A friend of mine wasn't being flippant or making light of a terrible situation when she made that pronouncement. Yesterday's shootings on the Oikos University campus in East Oakland, CA, fit in at least one way into a pattern that similar crimes have followed.
For some reason, it seems that the biggest murder rampages in educational institutions happen around this time of year: the early Spring. The worst of them all, the Virginia Tech massacre, took place in April five years ago. Around this time last year, a 23-year-old former student returned to his former elementary school in Brazil and opened fire, killing 12 school children and wounding as many others. In late March of 2005, Jeff Wiese, after killing his grandfather and his companion, went to his school, where he killed a teacher, security guard and five students before turning the gun on himself. And, in April of 1999, Dylan Kleibold and Eric Harris killed fourteen students and one teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO before shooting themselves.
As so many other commentators have noted, these and other school shootings were all done by current of former students of the institutions who felt they were, in some way or another, mistreated or disrespected by someone at the school. According to the narrative for such tragedies, the perpetrators were "loners", "misfits" or "geeks" who felt "misunderstood" or simply alienated.
But no one seems able to answer the question of why such attacks (as well as other mass killings like the Waco raid in 1993 or the Oklahoma City bombing two years later) so often occur in early Spring.
One thing I find interesting is that behavioral scientists seem to find more commonalities between these massacres and suicide than between the massacres and other kinds of murder. It may have to do with the fact that the perpetrators usually kill themselves when they finish their rampages. Even if they don't, nearly all of them realize, at least on some level, that they will die along with their victims and go ahead with their crimes anyway.
Another reason for the link between suicide and school shootings is that while both are usually committed by chronically depressed people, the perpetrators are not usually in the deepest part of their despair when they kill. That is because the most severely depressed people lack the energy to do such decisive things, or much of anything else.
Such people start to regain their energy when they rise, however slightly, from the depths of their despair. Their moods are also, as often as not, affected by the weather and the seasons. So, it makes sense that their energies would return, if in abated form, at this time of the year.
I think there is another reason why the shootings happen at this time of year: It's the time for many of the activities from which the shooters might have been excluded or alienated. Plus, graduations are drawing near, and would-be shooters--especially those who were expelled from their schools, or bullied, harassed or flunked out--feel resentment toward those who are about to graduate. Those prospective graduates include students who might have tormented or shunned them, or simply those whom the shooters believe to have had unfair advantages.
Of course, the events I've described, and the feelings the Dylan Kleibolds and the Jeff Wieses of this world have about them, were facts of school life long before the school massacres became annual events. So, it leaves one to wonder why the spate of shootings seemed to have begun in the mid-1990's, and whether the trend will continue.
Still, after the Oikos shootings, I have the same hope that I have had after the others: that this one is the last one.