The Columbine High School Shooting

Table of Content

April 20, 1999 was a grim Tuesday for entire United States if not the world, as news had just come out that two (2) teenage students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of Columbine Hihg School in Jefferson County, Colorado, had just carried out a shooting rampage in their school, killing 12 students and a teacher, and injuring 24 others before turning the guns at themselves at committing suicide.  Known as the one of the deadliest school shooting in United States history, the Columbine High School Massacre brought tears to the hearts of many and brought America’s heartbeat to a stop.

The Columbine High School shooting had 3 main stages, the initial “diversion” phase where the shooters intended to detonate two (2) bombs in the cafeteria, the cafeteria shooting and the library massacre.  The initial plan of the shooters was to have two (2) duffel bags, which contained explosives, detonate at 11:17 am of that day.  These bombs, which had enough explosive power to blow up the entire school cafeteria, were placed in the school cafeteria while the shooters waited back in their car for the explosion.  When the cafeteria bombs failed, the shooters armed themselves with two sawed-off shotguns, a 9 mm Hi-Point carbine and a 9 mm TEC-9 semi-automatic pistol and walked toward the school cafeteria.  This was the start of the cafeteria shooting.

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The cafeteria shooting began at approximately 11:19 am.  The shooters pulled out their shotguns and began shooting at critically injuring, Rachel Scott and Richard Castaldo, who were sitting next to the West Entrance of the school.  Eric and Dylan continued their rampage through the school, shooting any students who got in their way and eventually found themselves engaged in a shoot out with a police deputy sheriff who has arrived on the scene in response to a 911 call.  They then headed towards the Library Hallway where they then threw another pipe bomb. At 11:29 a.m., the pair walked through the heavy doors of the library where 52 students and three library staff were hiding under desks and inside exterior break rooms.

The Library was the scene of the massacre as most of the students injured and killed were here.  The shooters approached the group that was huddled there and demanded that the people in white hats stand up because they were going to kill them first.  When nobody responded to their demands, the pair began shooting at them.  By the time the shooters had walked out of the library at 11:42 am, most of the students in the library were injured or killed.

At 12:05 p.m. the shooters entered the library again.  In the library, they shot out the windows at policemen, without success. They then moved over to the table next to where Matthew Kechter and Isaiah Shoels lay; there, they committed suicide by shooting themselves.

This gruesome incident led to many changes in the American school system as many schools instituted new anti-bullying policies as well as so-called “zero tolerance” approaches to weapons and threatening behavior.  In response to this incident and other school massacres, new security measures such as see-through backpacks, metal detectors, and security guards have been implemented while several other schools began requiring students to wear computer-generated IDs.

The impact was not only on the school system as police departments also began to reassess their tactics and train for similar situations in response to the criticism over their slow response and progress during the shooting.

The incident also drew more calls for more effective gun control measures and in 2000, federal and state legislations introduced measures that would require safety locks on firearms as well as impose a ban on the importation of high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Critics have responded to the measures taken by the schools and the government by saying that the measures taken are meaningless because the real way to prevent this event from happening again is by finding out the real reason why students engage in such violent behavior and have called for more studies to figure the environmental factors that may have caused such behavior since until now nobody knows what really went on in the shooters heads.

Among the many theories that have surfaced regarding the motivation for this incident the most prevalent one remains the effect that media has on the minds of today’s youth.  While there are those who theorize that it was the fact that the shooters were isolated from the rest of their classmates thus prompting feelings of helplessness, insecurity and depression, as well as cultivating a strong desire for attention, the attention has been focused on the effect violent video games such as Doom, which the shooters frequently played, and rock music such as Rammstein.

Whatever the motivation may be, the effects and the impact of the Columbine High School massacre are clear.  There is an immediate need for all schools to reassess and evaluate their systems to ensure that the needs of every individual student are properly addressed in order to prevent another incident like this from happening.  Every student has a right to be heard and has a right to express their feelings and thoughts.  Communication and understanding must be stressed and encouraged to prevent something like this from ever happening again.


Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. The Columbine Report (Columbine documents JC-001-000001 through JC-001-010937, 10,937 pages) hosted by the Daily Camera

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Columbine documents JC-001-025923 through JC-001-026859, 946 pages.hosted by the Rocky Mountain News

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The Columbine High School Shooting. (2016, Sep 14). Retrieved from

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