Our sense of safety has once again been challenged by random violence. One week has passed since the tragic events at Montreal’s Dawson College, where Kimveer Gill entered the school’s cafeteria, and began shooting wildly, killing an innocent young woman, leaving several more in critical care, then ending his own life.
How can we explain to our children, our students, our young that going to school is as safe as going to the park, or the mall? How do we ease their fears when we cannot calm our own?
What we do know is that Gill was a loner, who spent much of his time in his bedroom and online. Though he lived in the same home for 19 years, none of his neighbours knew him. And when told of their son’s horrific actions, his parents were in a state of shock, saying he was a “good son.” Even in the military, where, after high school, he failed boot camp in 1999 for ignoring basic standards, he made no real friends, and was only interested in getting to use guns.
Nobody really knew Gill and that, in itself, is part of the profile of someone who chooses to act out their anger in a massive attack on strangers.
According to University of Toronto sociology professor Bob Brym, a “recurrent finding of research on school massacres is that the perpetrators are social isolates, rejected and sometimes bullied by their peers, left uninvolved by their communities, and ignored by their parents. Gill fits the pattern.”
That extreme feeling of rejection appears to have motivated Gill to kill. According to his website, he complained that as a child he was ignored and bullied. At the time of the massacre, Gill was 25 years old, lived at home with his parents and twin brothers, was unemployed and not involved in any groups, organizations or social clubs. A loner with a longtime gun obsession.
And though he lived at home, his mother said she had no idea of his interests, his obsessions, or his mental state.
That’s a huge red alert to us all — get involved with your children! It may be more difficult during adolescence and teenage years, but it’s imperative that parents have a sense of what’s going on with their own children. Many experts say that computers shouldn’t be allowed in bedrooms. That way, parents can monitor their children’s online activities better. And there are ways to block access to certain websites.
Brym agrees: “The real problems are parents who fail to involve, supervise, set an example for, guide, and discipline their kids; communities that fail to care enough about their young members to engage them in enjoyable recreation and meaningful employment; and young people who are only too eager to ostracize and stigmatize their peers in order to ensure conformity and increase their own social standing.”
We may never know what was Gill’s final breaking point, but we do know that as a society we can do better.