School massacres 'preventable'

2007-04-18 21:33

Darmstadt - Crisis managers who watch out for disturbed children may be able to prevent school shooting rampages, said a German psychologist, Jens Hoffmann, on Wednesday.

"School shootings can be prevented," affirmed Hoffmann, who is on the faculty of the Technical University of Darmstadt, a sister college to Virginia Tech where 32 people were shot dead this week by a student.

Analysis of past shootings showed that attackers give advance signals.

He said: "A rampage is always the final point in a crisis.

"At some point, violence becomes an option for them."

Hoffmann has established and runs an institute of psychology and safety near Frankfurt.

Express their fantasies

Initially attackers have fantasies of committing revenge and study other rampages and take an open interest in violence.

In a second phase, they forge plans for an attack, for example drawing up a list of victims.

They are about to "blow" when they make concrete preparations, for example acquiring guns, he said.

The young men generally give clear indications of their plans, uttering threats, filming shooting dramas or creating websites that express their fantasies, he added.

"They have tunnel vision. Violence, in their perception, is the sole way to restore their offended self-esteem," said Hoffmann.

'Germany should act'

He said crisis managers had already demonstrated in the United States that it was possible to spot youths in crisis in their schools and this system should be adopted in other nations such as Germany.

He said German officials tended to either utterly over-react to threats from schoolboys or to ignore them completely.

Experts would know which threats were trivial and which required urgent help from counsellors.

Germany should act, as it had the world's third biggest incidence of rampages after the United States and Canada, he warned. - Sapa-dpa