I’ll let these speak for themselves.

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I’ve never been the type of person to get involved in politically charged debates, or anything outstandingly controversial for that matter. Well, here goes nothing.

The media has been all over this Parkland, Florida mass school shooting, right? “Let’s blame the NRA, let’s blame mental health, let’s blame President Trump.” You know the drill by now. I find all of the varying media headline frames fascinating, and further investigated the matter in a college research class.

Essentially, I drafted up this 34 page research proposal child of mine to see how frames used by the media when reporting on mass school shootings affect reader’s attitudes towards gun safety laws, background checks, and gun availability laws. I did the background research, and then analyzed the four most common frames that are used when reporting on mass school shootings: mental health, popular culture, teen life (i.e. bullying), and gun control. I drafted an experiment with pretests and post-tests, and, heck, I even came up with four versions of one article to see how different frames would change reader’s perspectives. Same topic, different frame, different beliefs form.

Like I said, this paper is my child. Yes, I’m a college student and yes there are flaws, but this topic is obviously a hot one at the moment and the essential concepts are there. I’m genuinely intrigued by this topic, but will never actually be able to carry out the experiment. So what I’m getting at, if there is anyone so inclined, is please take this paper and put it out there. I would love to see it used as a base for research. Tell your friends, professors, classmates, grandma, anyone at all who might be interested.

If the information that we are receiving through the news is inherently biased, how are we supposed to develop informed beliefs? After researching shootings like Columbine and Virginia Tech, the headlines from shootings then and now are disturbingly similar.  Over and over again we see them, over and over again we read them. Maybe we stop glorifying the shooter. Maybe we attribute the shooting to multiple problems, not just one or the other. But these are all maybes until we actually do any research.














COM 390



According to Sorenson and Taylor (2002), media such as newspapers and television are the main source of information on topics such as crime and violence for the general public. Knowing this, it is important to remember that information being reported through mass media can contain certain biases or frames that will effect how the recipient processes what they are being told. As defined by Entman (1993), framing is “to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation.” Not only do the media decide which information to expose to the public, but the media also decide which information will be perceived as most relevant or crucial to the topic. This means that consumers of mass media are not necessarily aware that they are being presented framed information.

In recent years, mass media coverage has been drawn to events such as mass school shootings, such as those at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook Elementary School. There are many causes that are considered when a mass school shooting is committed. Therefore, coverage of these events is often presented to the public with a frame (Birkland&Lawrence, 2004).

A study by Birkland and Lawrence (2004) defines four of the most popular frames used by the news media when reporting on a mass school shooting. This study seeks to use these four frames to investigate their impact on participant preferences regarding guns. Due to lack of research, the impact of the different frames portrayed in the mass media regarding mass school shootings is not clear. A pre-stimulus questionnaire, experiment, and post test will be used to determine how the four frames used by mass media will have an effect on participants’ preferences regarding background checks, gun safety laws, and gun availability laws.


Literature Review


Guns are a relatively new invention considering how long people have been around. Guns came to America right around the time it was discovered by Christopher Columbus (“The first”, 2013). The relationship between guns and schools is even more recent than that. In this portion of literature, the focus is specifically on mass school shootings, not just mass shootings in general. There is no definition of “mass shooting” that is universally accepted, but for this purpose it can be defined as having four or more people killed by a single shooter (except for rare cases) and an average of 8 people dying (Berkowitz, Gamio, Lu, Uhrmacker&Lindeman, 2017).

In an article by Muschert (2007), the typologies of school shootings are broken down into five major categories. Rampage shootings, which are the major topic discussed in this paper, are committed by a member or former member of a group, such as a student or employee, who attacks a school or group of students for a symbolic reason in order to get revenge on a community or to gain power. The Texas Tower, Columbine, and Virginia Tech shootings are all examples of a rampage shooting. A mass murder is when a non-member who was not a student or employee previously, typically an adult, attacks a group of students or school institution, typically to gain power. An example is the Bath school disaster. It is the biggest attack on a school in the US known to date, with Andrew Kehoe killing 55 people (38 children, and his wife), and injuring another 58. Kehoe smuggled more than 1,000 pounds of dynamite leftover from WW1 into the school and set it to go off when classes were in session. He was supposedly angry about property taxes to fund a new school (Boissoneault, 2017). The last three categories are terrorist attacks, targeted shootings, and government shootings, but none of these will be discussed in this literature and therefore will not be defined.

The first recorded mass school shooting took place on August 1, 1966. Charles Whitman, a trained sniper and ex-marine, killed his wife and mother at home. He then proceeded to the University of Texas campus where he ascended a 27-story clock tower called the ‘Tower’ (Berkowitz et. al., 2017). Whitman was armed with rifles, pistols, and a sawed-off shotgun. From his position on an observation deck, he killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others over the course of approximately 90 minutes. He was eventually shot and killed by the authorities. Notes were later found next to the bodies of his wife and mother, addressing the fact that he has been battling depression, intense headaches, and repressed violence (Herskovitz, 2016). This is the first time that American citizens were exposed to the concept of a mass shooting committed by one person.

Other school shootings in the next few decades take place in much smaller numbers and to a much less extreme extent. One that drew a significant amount of attention took place at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky. On December 1, 1997, Michael Carneal, 14, killed three students and wounds another five as they participate in a prayer circle (“Timeline of,” 2017). The next major school shooting is one that rocks the nation and leaves a lasting impact and call for change in many domains. The infamous Columbine shooting took place in Littleton, Colorado in April of 1999. Two students, Eric Harris (18) and Dylan Klebold (17) had plotted for over a year to shoot and bomb the high school with the intention of killing as many as 500 people. A handful of students are killed outside of the school, but the majority of the shooting takes place within the school library. Multiple bombs were also set off in the school. Fourteen students, including the killers, and one teacher are killed. Twenty-three other students were wounded (Birkland&Lawrence, 2004). This event became one of the most closely watched news stories, and left a great deal of questions to be answered about mental health and gun control.

Two more major school shootings follow within the next decade, the first taking place in April 2007. At Virginia Tech. Seung-Ho Cho, a 23-year-old student, kills two people in the dormitories then proceeds to murder 30 more in an academic building on campus. Cho had previously been ordered by a judge to seek outpatient care after making suicidal remarks to his roommates. He used a P-22 Pistol and 9mm Glock Pistol. He then turned the gun on himself. It is the deadliest mass school shooting in the United States to date (“Killer’s manifesto”, 2007). Another nationally covered school shooting took place in December of 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza murdered his mother before continuing on to kill 26 more people at the elementary school, twenty of whom are first-graders (Berkowitz et.al., 2017).

There are many effects that a mass school shooting can have on those who were present at the event as well as the community. In general, these mass school shootings can evoke a great amount of public fear, insinuate a threat to public health and welfare, as well as have traumatic impacts on mental health (Muschert, 2007). With all of this in mind, the next section of literature examines how the media effects the way that individuals process information about shootings as well as their understanding of the event.

News Framing of Mass School Shootings

For most of the general public, media such as newspapers and television are the main source of information on crime and violence (Sorenson&Taylor, 2002). How the news is framed and reported will determine how the public interprets the causes and solutions of events like mass school shootings. How one frames an issue is important because, according to Fiske and Taylor (1991), as told by Haider-Markel and Joslyn (2001), citizens only have a limited cognitive capacity available to process relevant policy information. Frames prime a specific subset of considerations that are taken into account before answering a question, making certain pieces of information more readily accessible than others.

Because there are so many frames that the media can use in the news, it is relatively easy to suffer from the Roshomon Effect. This is defined as “the subjective construction of reality in which observers of a single event perceive incompatible, yet plausible versions of what happened” (Muschert, 2007). This main idea behind this theory comes from a movie where four people witness a crime but all offer different versions of what happened. Essentially, this effect describes that when multiple media sources expose different information, viewers of said media are more likely to describe the event from a different perspective. The Roshomon effect might confuse the people looking to understand events such as Columbine because there is so much different media coverage surrounding the event. Kleck (1999) argues that the attention built up from the media around such events is “counterproductive to the sober, generalizable study of crime and delinquency.” Such media attention distracts from the bigger, long-term picture of the issue. Media make it appear as an episodic issue rather than a thematic one.

Birkland and Lawrence (2004) found popular culture, guns, mental health, and teen life to be within the top five rankings of news and legislations definitions of the “school-shooting” problem. Muschert (2007) noted that there is no one single cause that can be entirely attributed to a shooting, but it can be noted that some of the causes defined match with those found by Birkland and Lawrence (2004). These defined causes can also be considered frames because each problem is portrayed differently in news media. The following literature section will review how the media uses these frames to portray mass school shootings.

Popular culture is defined as content on TV, movies, video games, music, and the Internet. In the scenario of the Pudacah shooting, parents sued the makers of The Basketball Diaries because the shooter had been influenced by said film (Birkland&Lawrence, 2009). Films like these as well as music videos and video games were both blamed for the examples they set.

Similarly, Samuels (2000) believed that the entertainment media was largely what guided the two shooters in the Columbine shooting. In 1994, director Oliver Stone released a film called Natural Born Killers. This film would later be used as an inspirational framework for Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine shooters. In Stone’s film, the two main characters are killers Mickey and Mallory, who attempt to escape the drudgery of their own fruitless lives and relieve their hardships by going on killing sprees. The media eventually fuels the killing events and their story is followed and publicized internationally. In a sense, Mickey and Mallory become celebrities for their heinous crimes. As the killing sprees increase, so does the media coverage. According to logged personal information in diaries, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold became enveloped in this fantasy and hoped to achieve a reality similar to that portrayed in the movie (Frymer, 2009). Their sense of reality became blurred with that of the movie, and there is a startling similarity between the movie and the media coverage that explodes after the Columbine shooting.

Unfortunately, fame is exactly what Harris and Klebold were hoping to achieve from this rampage. While some media focused attention on the actual gun, Republicans tried to draw the attention away from this factor and divert it once again towards blaming the ‘liberal’ Hollywood. In the case of the Columbine and Pudacah shootings, as with others, popular culture played a large role in shaping the distorted, warped idea of reality that the shooter held. While popular culture has been determined as a significant problem in the mass shooting issue, guns were ranked one level up on the problem scale at number one (Birkland&Lawrence, 2004). Simply put, a mass school shooting cannot take place without a gun.

According to Birkland and Lawrence (2009), the gun problem includes inadequate gun-control laws and the abundance of guns. This is the frame that is most often seen in news media and was discussed as the main cause of shootings more than any other topic (Birkland&Lawrence, 2004). Kalischuk’s book, Rampage: the Social Root of School Shootings (2005), states five necessary conditions that must be present in order for a mass school shooting to occur, one of which is gun availability. Take away the gun, and the shooting physically cannot happen.

The ease with which shooters had access to guns is alarming. According to Secret Service Data, 68 percent of shooters were able to get guns from their homes or a relative, and 85 percent got a gun from home, a friend, relative, or on their own. It was also reported that 59% of shooters had previously used a gun. It is not possible to know the levels of gun ownership or availability because there is no central database, but rural communities typically have higher gun ownership than urban or suburban areas (Igielnik, 2017). The number of guns in the United States has doubled since 1970, but available data does not reveal if the number of guns correlates to the number of attacks. For an interesting comparison, Germany has very strict gun control laws and has only gad one rampage school shooting, for which the shooter allegedly bought his own gun (Kalischuk, 2005).

Two final two categories in this literature from Birkland and Lawrence’s article (2004), teen life and mental health, are separately defined but can be explained together. Ranked number four in the news stories category with regards to “school-shooting” problems, teen life is defined as “the social difficulties of adolescence,” such as peer pressure, cliques, ‘jock culture,’ and so on. Mental health is ranked number five and is defined as “the need for evaluation and treatment for depression and other mental illness.” These topics will be explained together because they are typically intertwined.

Kalischuk (2005) found that over half of offenders in mass school shootings were victimized in at least one way, such as being bullied, called names, physically threatened, assaulted, or having personal belongings damaged or stolen by peers. While it is evident that shooters have often been victimized, it is false that shooters are always ‘loners.’ In fact, only one in ten offenders were reported to have no close friends. Columbine shooters Harris and Klebold are examples of this. Other than having each other, they also belonged to a group called the Trench Coat Mafia (Frymer, 2009). Students from the school later reported on shows like CBS that those in the Mafia were considered “outcasts of the society of the school.” Nonetheless, it was an alternative identity group to belong to that allowed them a certain amount of protection from the outside world.

Much of the bullying and other harsh aspects of teen life have an impact on shooters with regards to mental illness. Fifty-two percent of offenders suffered from serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, at the time of the shooting (Kalischuk, 2005). Other mental illnesses, such as depression, can stem from the alienation that students face in the school system and their own personal lives (Frymer, 2009). Issues such as race, masculinity, and religion are covered by media and addressed when a shooter commits a crime (Muschert, 2007). In their unstable sense of reality, these offenders are looking for a way to end their suffering, but also reclaim their social standing (Kalischuk, 2005). With that in mind, they want to gain a celebrity-like status through the following media exposure, much like Mickey and Mallory from Natural Born Killers. Child victim homicides, such as those in rampage school shootings, tend to be given more descriptive story frames and greater prominence within the media (Sorenson&Taylor, 2002). The more coverage there is of an issue, the more concern is drawn to it.

Similarly, the Virginia Tech shooter, Cho Seung-Ho, was suffering from a mental health disorder and sought to bring his suffering to an end while reclaiming social standing (Kalischuck, 2005). According to Shuchman (2007), Seung-Ho became known by peers and teachers for his “silent and aloof manner, troubling behavior, and dark, disturbing writings.” His place as an outsider in society suffering from a mental health problem directly correlates to his later actions of reporting to the media before his mass shooting. After the first shooting in West Ambler Johnston Hall dormitory, Seung-Ho sent an 1,800-word statement, pictures, and videos to the NBC news station expressing his hatred for the wealthy, discussions of religion, and other personal struggles he faced (“Killer’s manifesto,” 2007). Here, a similar infatuation to popular culture is visible that the Columbine shooters possessed about the movie Natural Born Killers.

Although Seung-Ho clearly had mental health problems (Shuchman,2007), there are many contributing factors that go into why a person decides to commit a mass shooting. Because of this, there are multiple ways in which the media report information to the public. As mentioned before, Birkland and Lawrence (2004) found popular culture, guns, mental health, and teen life to be within the top five rankings of news and legislations definitions of the “school-shooting” problem. With this in mind, the following experiment seeks to determine how these four frames effect participant preferences. Accordingly, the following research questions are posed:

RQ1-3: Do mass school shooting frames have differential effects on attitudes

towards (a) background checks, (b) gun safety laws, and (c) gun availability laws?




Participants for this experiment will consist of 200 undergraduate college students ranging from ages 18-22. An equal number of men and women (twenty each) will be randomly assigned to each treatment group. This experiment will use random assignment so that there will not be any biases or inconsistencies within the experiment.

This experiment aims to determine whether opinion towards background checks, gun safety laws, and gun availability laws will change based on which of the five stimuli the participant is exposed to. There will be five different groups, one of which will be a control group. Each treatment group will consist of forty students. Prior to the experiment, participants will take a pre-stimulus questionnaire to gage basic background information that will later on help to determine whether any background information could potentially effect results. Each of the five groups will have twenty males and twenty females. There will be no particular order as to which group they are assigned to.


Prior to the experiment, participants will take a pre-stimulus questionnaire (See Appendix A) so more information can be gaged on their backgrounds, such as political party, religious affiliation, etc., as well as basic information such as age and gender. These types of questions are asked prior to the experiment so that it can later be determined if any of these affiliations potentially affect their change, or lack thereof, of opinions. Asking these questions also makes the beliefs related to an affiliated party more salient, should they have one.

During the experiment, participants will be seated in a regular classroom. There will be five separate groups, each in a different classroom, or in a single classroom at separate times. To ensure there is no influence from other participants when taking the posttest later, participants will be spaced with a desk in between them and any other participant. At the front of the classroom, the instructor will explain that participants will receive a print article explaining the events that took place at the Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in April of 1999 (See Appendix C). There is one control article that will be given to one of the groups. The other articles have been manipulated to display frames based around guns, popular culture, teen life, and mental health.

Each group will be given five minutes to read the article. The time span of five minutes was chosen because, according to Health Guidance (2016), the average adult reads approximately 250 words per minute, and the articles in the experiment range from roughly 400 to 700 words. This should be a sufficient amount of time to read the article at a leisurely pace, given that some participants may also read at a slower pace than others.

After participants read the article, a posttest will be administered (See Appendix B). The goal of this questionnaire is to measure whether the articles that each participant group read has different outcomes on opinions regarding background check, gun safety laws, and gun availability laws.


            The pre-stimulus questionnaire consists of 12 overall questions (See Appendix A). The first portion of the questionnaire inquires about general background information, such as age, sex, and year in school. Other questions, such as religion and political affiliation, seem to be general background questions as well, but these questions can help gage whether the selected affiliation may play a role in selected preferences later. For example, the correlation between Republican participants and gun control preferences can be checked for general consensus based off of political party preferences.

The remaining questions in the questionnaire seek to determine other biases and background information that may result in altered preferences later. Question 10 asks if the participant has experience using guns. This answer may have an effect on the participant’s preference to post-test questions such as gun control and gun safety preferences as compared to someone with no gun experience. This question and others similar to it, such as numbers 6 and 7, will help to gage biases as well as connect correlating background information to preferences post-test. Question 12 asks which kind of area the participant grew up in, such as rural or urban, as Igielnik (2017) found that rural and urban gun owners possess different views on gun policies.

The post-test consists of 4 questions (See Appendix B). These questions use a Likert-type scale from previous measures to determine preferences. The participants will respond to the statements provided by circling one of the five numbers. Each number is representative of how strongly the participants “favors” or “opposes” each statement. Each statement will be representative of the topics proposed in the research questions: background checks, gun safety laws, and gun availability laws.


The article used in this experiment was taken directly from The New York Times online archives, and then manipulated four times for four different treatment groups. The article was written the day after the Columbine High School. This article was selected because it is a chronological report of what happened throughout the day. There are no frames present in the text. It is a simple plot line of the shooting unfolded. Sections of the original article were removed so that the text length was approximately one page long.

The version of the article not manipulated was used for the control group, with the same title as created by the author. This is the core story of the four other articles. Four more articles were created based off of the original. Each of the four articles was altered to contain a frame: popular culture, teen life, guns, or mental health. These frames were implemented by first changing the headline to reflect the frame accordingly. A frame sandwich was then created. The opening and closing paragraphs of the article reflect the frame, while the core remained untouched. Students were randomly assigned to either a control condition, or one of the four experimental frame conditions. The experimental frame conditions are briefly described below.

Popular Culture. The title of this article instantly links the influence of the media on the Columbine shooters by connecting the shooters’ desires to their fame gained through media. Linking the shooter’s motives to their love of the movie Natural Born Killers, a movie where two mass murderers gain fame through media, emphasizes the sickening effect that popular culture had on the shooter’s perception of reality. Both the opening and closing of the article focus on the media’s live broadcasting of the shooting event. This media broadcasting drew the nation’s attention to a violent crime in a way the nation had not seen before, making the shooters’ ‘dream’ of infamy come true.

Teen life. The title of this article suggests bullying as a potential reason for the shooting. The opening of the article once again hints at bullying before summarizing the events of the shooting. Closing paragraphs inform the readers that the shooters were a part of a misfit group that called themselves the ‘trench coat mafia’ and were viewed by many students as outsiders. A quote from a fellow student explains some of the bullying and harassment the boys experienced during school.

Guns. The title of this article opens by expressing parents’ blame on access to guns as a contributing factor to the shooting. The opening paragraph portrays the pain of family members and friends. A quote is used to convey the view of a parent in disbelief that “kids” could get access to such lethal weapons. Closing paragraphs express how parents of students in the shooting hope to convey to the public their desire for stricter gun laws after such a mass tragedy. Emphasis is placed on lack of gun control.

Mental Health. The headline of this article immediately addresses the concern that the shooters are suspected of being mentally unstable. The opening paragraph further attributes mental health as playing a considerable role as the cause of the shooting. The concluding paragraphs list suspected reports of specific mental health problems that the shooters may have had, such as being psychopathic and depressed. It concludes with a sentence that ponders whether the event could have been avoided should the shooters have received help sooner.


















Altheide, D. L. (2009). The Columbine shootings and the discourse of fear. American

Behavioral Scientist, 52(10), 1354-1370.

Berkowitz, B., Gamio, L., Lu, D., Uhrmacher, K., &Lindeman, T. (2017). The math of

mass shootings. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washington


Birkland, T. A., & Lawrence, R. G. (2004). Guns, Hollywood, and school safety:

Defining the school-shooting problem across public arenas. Social

Science Quarterly, 85(5), 1193-1207.

Birkland, T. A., & Lawrence, R. G. (2009). Media framing and policy change after

Columbine. American Behavioral Scientist, 52(10), 1405-1425.

Boissoneault, L. (2017). The 1927 bombing that remains America’s deadliest school

massacre. Smithsonian.com. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/


Entman, R.M. (1993). Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of

Communication, 43(4), 51-58.

Frymer, B. (2009). The media spectacle of Columbine: Alienated youth as an object of

fear. American Behavioral Scientist, 52(10), 1387-1404.

Haider-Markel, D. P., & Joslyn, M. R. (2001). Gun policy, opinion, tragedy, and blame

attribute: The conditional influence of issue frames. The Journal of Politics,

63(2), 520-543.

Herskovitz, J. (31 July, 2016.) Beginning of an era: The 1966 University of Texas clock

tower shooting. NBC News. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-


Igielnik, Ruth. (10 July, 2017). Rural and urban gun owners have different experiences,

views on gun policy. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from



Kalischuk, R. G. (2005). Rampage: The social roots of school shootings. Canadian

Journal of Nursing Research Archive37(1).

Killer’s manifesto: ‘You forced me into a corner.’ (18 April, 2007). CNN news.

Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/18/vtech.shooting/index.html

Muschert, G. W. (2007). Research in school shootings. Sociology Compass, 1(1), 60-80.

Shuchman, M. (12 July, 2007). Falling through the cracks – Virginia Tech and the

restructuring of college mental health services. New England journal of

medicine357(2), 105-110.

Sorenson, S. B., & Taylor, C. A. (2002). The nature of newspaper coverage of homicide.

Injury Prevention, 8(2), 121-127.

The first gun in America. (6 April, 2013). National Public Radio. Retrieved from

http://www.npr.org/20 13/04/06 /176132730/the-first-gun-in-america

Thomas, M. (2016). What is the average reading speed and what is the best rate of

reading? Retrieved from http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/13263/1/What-Is-


Timeline of worldwide school and mass shootings. (6 December, 2017). Infoplease.

Retrieved from https://www.infoplease.com/us/crime/timeline-worldwide-school-and-mass-shootings

















Appendix A

Pre-stimulus Questionnaire






















  1. Age __________
  2. Race (check which applies)

___ White                                           ___ Native American or American Indian

___ Hispanic or Latino                       ___ Asian / Pacific Islander

___ Black or African American          ___ Other

  1. Sex __________
  2. Year in school (check which applies)

___ Freshman             ___ Junior       ___ Graduate student

___ Sophomore           ___ Senior

  1. Religion __________
  2. On average, how many hours of television news do you watch each day? (Please check one.)

___ 0

___ 1-3


___ 7 or more

  1. On average, how much news information do you obtain from social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)?

___ None

___ A little bit

___ A decent amount

___ Most

___ All



  1. Which party are you most closely affiliated will? (Please check one.)

___ Democrat             ___ Libertarian            ___ Other – please list __________

___ Republican           ___ Green Party

  1. Do you have any children?

___Yes                        ___ No

  1. Do you have experience using guns?

___ None

___ Some

___ A decent amount

___ A lot

___ Highly trained

  1. Do you know anyone who works under law enforcement (a police officer, firefighter, etc.)?

___ Yes                       ___ No

  1. What kind of area did you grow up in?

___Urban                    ___ Suburban              ___Rural                     ___ Exurban



















Appendix B

Post Test






















  1. Guns should not be so easy to buy.

Strongly oppose   Somewhat oppose   Neutral     Somewhat favor   Strongly favor

1                           2                      3                    4                              5


  1. Guns should not be so easily accessible.

Strongly oppose   Somewhat oppose   Neutral     Somewhat favor   Strongly favor

1                           2                      3                    4                              5


  1. Gun buyers should not be subject to thorough background searches.

Strongly oppose   Somewhat oppose   Neutral     Somewhat favor   Strongly favor

1                           2                      3                    4                              5


  1. If someone owns a gun(s), there should be certain laws put in place to standardize storage and containment requirements of said gun(s).

Strongly disagree         Disagree          Neutral                        Agree               Strongly agree

1                           2                      3                    4                              5






















Appendix C








It’s been a crazy few months, to say the least. This previous semester (and past 3 years?!?) has absolutely flown by, and it was going home for winter break that made me realize how we take the slow moments for granted. Reading in the evenings, watching the sunset, making dinner. These are the times that really make life special. If nothing else, January will always be for embracing slow moments.

A Society of Static

via Daily Prompt: Static

There’s a lot going on in my head right now. There’s a lot going on in the world right now. Post-college life, California mud slides, school and work balance, the Time’s Up movement, paying off college loans, building a wall. It’s important to me. It’s important to the world. There are a lot of important things in this life, each varying from individual to individual, but they’re getting harder and harder to see. Today we live in a society of static.

At the end of each day, all I used to worry worry about was trying to figure out how the sun would set without losing its flame. That’s right. I’d watch the sun go down behind the ocean and wonder how in the world it could get through that incredible mass of water and still come up in Australia on fire. It was completely impossible to me (and in reality as well… I was only little and didn’t quite understand science yet, cut me some slack.).

Since that time, my purest and most innocent thoughts have been disrupted. First came practicality: go to school, get a good job, raise a family. Then came conformity: this is how you shall solve a math equation, behave in public, structure your future. And finally, it seems that politics have captured the attention of many, as corrupt and futile as they may be.

In this midst of this madness, this blinding noise, it is disturbingly easy to lose sight of what is important. Yes, get an education. Yes, work hard. Yes, build a future. But don’t forget to keep in mind exactly what you’re doing it for. For happiness? For family? Self fulfillment? To please your parents? To provide medicine for the unhealthy? To build a home for those who do not have one? To help others find God, or whatever it is that you believe is out there?

Without a purpose, we will surely become lost, so turn down the knob and quiet that deafening static. Listen to that part of your soul that has been trying to peek through like a sprout in the dirt. Quiet the social media, politics, and news, the ‘shoulds,’ ‘coulds,’ and ‘woulds.’ Quiet the voices of your parents, peers, and society. There will only ever be one voice that will truly speak to you, and it is your own. Shhh… there it is. Now go listen and see and live.

A Winter Wonderland

I’ve never really been a fan of snow. It’s cold and messy and makes me want to sulk in my cave of movies and junk food, but the bewildering snowfall in the past few days enchanted me to leave my miniature hibernation. I went to bed in sleepy old Cape May, and woke up the next day in a snow globe: everything coated with a heavy white blanket. While I was a day or two late getting to the sunken ship (pictured below), the frozen floor of ice presented a spectacle I hadn’t seen since I was a child, if even then. It was so dense that people were actually walking out on to it, and the fact that anyone at all actually got outside for a sunset in the winter spoke for itself.


Reporting as a news anchor with a bottle of beer instead of a microphone, this guy seemed to be having a grand old time.

At first glance, the frozen plain of ice seemed like terrain from another planet. So I decided, why not have a little fun with editing my pictures? Kids turn into astronauts, and snow turns into Saturn.


January first has become known as the magical, mystical day that you can resurrect yourself and start anew. We get to come up with that grand, ambitious goal or some habit we want to start, end, or improve upon for the rest of the year, and call it a New Year’s Resolution. Lose weight, eat healthier, quit smoking – you know the gist. But then you roll out of bed on January first, rising from the dead after a night of torturing your liver, or just procrastinating the start of this ‘new year, new me’ thing. That sparkly, shiny New Year’s Resolution doesn’t seem so exciting now that you actually have to do it.

Not surprisingly, only 8 percent of people are actually successful in achieving their New Year’s resolution. I’ve yet to be successful myself, so one of my resolutions is to successfully complete one! Because it’s so easy to give up or call it quits, here are a few key tricks that will keep you determined and on the right track.

Make your goal achievable… actually. We’d all love to drop weight overnight, quit a bad habit cold turkey, or buy that dream house for a few million dollars. Most of the time, that just isn’t going to happen. In order to achieve your ‘big’ goal, you need to reel it in a little bit. One big goal can seem like a daunting task and an overwhelming amount of work, looming over our heads as simply impossible. By breaking this goal down into smaller, achievable steps, the task is more realistic. For example, one of my ‘big’ goals is to try and have a portfolio of work done when I graduate to give me some experience and a leg up. So I decided I would blog more this year. It’s a great start to a New Year’s Resolution, but it isn’t just enough quite yet. We have a little more refining to do, which leads to the next tip.

Give yourself deadlines based on smaller goals. Wanting to ‘blog more’ means nothing. There are so many ways to get lost in that concept and end up floating in limbo. Vague goals are harder to fulfill, and make it harder still to remain motivated.

It’s important to a clearly define, tangible goal, so I decided that I will post a blog once a week. But I won’t be posting a blog once a week whenever I get around to it. I specified even more – posting once every Wednesday. Setting a goal is great, but without creating a plan there’s no way to keep track of progress. Creating steps and deadlines will make your ‘big goal’ seem less tantalizing and will help keep your progress on track.

Write your goals down. It’s one thing to come up with New Year’s Resolution; it’s another to actually pursue it. A study done by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, found that “you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis.” Writing down your goals works because it engages both halves of your brain: the logic-based left hemisphere through writing the goal down, and the imaginative right through just thinking about the goal. By making a conscious effort to direct both physical and mental attention to your goal, you’re letting your brain know that you mean business!

Most importantly, make sure your goal is something you actually want. Just like playing a sport, you aren’t going to do very well if both your head and heart aren’t in it. Just because your friends are going vegetarian or your mom wants you to take up knitting with her doesn’t mean you have to, too. Your resolution should be something that you want, for whatever reason that may be. If it’s something you’re passionate about achieving, you’re chances of reaching that goal are already higher!

Completing a New Year’s Resolution takes discipline and dedication, but is totally doable. This time next year, hopefully we can tick off the goal of actually completing a New Year’s Resolution.


The Thought Process

I never thought I would be addicted to anything – alcohol, drugs, or any of the stuff my parents told me to stay away from. Little did I realize that I was carrying my addiction with me everywhere I went. It was always in my pocket or my hand, next to me when I slept, in my backpack during class, on the beach with me during the summer, in my car while I was driving, in the bathroom while I showered. You name it, and my addiction was always there, just waiting for my attention.

I realized that my addiction was my phone. More specifically, Instagram. This one little gadget designed to share photographs with friends has completely revolutionized the way that I, and much of my generation, define socializing. At one point in time, you could only talk to someone in person or on the telephone. A good old fashioned land-line telephone. With a chord. (Does the youngest generation even know what those look like??) Nowadays, we can not only talk to someone at any time, at any moment, at any place in the world, but we can also see what they are doing through pictures and videos. Is it me, or is that slightly creepy when you actually say it out loud?

We have learned to “post” about our lives so that the world can see what we are doing, who we are with, and the kind of life we appear to be living. The key word in that sentence is “appear.” After checking Instagram countless times during the day and always comparing my life and body to other’s, I realized that people only post what they want you to see. On Instagram, we can perfectly edit our lives to appear precisely how we want them to. I’m not saying that everyone does, but there’s certainly a lot of thought that goes into posting.

After watching zombies walk around my campus on phones and listening to silent conversations at restaurants, as well as my excessive amount of time essentially watching other people’s lives, I decided to delete the app. I sent out a farewell post, my freshly showered face without makeup, and was on my way back into the real world. Using this experience, I wanted to share my withdraw, if you will, from social media over the course of the following days.

Day 1: Deletion Day

If I was going to do this right, I needed to fully commit. Once the photo posted, I hit delete. It sounds strange to say, but as soon as I deleted the app I wanted to see how my farewell post was doing. That in itself proved that it needed to be done.

As I drove to class, I couldn’t help but feel proud, like my Pinocchio strings had been detached and I was finally walking on my own. No more proving to the world that I was having a great time with my friends, or that my winter outfit is #supercozy. My hands and mind definitely itched for my phone a few times during class, but when I picked it up I realized I had no reason to. Having no Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat is surprisingly liberating.

During down time is when my mind itches for social media the most. Commercial break? Instagram. Walking alone in public? Instagram. Waiting in line? Instagram. Where social media once filled these pauses, I now notice peaceful, calm moments. I don’t always need to be on my phone, looking at a screen. These moments can be used as a conscious break for myself, a moment to look up and notice the world around me.

Day 3: Transitioning

I admit it. I’m not proud of it. I caved. I wanted to see how the post did so I had my boyfriend show it to me, and I was delightfully surprised by how many supportive comments I received… and also humored because people left comments even though they knew I was deleting my account and therefore wouldn’t see them. Well, if I hadn’t cheated by using someone else’s phone, I wouldn’t have seen them. One of my friends commented, “take me with you lol” and another “see you in real life, Tofu.” (My nickname is Tofu but that’ll have to be explained in another article.) I felt an overwhelming amount of support, and with that in mind, I closed the app before my addiction could get the best of me.

Later that night I received another comment, this time in person, from my friend Erik. He said, “Tofu, you inspired me to delete my Instagram, too. I hope you start a movement.” At first I just smiled and laughed, saying I was glad to have been a positive influence. But then I started thinking… What if I could start a movement?

Day 7: Liberation

This may be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve gone from checking my phone every ten minutes to only looking at my phone if someone calls or texts me. There’s a slight urge to reach for that little tech rectangle every once in a while, but I find myself paying more attention to conversations, focusing for longer periods on school work, and using my time more productively.

Now I’m certainly not perfect by any means, but I can already feel that deleting my Instagram has lowered my stress and anxiety levels by a good ten notches. It feels so satisfying to be “off the grid,” in a sense. If you want to know what’s going on in my life, you can text me, call me, or see me in person. Sure, a huge aspect of social media is the being social part, but it’s ultimately become a platform for comparison and watching others. We should live our lives in the present moment, not worrying about “capturing the moment” so that we can showcase it later for others on social media.

If you want a fresh perspective on life, I highly recommend deleting your Instagram, or any social media. It will break you away from all of the advertising and framing and glorifying that exists in the artificial world of technology and the Internet. Now that I’ve deleted mine, I suppose you’ll only know what I’m doing through my blog or if you talk to me. Did I just drop out of college or win the lottery? Guess you may never find out.

I’m Fine – Focus on Sound

Another video project. This one uses a focus on sound to demonstrate how stress can warp your sense of reality. By building and overlapping sound, the viewer can start to understand how overwhelmed the student is feeling.

A project I worked on for one of my classes. I typically don’t do very personal or serious videos and thought I would challenge myself with this one. So, here it is.

Mini Monuments