If you’ve been following the news this week, you know that a 12-year-old boy brought a gun to Sparks Middle School on Monday, killed teacher Michael Landsberry, wounded two other students and killed himself with a gunshot wound to the head.
In a typical shooting, within 24 hours we would have known the name of the perpetrator. Reporters would have dug up his Twitter and Facebook presences, as well as any other online activity, and speculated about his hobbies, pastimes, passions and motivations. Instead, the Sparks police are refusing to identify him because he is a juvenile. A handful of news outlets have obtained his identity by other means, but say they’re waiting for official confirmation before publishing it.
At the same time, the press — particularly leaders with the Nevada Press Association — are rightly pointing out that the identity of a deceased suspect, even a juvenile, is public record and can’t legally be withheld.
One the one hand, protecting the shooter’s identity prevents journalists from hastily reporting on his activities and leading readers to the wrong conclusions, as we’ve seen in so many other shootings — Columbine in particular. On the other, it’s troubling when government officials, whose salaries are paid by the public, choose to keep rightfully public information to themselves.
Where do you come down on this issue? Should the shooter’s identity be protected or revealed? Why?