To gain a comparative perspective on the Norway terror attacks and the public response to them, ACIA formed a panel of speakers to discuss several mass shootings in the United States. Dave Cullen, the author of Columbine, covered the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School as a journalist, then spent 10 years writing his widely praised book. John Ryan, chair of the sociology department at Virginia Tech University, and Laura Agnich, a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech in 2007 and now teaching criminal justice at Georgia Southern University, were both on campus on the day of Seung Hui Cho’s shooting rampage there, and subsequently conducted research on the reaction in the university community. Joseph Hight spoke on the 2006 shooting of five young girls in an Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, where he observed the aftermath while serving as president of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. Formerly, as an editor of the Daily Oklahoman, Hight directed that newspaper’s coverage of the 1995 bombing that killed 168 people in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
After those and all such events, the affected communities and the wider public are left with the mystery of why they occurred. What made Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold or Anders Behring Breivik or the Virginia Tech or Amish school shooters become mass murderers?
“The question I get asked most often is ‘Why did they do it?'” Dave Cullen said. “I think the question people are really asking is not why did these two guys do this, it is why do people do this? Why do people keep going into buildings and shooting people, or why do they put bombs under buildings and then go to an island and kill people there?” In answering the question, Cullen went on,