No animal rights advocate made this up. It was on the front page of the New York Times Friday. The article from which the following was excerpted was describing the demented, damaged personality of alleged high school shoot-out meister and enfant terrible Kipland Kinkel, the apparent perpetrator of last week's horrible Thurston High School blood-letting and murder of his own two parents.
The Times reported, "(Kipland frequently) talked of guns, bombs and torturing animals. In middle school, the yearbook named him `Most Likely to Start World War III.' He was always talking about what he did to animals," said David Willis, a freshman who played with him on the football team at Thurston High School. "He would, like, torture animals and stuff and tell us about it.' "Despite a series of tragedies, this country seems to cling insanely to a fallacious belief that the Second Amendment to the Constitution gives almost everyone an unfettered right to bear all manner of firearms. That being sacrosanct, there is little we can do to prevent future school shootings by enhancing firearms control.
Neither is the outfitting of every school in the country with metal detectors the answer. Calculating offenders would then move elsewhere, from school cafeterias and hallways to school yards and school entryways. Similarly, if we were to put metal detectors in every mall, shootings would move to mall entrances, or to movie theater parking lots. Angry young men would get hold of guns and mass murders would take place.
But there is one important and often overlooked potential solution in terms of recognizing and controlling dangerous behavior. It now seems clear we should take animal abuse more seriously. It is not yet widely recognized, but Kinkel gave us a warning sign which counselors should have used to smoke him out.
Kinkel followed in what has become a long and growing line of animal abusers who grow up (or in his case, come close to growing up) to become people abusers. One of the most famous in that line was Milwaukee serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who cut off the heads of dogs and cats as a child and posted them on sticks in his yard. Others include the Boston Strangler, David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz and Theodore Bundy, who, according to police records, started practicing early on animals before moving on to people.
Last year, two Iowa boys were given hideously light sentences for battering to death more than a dozen cats in an animal shelter they had broken into after hours. At that time, I wrote about nationally recognized experts on animal abuse pointing to an emerging trend that tied animal abuse to domestic abuse and later to more sophisticated forms of violence against human beings.
Many experts now concur that animals are often the first victims of family (domestic) violence. They believe that abusers can be discovered and stopped before they become human abusers if local authorities would only invest more resources in prosecuting and preventing animal abuse.
At that time, the Broward County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office of Abuse and Neglect Investigations was the only sheriff's office that probed instances of animal, child-, elderly- and disabled-abuse together because they believe they are closely related. Perhaps if Springfield, Ore., Jonesboro, Ark., and Pearl, Miss., had such investigative units, we would have been spared the recent trauma of repeat school shootings.
Until authorities around the country wise up, we can continue what we have been doing in reaction to this spate of school shootings - which, in two words, is nothing useful.