In spite of the current health situation, gun violence is still a growing topic at SUNY Oswego’s Criminal Justice Department.
A new course, Mass Shootings and Society (CRJ 412), was introduced by Dr. Jaclyn Schildkraut, an Associate Professor with SUNY Oswego’s Criminal Justice Department.
As of Summer 2020, the course is available for sophomore students, upperclassmen and students who have completed the Introduction to Criminal Justice (CRJ 101) course, after the new class was approved in the Spring by Oswego’s Undergraduate Curriculum Council. The material will be offered intermittently in the department’s lineup of electives.
“I taught a first-year signature course on Mass Shootings in the U.S. during the Fall 2019 semester and wanted to expand it to a more robust course,” Schildkraut said. “Researching mass shootings is my area of expertise, so I also wanted to be able to share something I am passionate in learning more about with my students.”
The course number also has a special meaning for Schildkraut, who grew up in the Parkland, Florida, area and went to college for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Orlando, Florida, which is where the Pulse shooting took place in 2016.
The designated “412” course number is actually an inversed codification for “214,” standing for Feb. 14, which symbolizes the anniversary for the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland.
“In terms of these shootings having a broader impact on me, I think seeing even one of your own communities impacted by these tragedies is definitely transformative, but having two is just life-altering,” Schildkraut said. “I was actually back in South Florida recently and I went to Parkland and no matter how long you stare at a building you have known your entire life, it will never look the same again, even when the physical structure itself hasn’t changed.”
Having these two shootings happen in communities she is tied to has changed her approach to these events in terms of trying to find proactive solutions; such as ensuring that people have the tools they need to stay safe, and just generally how she talks about and teaches about these events, she said.
Since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting, the only piece of legislation that has been passed at the federal level following the shooting was the bump stock ban that went into effect March 26, 2019. However, that only took effect at the state level.
In order to prevent massacres like these from happening, Schildkraut said there are three different levels at which change must take place.
“First, society needs to realize that mass shootings are a complex, multidimensional problem and therefore there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to address the problem. It will take experts from a variety of sectors, including, but not limited to, criminal justice, education, public health, and the government,” Schildkraut said. “Second, the conversation about addressing mass shootings needs to happen before the next shooting, not after. Our society has a largely reactive response, but the focus needs to shift to proactivity.”
One of the areas where the course will also focus is how the media interprets these crimes, and what outcome that could have. According to Schildkraut, one of the main concerns with media coverage of gun violence is that they are reactive rather than proactive about it, meaning the topic will only be discussed in the aftermath of an incident.
“The media needs to stop glamorizing the shooters and making them famous,” Schildkraut said. “It incentives other would-be perpetrators to commit similar acts for similar rewards—fame and notoriety.”
While mass shootings have been increasing in frequency slightly over the last two decades, they still remain very rare events.
“In terms of legislative progress, this is something that requires a holistic look—that is, there is not one single piece of legislation that can be passed to prevent mass shootings because they are such complex, multifaceted events,” Schildkraut said. “So to that avail, for any policy to be successful, lawmakers need to consider the totality of the circumstances leading up to and taking place within these events, and propose bills accordingly.”