April 20, 1999: Columbine High School Massacre!

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A Brief History

On April 20, 1999, two Colorado high school students alleged to have been the victims of bullies went on a murderous rampage at their own school, killing 13 and wounding 24!  The perpetrators rank among “The Most Evil People in History“.

Digging Deeper

Two boys described as intelligent, but not happy, were allegedly bullied by other kids and perhaps depressed or even psychotic.  The amazing thing about this tragedy is that it could have been so much worse!  The two deranged boys (Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold) had made numerous threats and blogged about how they hated people and wanted to kill them. They had compiled a “hit list” of people they wanted to kill and in their journals wrote about wanting to outdo the Oklahoma City bombing!  During the massacre, Klebold said, ”Maybe we should start knifing people, that might be more fun!”

Harris and Klebold on the security camera the day of the shooting before committing suicide.

In preparation, the two acquired the guns and ammunition needed for their plan by having older friends buy the weapons for the boys.  Bombs were placed in the cafeteria where they could expect a large number of student victims to be packed and in the parking lot where they rigged cars to explode in order to kill people who fled there.  They planned on picking off kids as they ran from the carnage in the cafeteria, but luckily none of the bombs went off and a dramatically worse tragedy (perhaps 500 more victims!) was thus avoided.

Each boy was armed with 9 mm semi-automatic carbine/pistol that externally look like sub-machine guns, and each carried a 12 gauge shotgun.  Carrying hundreds of rounds, the boys ended up firing in the area of 25 or more shotgun rounds and perhaps 150+ 9mm rounds.  Each had ammo left over when they committed suicide rather than be captured.  The dead ranged from 15 to 47 years old.

The country was shocked, and the second guessing started immediately!  Why were the boys not given proper psychiatric care?  Why did the police take so long to control the situation?  How did the boys get the weapons?  Why did the school permit bullying? Were video games the reason for the boys’ mental illness? Were guns at fault?

The gun control debate went nuclear!  Both sides of the gun control question emotionally defended their feelings and of course, nothing has really been resolved.  Many schools have practiced drills for what to do in the case of a gunman loose in the school and police departments have created procedures to deal with such emergencies.  Lost in the angry debate is the fact that school shootings are extremely rare and gun murders are on the decline.  Watching the television would cause you to believe school shootings are common and murders are escalating, but the opposite is true.  One no doubt ineffectual result was that K-Mart decided to no longer sell handgun ammunition.

Movie maker Michael Moore produced Bowling for Columbine (2002), a documentary movie about the massacre and subsequent gun control debate.  On the other side of the debate, advocates have expressed the desire to allow teachers to be trained with handguns and to carry them in schools to prevent such massacres.  Much has been written about this incident in great detail, and we would encourage you to explore some of those horrible and fascinating details that we do not have space for here.  Even the movie is controversial!

Theatrical release poster

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Kass, Jeff.  Columbine: A True Crime Story.  Conundrum Press, 2014.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.