On April 20, 1999, two Colorado teens walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, where they fatally shot 13 people and injured over 20 others before turning the guns on themselves, ending their own lives. The tragic annihilation is considered one the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.
At around 11:19 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Dylan Klebold, 17, and Eric Harris, 18, entered Columbine High School off of S. Pierce Street and began shooting at students and staff. Prior to going the school, the pair placed a little fire bomb a few miles away from the school, with the hopes that it would distract firefighters as they carried out their brutal massacre.
According to police, Harris was equipped with a Hi-Point 995 Carbine 9 mm carbine and a 12-gauge Savage-Springfield 67H pump-action shotgun. He fired the weapons over 100 times while inside and outside of he school. Klebold carried a Intratec TEC-9 semi-automatic and a double-barreled sawed-off shotgun. He fired his weapons over 60 times both inside and outside of the school.
The two shooters were labeled “Trench Coat Mafia outcasts” according to Slate, and after years of alleged bullying, made detailed plans to carry out their ultimate revenge. The FBI, however, stated that the psychology behind the shooting wasn’t as simple as bitter teens tired of being taunted and bullied.
According to the FBI, while most victims of bullying lash out in a quick, hasty manner, Klebold and Harris planned their attack for over a year in advance. They bragged about other infamous shootings, such as the Oklahoma shootings, and said they aimed to make their tragedy so grand it would become an “American symbol.”
Further, it appears that the shooters chose the victims at random and didn’t target specific “bullies.” They initially had plans to blow up the entire school with bombs, which would have likely tripled the number of victims.
After the shootings, change slowly emerged across the nation, with many schools adopting the “zero-tolerance” policy, meaning any form of disruptive behavior wouldn’t be tolerated; those in violation would be expelled or suspended. Numerous schools in the U.S. also started heavily enforcing the Gun-Free Schools Act, which mandates that any student caught with a weapon on school property would be immediately expelled.