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Mantecas fatal school shooting & the gun debate
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A gunman enters an elementary school.

He feels disrespected.

When he finds the subject of his ire - a teacher by the name of Olive Taylor - he starts yelling.

Then he pulls out a gun and shoots her.

A janitor who had heard the noise came running into the room just as the shots were fired.

The gunman turned his gun on the janitor and shot him as well.

The teacher died. The janitor was wounded. The gunman escaped.

Just another example of our modern culture of violence and guns, right?

Guess again.

It happened in May of 1932.

And it happened close to home.

The shooting took place at the now-defunct Castle School in rural northern Manteca. It was one of two schools - with Summer Home being the other - that were combined to create the New Haven School District. New Haven is now a Manteca Unified campus.

The gunman was angry that the teacher had disciplined his child by spanking him.

School violence and murder in the classroom aren’t modern phenomena.

In fact, murder isn’t a 21st century American malady.

The murder rate in 2010 was 4.8 per 100,000 people in the United States. Other data gleaned from the National Center for Health Statistics shows the murder rate at 9.1 per 100,000 in 1933. It peaked at 10.7 per 100,000 in 1980, and then started dropping. The 1998 rate was only 6.3 per 100,000 people.

You’ll note that in 1933, with the murder rate almost 50 percent higher than today, President Franklin Roosevelt didn’t push for national gun control. While there were no assault weapons back then, obviously people were able to stack up a much higher body count in proportion to the nation’s population.

So why does everything seem more violent now? Part of it has to be the instantaneously 24/7 bombarding of news of violence from every nook and cranny of the nation that the Internet has allowed. There was a time when you heard bad news when you watched the evening news, heard radio newscasts on the hour or picked up a newspaper once a day. Now it is available to you non-stop in real time via smartphones, computers, and such.

Society is also different. The movies used to be something you went and saw. Movies did contain violence, but it was far from being as gratuitous and commonplace as it is today. Roy Rogers didn’t have to appear to have destroyed half of a major city to become a movie icon. There were no violent video games and TV shows were much tamer.

So is Hollywood to blame? Yes, but not in the manner most people believe. The abundance of violence in entertainment has conditioned us not to be as violent as much as it has colored our views of the world. Violence is 24/7 today but most of it is make-believe. If you doubt that, just look at the murder rate from 1933 and compare it to today.

Blaming Hollywood for an uptick in violence is the same as blaming the invention of the printed word for a jump in violence. Many early books were incredibly dark and violent. The original Grimm’s Fairy Tales aren’t exactly the Disney Channel.

Actually, you could argue the development of the printed word for the masses - as well as instant mass communication - has probably significantly reduced the chances for violence, as it allows the communication of all sorts of ideas, including about repressive government as we saw in Egypt.

Still, we shouldn’t be happy with the fact there have been 90 school shootings in the United States since 1966, resulting in 231 fatalities. But keeping that in perspective, over the past 44 years there have been 220,000 people murdered in the United States. Yet the actual murder rate per 100,000 has dropped, while gun ownership has skyrocketed.

There may not be a direct correlation between the two but one thing is for sure: Those arguing increased gun ownership has increased the murder rate can’t make their case. The murder rate has been steadily declining since the 1980s.

There are other issues at play.

It might do as well if we address those instead of wasting our time with yet another go around in the gun rights debate.


This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.