Essay Sample on Gun-Related Homicides

Published: 2023-11-04
Essay Sample on Gun-Related Homicides
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Violence Gun violence Social issue Essays by wordcount
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1800 words
15 min read

One of the most common crimes across the globe is gun-related homicide. Shootings at home, movie theatres, shopping malls, social joints, churches, and schools are a common scenario. Most social spaces are dominated by discussions regarding a crime incident involving guns and violence (Pearl, 2013). Policymakers and scholars have been concerned with the measures that could be used to curb this problem. At the same time, scholarly and behavioral assessments have focused on the patterns and nature of gun-related homicide to understand why they in the first place (Pearl, 2013). Since there has been a recent upsurge in gun-related homicides, it is important to understand the underpinning theoretical perspectives of this category of crime. This paper is a critical analysis of the mass shooting at MSD High School in Parklands Florida by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz on February 14, 2018, based on the social learning, strain, and control theories of crime.

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Overview of the Crime

The shooting at MSD High School in Parklands Florida is one of the numerous instances of gun-related homicide in the United States and across the globe. Nikolas Cruz walked in the school and opened fire, which led to the death of 17 people and injuring 17 others (Kramer & Harlan, 2019). He was arrested and charged with both predetermined and attempted murder. However, it is not yet clear the motive of the shooter but discussions have already implied the role of unnerving behavior and discipline-related issues. In recent years, easy access to guns has increased gun-related crimes in the United States (Wodarz & Komarova, 2013). FBI recorded a total of 7,803 firearms-related cases in 2014 but this value has increased across the United States (FBI, 2019). The FBI report ascertained that in 2015, the cases rose to 9,103, which escalated to 10,372 in 2015 (FBI, 2019). In 2016, the numbers declined by about three hundred; however, the statistics indicated an upsurge a year later (FBI, 2019). Currently, murders, robberies, and violence that involve guns both in public and at home have been on the rise. As people struggle to understand the causes of the rising instances, innocent individuals continue to succumb to gun-related homicide trends (Pearl, 2013). Postulates of social learning, strain, and control theories expound on the motives of crime and crime tendencies, which could be used to understand the actions of Nikolas Cruz.

Social Learning Theory of Crime

Social learning theory of crime postulates that people who engage in crime learn from other people as they interact and socialize with each other (Triplett, 2015). According to this theory, a person who interacts with other people or a system characterized by or embraces criminal tendencies could eventually succumb to and learn beliefs and be exposed to such behaviors. In this case, a person gradually builds a perception that portrays crime as a desirable and justifiable act in specific situations (Triplett, 2015). The social learning theory of crime borrows from the differential association analogy where people slowly transform and conform to the norms they are exposed to through influence. The theory has been used to understand why a young person who initially did not identify with a crime end up being a proponent of such a vice (Mowen & Boman, 2018). The theory is significantly applicable to juveniles where young people are at a high risk of learning crime-related behavior in the same intensity and magnitude that they learn positive conformity. Based on the tenets of this theory, family, peers, and the community could adversely impact the perceptions of an individual and lead to criminal behaviors (Triplett, 2015).

A close relationship exists between the social learning theory of crime and the actions of Nikolas Cruz on February 14, 2018. Nikolas Cruz, a teenager, walked into his former school and opened fire killing 17 people. One could wonder why a young person of his age decided to commit such an inhumane act. Teenagers are associated with either reinforcing or conflictual relationships (Mowen & Boman, 2018). It is expected that teenagers like Cruz will spend their time building their careers, meeting friends, and spending time with their family. However, it is only justifiable to argue that Cruz had spent his time accessing information or engaging with people, which ended up influencing his beliefs and perspectives regarding the murder. Based on social learning theory, it is possible to find out that a significant number of people around Cruz could be equally involved in crime. Conflictual relationships among young adults relate to deviance behaviors (Mowen & Boman, 2018). Moreover, it is important to highlight that with the increased use of and access to technology, a person could learn crime-related perceptions and behaviors by repeatedly accessing information that glorifies such behaviors. One of the ways that Cruz acquired both the courage and the motivation to commit the crime is through social learning.

Strain Theory of Crime

Another model that explains the motives and reasons for criminal tendencies is the strain theory. Agnew (1992) coined the strain theory of crime when the scholar postulated that crime and social environment dynamics relate. The theory is founded on social psychology factors to explain changes in behavior and beliefs. There is a difference between social learning and strain theory in that the latter is inclined towards the adverse forces in the social environment that encourage deviance. In strain theory, the motivation behind a specific crime is the actual or perceived negative treatment of an individual within the relationships in the social environment unlike in social learning where the relationships are positive. According to Agnew (1992), the relationships in the social environment prevent a person from fully achieving their positive goals. In this case, they are encouraged to engage in crime to accommodate the internal insufficiencies caused by the adverse effects of the perceived or actual barriers in life.

To determine the link between strain theory of crime and the actions of Cruz on that fateful day, he should be viewed as a person living in a perceived unjust society. According to this theory, it is considered that Cruz was a subject of the effects of negative relationships in the social environment that prevented him from reaching his goals or fulfillment in life. In this case, the frustration he experienced pushed him to the limit and he resorted to the massive shootout. Agnew (1992) pointed out that anger and related emotions are some of the strain factors that encourage crime-related behaviors among adolescents and young adults. The reason why Cruz could turn against his former school could only be interpreted as harbored anger and frustrations as indicated in the strain theory of crime. Based on this theory it is possible to explain why Cruz did not choose a different target other than MSD High School in Parklands Florida. The use of illicit methods, engaging in drugs, and using violence are some of the possible measures that this theory hypothesizes could originate from anger and strong emotions (Agnew, 1992).

Control Theory of Crime

Both social learning and strain theories focus on why people engage in crime but when it comes to the control theory, the attention is on why an individual could conform to crime-related behavior and perception (Cretacci et al., 2018). Therefore, according to the social control theory of crime, several factors restrain a person from committing a crime. At the same time, the ability to refrain from criminal activities varies from one person to another. That is, some people are easily swayed into committing crime either by individual or societal factors while others have a strong degree of refrain or self-control. The difference in crime can, therefore, be ascertained from the perspective of varying degrees of control (Cretacci et al., 2018). According to the theory, the presence of control measures suppresses crime prevalence. On the other hand, when people identify the weaknesses within the control systems, the rate of prevalence could increase. In this case, the postulate of this theory recognizes the existing stake in conformity.

The control theory equally sheds more light on the reason why Nikolas Cruz decided to turn against his former school. Cruz’s case is an example of a filed system of control that allows young people to indulge in delinquency. A study by Siegel et al. (2013) found a strong correlation between gun ownership and increased gun-related homicide. Increased access to guns and the failed social control mechanisms encourage people like Cruz with limited restraint or control against crime to engage in massive shootings. The control theory does not view the unacceptability of crime but the push factors that drive people into crime. Cruz has a lower crime restrain ability, which explains why he was comfortable planning and executing the massacre. The prevalence of gun-related homicide cases in the United States relates to control challenges as described by Siegel et al. (2013).


In conclusion, the action of Nikolas Cruz on February 12, 2018, has baffled millions of people in the United States and across the globe. Although the jury passed a sentence that found Cruz guilty of 17 premeditated murders and 17 accounts of attempted murder, they were unable to ascertain the motive behind the shooting. Three theories of crime, that is social learning, social, strain, and social control present a wider perspective, which outlines the reasons and motives behind Cruz’s actions. From the three theories, social control explains this criminal incidence by offering both the motive and the push factors. In this case, the theory focuses on personal and system factors that influence the occurrence of criminal activities. The theory of social control informs the criminal justice policy frameworks and policies. The theory ensures that policymakers incorporate effective reinforcement of law and order to prevent the prevalence of crime while at the same time adjusting the social environment to support the development of refrain abilities and strengths among individuals at risk of committing a crime. In the United States, the criminal justice system should focus on gun control interventions. Robust gun control measures will ensure that people who are susceptible to criminal behavior do not access guns.


Agnew, R. (1992). Foundation for a general strain theory of crime and delinquency. Criminology, 30, 47-87. Retrieved from

Cretacci, M. A., Rivera, C., Gao, Y., & Zheng, L. (2018). Bonding to Bamboo: A Social Control Explanation of Chinese Crime. International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences (IJCJS), 13 (1); 122 – 137. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.1403404. Retrieved from

FBI. (2019). 2018 Crime in the United States: Expanded Homicide Data. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States. Retrieved from

Kramer, M. & Harlan, J. (Feb 2019). Parkland Shooting: Where Gun Control and School Safety Stand Today. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Mowen, T. J., & Boman Iv, J. H. (2018). The Relationship Between Supportive Friendships, Conflictual Friendships, and Deviance During Emerging Adulthood. Crime and delinquency, 64(10), 1351–1372. Retrieved from, K. C. (2013). Is G...

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