their classmates because of it. If video games were the cause of these killings, they would be happening every day, not once a year.

Just as impractical. If video games aren’t causing children to kill (throwing away all the morality and ethics they were taught by their parents while growing up), it’s just as impossible for us to point the finger of blame at Hollywood or TV in all seriousness. Children can read lots of books (I know I did as a teen), but you don’t hear any of these commentators suggesting the banning of all books which may depict an act of violence or aggression. It’s silly to assume that a teen is so easily influenced, that their ideas of morality and absolute right and wrong can be manipulated just by watching a TV show. Most teens are more intelligent than that. Otherwise, again, kids would be killing kids daily. That just isn’t happening.

The Internet
If anything, the Internet could be seen as an appropriate emotional release mechanism for pent-up feelings of violence and anger. Sites like understand that and are working to provide an outlet for teens to express themselves.

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 While certainly there is a wide range of hate online, it only reflects the diversity of the world we live in. In a society where free speech is cherished, we must understand that such hate will always be around. Whether it’s in the form of a KKK meeting in a local community, or a Nazi Web page, only the modality has changed, not the availability of finding hate. Hate’s worst enemy is knowledge and information. The more people know and learn about the people who peddle these sorts of things, the more one understands and makes wiser choices.

 Hate groups also cling to the outcasts of society, and welcome them into their clan. The answer to such behaviors is to be sure that amongst a group of people (such as a class of high school students), even the so-called outcasts feel like they at least belong to some type of group or clique. The kids who killed in Colorado did — the so-called “trench coat mafia.” But that really didn’t help, since the clique was dysfunctional at best.

The Music
I never thought I’d hear this in 1999, but once again, people who don’t bother trying to understand music point their ignorant fingers at bands which they believe contribute to the hate via their lyrics or message.

 Music is an escape, a way of finding entertainment and enjoyment through sounds and lyrics which one can relate to. Nobody listens to or buys music which doesn’t appeal to them. Therefore it is highly unlikely music could cause anything, since by definition, the person must already agree to the general tone of the music or lyrics.

 I’ve never had the urge to purchase a John Denver CD just out of curiosity. Nor do most people buy their CDs that way. They buy them based upon recommendations of friends, or after hearing a song on the radio. If the music holds no appeal to them, then the CD goes into the pile of never-listened-to music. But if the music group appeals to the listener, then the individual listens even more. The core beliefs and philosophies must already be present in the listener though, for them to enjoy the music. We simply do not listen to nor enjoy music we don’t agree with.

 This is not rocket science.

So we’re left to blaming the individuals who murdered their fellow schoolmates and themselves. These two teens, Dylan Klebold, 17, and Eric Harris, 18, are to blame for their actions and they alone. Seeking to put the blame anywhere else or on anyone else shows a basic misunderstanding and simple ignorance of criminal behavior and its motivations.

Who’s To Blame? The Answer May Surprise

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Who’s To Blame? The Answer May Surprise. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.