the time they shot. While there was often some relationship between the suburban shooters and those at whom they shot or who were in the vicinity of the shooting, they mostly did not have specific targets or hit those whom they might have been targeting. Their grievances were more diffuse, and their shooting more indiscriminate. An important finding of the committee is that events of this kind did not seem to have occurred in the inner-city schools.


The Role of Economic and Social Structure

A well-established tradition in sociology and criminology is to begin the search for the causes of violence in the structural characteristics of society. The idea is that violence occurs among those in social positions who are disadvantaged relative to others in society, or who are excluded and alienated from the dominant culture, or who are victims of oppression and injustice. This tradition is reflected in the inner-city cases. The case writers locate the violence exactly where this view would expect to find it—in communities that have been socially, economically, and politically marginalized. It is hard not to draw the conclusion that these factors played an important role in causing the violence observed.

What is startling, however, is that some portion of the lethal violence observed happens not in economically marginalized communities, but in ones that are relatively well off economically, socially, and politically. Paducah is not a thriving community; it has its pockets of poverty. But the other three suburban or rural communities studied were relatively affluent, and homogeneously so. Jonesboro, Edinboro, and Rockdale County were all thriving, affluent areas in which few were left behind. It would be hard to attribute the shootings in these areas to economic or social disadvantage.

The role of economic and social status cannot be wholly excluded. In one of the suburban cases, the social position of the shooter was relatively low in his community, which may suggest to some that class did play an important role in shaping the character and motivations of a future offender. And there are plenty of reasons to think that great tensions lurk beneath the surface of the apparently successful communities, that great gulfs divide adults from youth in these places, and that the places themselves are a bit unstable due to recent economic growth. An important similarity across the urban and rural and suburban environments was the presence of rapid social change in five of the six communities, which can produce instability even when the changes are positive ones.

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