News media constructions and policy implications of school shootings in the United States

Doran, Selina Evelyn Margaret (2014) News media constructions and policy implications of school shootings in the United States. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis focuses on ‘school shootings’ in the United States. Examined here are the news media constructions and public reactions to such incidents, as they pertain to scholarly conceptualisations of fear, moral panics and vulnerability; as well policy responses relating to emergency management in educational institutions and gun-related legislative proposals and actions. Current literature in the field defines ‘school shootings’ as a particular type of ‘spree’ or ‘mass’ killing, involving the murder or attempted murder of students and staff at an education institution. This phenomenon is most prolific in the United States. Two case studies were selected from a list of possible incidents based on their high profile news media coverage, policy impact and infamous natures. The examples used are the school shootings at Columbine High School, Colorado (1999) and Virginia Polytechnic University, Virginia (2007); although the developments provoked by the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut shooting are noted throughout. The objectives of the research are: exploring the effect of my two case studies on reshaping or entrenching current moral panic and fear debates; whether the two shootings have transformed emergency management and communication practices; the role that fear plays in the concealed carry on campus movement which arose after the Virginia Tech incident; surmising about which gun-related legislative actions are possible in future.
Employed here is a theoretical framework pertaining to moral panics, fear of crime risk management, and framing of news media and policy. My methodological approach was qualitative in nature. A total of 14 interviews were conducted with experts in gun violence prevention, and emergency management and communication. Ethnographic research was carried out in the form of participant observations at a school safety symposium and a gun reform activism event. Content and critical discourse analyses were employed to assess 728 news media articles, 286 letters to the editor, comments from 32 YouTube videos, 14 policy documents and 10 public opinion polls.
My original contribution to knowledge is the examination of policies that have not received much scholarly attention to date: emergency management plans, training, operation and communications to deal with the possibility of a school shooting incident occurring; the ‘concealed carry on campus’ movement, where students lobby to carry firearms in higher education institutions as a way to negate potential threats. Relatively uncharted territory in fear of crime research was embarked upon with an examination of YouTube comments relating to: concerns about attending school; insecurities about the ability of law enforcement to offer protection in a school shooting scenario. To offer a predictive angle to the research, the current public sentiments, framing strategies being utilised by interest groups, and Supreme Court rulings shaping the future of gun reform were debated. Further avenues for school shooting research are provided.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: school shootings, gun legislation, emergency management, emergency communication, news media, YouTube comments, fear of crime, concealed carry on campus, policy-making, interest groups.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Armstrong, Dr. Sarah and Burman, Professor Michele
Date of Award: 2014
Embargo Date: 2014
Depositing User: Dr Selina E M Doran
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5298
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2014 09:28
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2014 09:28

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