Colorado, U.S.A. -(Ammoland.com)- The media attention given to the Columbine mass murderers may have claimed another victim. Sol Pais, an 18 year old woman, became obsessed with the Columbine massacre that happened in 1999.
The young woman was being investigated by the FBI for threats to area schools as the twenty year anniversary of the mass killing at Columbine High School approached.
Pais was a student of Miami Beach High School.
She travelled from Florida to Colorado a few days before the anniversary. Pais legally purchased a shotgun at a gun shop, the Colorado Gun Broker.
Her journal reveals a young woman in pain, who shows suicidal tendencies. Above the image of a pistol are the words “being alive is f*cking overrated...”
In a quick perusal of her web site, there is nothing joyous, only pain and frustration.
Pais purchased one way tickets to Denver and immediately purchased a shotgun. From abcnews.go.com:
Authorities say a teenager who was obsessed with the Columbine school shooting and may have been planning an attack raised suspicions after making unspecified comments to people at home in Florida and buying three one-way tickets to Denver.
FBI agent in charge Dean Phillips in Denver said Wednesday that people who talked to 18-year-old Sol Pais contacted police in Florida, who in turn notified the FBI on Tuesday.
Phillips said Pais flew to Denver on Monday, using the earliest ticket she purchased, then went straight to a gun shop to buy a shotgun.
The FBI and Colorado police are hunting for an ‘extremely dangerous’ and armed woman, they say is the reason why 22 schools, including Columbine High, went into lockdown today.
Jeffco Sheriff’s department say Sol Pais travelled to Colorado and made threats.
“She is armed and considered extremely dangerous,” a twitter alert reads.
They are urging anyone with information to call the FBI tip line.
“Please do not approach her,” the post reads.
‘She is a white female, 18 years old, approximately 5’5 in height, with brown hair. She was last seen wearing a black T-shirt, camoflague pants and black boots.”
The teen years are often stressful times for young men and women. I do not know what happened in Sol Pais troubled mind. As a parent, I can only offer prayers and condolences for her family. Ultimately, Sol Pais did not attack or kill other people.
Academics have found, however, that suicide is contagious. It is called the copycat effect. When a suicide is publicized, other people are incentivized to commit suicide in the same way. The Columbine killers ultimately took their own lives, using firearms.
Academics sometimes call the copycat effect “media contagion”. A paper presented to the American Psychological Association (APA) found the number of mass killings, rampage killings, or “mass shootings”, may be doubled by irresponsible media aggrandizement of mass killers. The desire for fame was found to be one of the main motivators of these rampage killers. From apa.org:
“Unfortunately, we find that a cross-cutting trait among many profiles of mass shooters is desire for fame,” she said. This quest for fame among mass shooters skyrocketed since the mid-1990s “in correspondence to the emergence of widespread 24-hour news coverage on cable news programs, and the rise of the internet during the same period.”
She cited several media contagion models, most notably one proposed by Towers et al. (2015), which found the rate of mass shootings has escalated to an average of one every 12.5 days, and one school shooting on average every 31.6 days, compared to a pre-2000 level of about three events per year. “A possibility is that news of shooting is spread through social media in addition to mass media,” she said.
“If the mass media and social media enthusiasts make a pact to no longer share, reproduce or retweet the names, faces, detailed histories or long-winded statements of killers, we could see a dramatic reduction in mass shootings in one to two years,” she said. “Even conservatively, if the calculations of contagion modelers are correct, we should see at least a one-third reduction in shootings if the contagion is removed.”
We can never know if Sol Pais would have chosen to live if media coverage of the Columbine killers had been restrained and had refrained from giving the killers fame in death.
Sol Pais' words do not seem to seek fame. As with many suicides, she seemed to seek an end to pain. Perhaps her threats and travel to the Denver area were a cry for help.
We can all be grateful she did not inflict her tragic pain on others.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.