Germany Reels from Deadly School Shooting

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Students are evacuated Albertville secondary school near Stuttgart, Germany

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Today's massacre is the latest in a series of school shootings in Germany in the recent past. In 2002, 19-year-old Robert Steinhäuser killed 12 teachers, a school secretary, two students and a policeman in a shooting spree that began in his one-time high school, Gutenberg Gymnasium, in Erfurt. In 2006, an 18-year-old burst into his former school in Emsdetten in Western Germany, shooting and wounding at least 11 children before committing suicide.

Like his predecessors, Kretschmer very likely "suffered from a severe personality disorder," says Lothar Adler from The Ecumenical Hainich Clinic in Muhlhausen, Thuringia. Adler is the author of "Amok – A Study" which was based on his analysis of almost 200 school shootings and other killing sprees. The psychiatrist, who was part of the post-Erfurt counseling team, explains that very often killers have pronounced narcissistic traits, problems in forming normal relationships and are easily offended. They also tend to have low frustration thresholds and can harbor grudges for long periods of time. Physiologically, Adler says, "they frequently also lack serotonin, a neuro-transmitter that buffers fears and other affects."

While the overall number of such incidents in Germany has actually gone down very slightly over the past three decades, those that do occur attract much more public attention, especially school shootings. "These days the ritualization of the deed is often very pronounced — thus the mask and combat gear," Adler says. "For the perpetrator, the choice of weapon, for instance, is very important as a way to define his dangerousness."

The bodies of the slain are still lying where they fell in the high school, waiting for the attention of crime scene staff and medical examiners. German politicians across the country are again voicing their determination to help prevent similar happenings in future. For the families of those who died today, that won't be much consolation.

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