Author of 'kids Who Kill' Says Jonesboro Shootings Demonstrate Need to Restrict Gun Use

By Mary Beth Spina

Release Date: March 31, 1998

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo law professor and forensic psychologist Charles Patrick Ewing predicted in his 1990 book "Kids Who Kill" that juvenile homicides would increase to epidemic proportions in the 1990s.

But last week's shooting of a teacher and four students at a Jonesboro, Ark., middle school -- with the two boys charged with the shootings only 11 and 13 years old --

is an unusual case, according to Ewing.

Unlike shootings that have occurred at other schools, those in Jonesboro appear well-planned and not due to a single outburst of sudden rage.

"Although it's too early to determine the 'why's' of this particular tragedy, loose or no gun-control laws, easy accessibility to guns -- either in the home or through theft from a family member's or neighbor's home -- and a rural culture that includes firearms all contributed," he emphasized.

Ewing noted that youngsters can learn to shoot guns at an early age, but lack the emotional maturity and judgment to handle firearms responsibly without on-site supervision by an adult.

"Any youngster can learn to drive a car, but as with possession and use of a firearm, the maturity necessary to do so safely and responsibly will not be there," he said.

"Too often today, questionable values are being transmitted via entertainment, such as video games, television, movies and other methods," he pointed out.

While parents and society can teach and preach the value of life, youngsters, even if not subjected to child abuse or family violence, often are likely to hear their parents voice rage or hostility at drivers, neighbors and others.

"How many have sent mixed messages to their kids by trying to teach a positive set of values and then, driving in traffic and under stress, have said they would like to kill a driver who was driving irresponsibly?" he asked.

Ewing says measures can be taken to prevent some, but certainly not all, cases of "kids who kill." They include: