Indiana State Sen. Brandt Hershman recently introduced a bill to the Indiana legislature that would make a school shooting where victims are killed an aggravating factor that would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty. Sen. Hershman says he was influenced by the shooting of Andrew Boldt by Cody Cousins at Purdue University in 2014. After pleading guilty and showing no remorse Cousins was only sentenced to 65 years. Sen. Hershman believes this would be a deterrent to would be school shooters.
“By including school shootings on the list of qualifying factors for the death, I hope it will deter future tragedies and allow for the most deplorable criminals to receive punishment to the fullest extent of the law,”
While I admire Sen. Hershman’s stance on the matter and as much as I am a firm believer in the death penalty, ultimately this will not deter school shooters if history is any indicator. First off this would not apply to suspect’s who are minors as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that even minors who have been charged as adults can not be executed. Secondly, most adult school shooters are of the mindset that they will not live to be apprehended. Cho Seung-Hui, Stephen Kazmierczak, and Charles Carl Roberts IV, all committed suicide before they could be taken in. Even Cody Cousins killed himself in prison. None of these men were rational individuals so trying to deal with them on a rational basis would not have deterred them from their respective atrocities.
I think a better solution to deterring school shootings is making mental healthcare in our society less stigmatized and more readily available but even that’s not a perfect solution.