Book Review: "Why Kids Kill; Inside the Minds of School Shooters"

I just finished reading this book, and I was inspired to share it with you. Originally published in 2009, it's obviously still relevant today. "Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters" was written by Peter Langman, a psychologist with over twenty years experience treating at-risk youth. He is also the clinical director of KidsPeace, an organization that helps adolescents in crisis. You can learn more about them at

The book examines ten perpetrators of rampage school shootings. This does not include targeted gun violence that is related to gangs or drug deals or boyfriend/girlfriend issues; it also does not involve two people who were involved in a fight that resulted in one shooting the other. According to Langman: "Rampage school shootings occur when students or former students attack their own schools. The attacks are public acts, committed in full view of others. In addition, although some people might be shot because the shooters held grudges against them, others are shot randomly or as symbols of the school (such as a principal)."

Rampage school shootings became a part of our cultural lexicon in the 1990's. The ten shooters outlined in this book killed a total of 74 people and wounded 92. Langman chose these particular ten rampage shooters because there was an abundance of information available to analyze them and their actions. Many of the killers maintained journals that offered a great deal of insight into the workings of their minds.

These ten killers are then divided further into psychopaths, psychotics, and traumatized shooters. Within each cluster, the shooters have a great deal in common with each other. Among the different clusters, they have very little in common. What's important to understand is that the issue is incredibly complex, and that means that our ultimate solutions will also need to be complex and multi-layered.

One of the important things addressed here is the myth of the "bullied" individual seeking revenge. I can remember very clearly in the aftermath of the Columbine attack the many, many news stories identifying Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold as victims of incessant bullying that has simply "snapped". And I think we all really liked that explanation because, while certainly not a justification, it at least makes a certain amount of sense. While further study quickly determined that Harris and Klebold were not bullying victims, that mythos still remained.

Again, this is an incredibly complex issue that goes far beyond bullying, violent video games, and a "lack of prayer in school". And obviously this book is focused strictly on school shooters, who are very different from many of the other mass shooters that have become so prevalent in our society. But if delving into the minds of violent offenders fascinates you as much as it does me, I would definitely encourage you to check this book out.

Happy reading!

*This article does contain affiliate links, but as always, I will never recommend to you something I don't totally love myself.

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